When taking a console series and transitioning it to mobile platforms, it can be difficult to capture the feeling of the source material in making the game ‘work’ on touch screen focused devices. You need to think of careful design ideas to capture the feeling and soul of the source material but using it in a new way. Square Enix Montreal was able to accomplish this with the title Hitman GO, making that franchise work on mobile devices in a clever way.
Tomb Raider from the PlayStation One era is focused on platforming, puzzle solving and exploring dangerous ruins. So how do you make that work on mobile? And does this mobile game find a home on consoles?
The Design and Gameplay
Lara Croft explores ruins and tombs through moving across grid-like mazes as if Lara is a chess piece and you are guiding her to where she needs to go. This makes control very simple; depending on the system you play this on you either press one of the directional inputs on the analog stick/D-Pad or you swipe the touch screen in a specific direction. Lara can also interact with objects by tapping them or pressing a button as well. This simple control system is easy to work with and is playable to both seasoned players of the Tomb Raider series and the casual mobile gamer.
But how the level designers play with this core gameplay allows the game to be a strong experience. Similar to a game of chess, you have challenges you need to over come like snakes that your guns can only kill if they hit them on the side or objects can only be moved across once. Being able to overcome challenges like these are rewarding and they only ramp up as you get further into the game.
The game also has some boss fights, where they act less like battles and more so grand puzzles you need to solve. They take mechanics from the basic maze-like levels and push you to master them to take out the boss; it is fun and they are rewarding to beat.
Levels also have you collecting special treasures that can unlock new costumes for you to unlock, with you finding the treasures through tapping objects on the touch screen. It adds a sense of mystery and discovery to the game, making the game feel in spirit to a classic Tomb Raider game.
Having this spirit of the original Tomb Raider games does a lot in making this a strong experience overall.
Lara Croft GO offers a lot of content to play, as you have many levels to complete with treasures to find along the way. Using all the costumes Lara can wear which can range from her iconic PS1 Design too cameo costumes from other Square Enix games like one inspired by Hitman and Deus Ex. It is a lot of fun to unlock everything and it gives the game a lot of value once you finish the main story.
This oozes with atmosphere from it’s visuals and music. Haunting music plays, which feels inspired by the original Tomb Raider games, as you explore the various temples and ruins. Sound effects are also strong and have impact.
Visuals are quite impressive overall as well. Character animations look natural, smooth and detailed for example. I love the animations to Lara, as her climbing and jumping animations mirror her console adventures from the past. Leaping off a snake to land some killing shots or throwing a spear to kill a foe from a long distance animates great as well.
The character designs feel like a modernized take on the cast from the PS1 games, having visual angles and polygon-like effects on character models despite everything looking modern. I do have issue with how the game runs, specifically on the PS Vita. While every other version runs well with a high frame rate and fast loading times, the PS Vita version suffers from some problems.
The frame rate can go from 30FPS to 60FPS and that isn’t much of a problem, considering the very simple control scheme. But loading times take a long time every time you die (at least 20-30 seconds) which make death despite the great checkpoint system feel frustrating. Thankfully the visuals themselves look great on Vita, with the game running at native resolution.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Lara Croft GO is the perfect example of taking the spirit of a franchise and successfully adapting it in a new way. Lara’s adventures on mobile are fun through simple controls, smartly designed puzzles and battles, fantastic presentation and a good amount of content to play through. Despite some performance issues I had with the Vita version (mainly long loading times) the overall game is very enjoyable and highly recommend this to people who love the Tomb Raider series, specifically people who loved the original PlayStation One games. It feels like a modern version of Classic Tomb Raider and I highly respect the game for that.
This game was reviewed on the PS Vita platform using a review copy provided by the publisher. Lara Croft GO is also playable on the PlayStation 4 (cross-buy support), PC, and Mobile Devices.