27 August 2015

Last Tuesday, my brother travelled into Central London to take part in the Lara Croft Go UK Press Event. At the reveal he had the opportunity to check out the game and ask questions to the developers. This preview is written with his notes from the event combined with my playthrough this morning.

First to the basics. Lara Croft Go is the latest instalment in the Lara Croft series and is a nostalgic journey back to those first adventures. It's a turn-based puzzle game which explores forgotten worlds, treasures and deadly new traps. The controls are pretty simple too: just slide in the direction you want Lara to go and tap to interact. The title is rated PEGI 7 and is developed by Square Enix Montreal in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics. It's a premium game and is available for download now on Android, Windows Phone and Apple Devices for £3.99 / €4.99 / $4.99. 
Nostalgia. Lara Croft Go feels like a classic Tomb Raider title, built for modern devices. While it may look a little different with its soft watercolour palette and isometric viewpoint, its core gameplay element remains the same. You are Lara Croft on a personal mission to explore the ruins of an ancient civilisation and uncover the myth of the Queen of Venom. There are no humans in this part of the world, only the creatures you stir with your presence. The primary focus is on exploration and puzzles, blended with those memories of the classics.

As soon as the game starts, you're introduced to the menu system; a familiar sight for fans of the Core Design titles. The options are served as part of a revolving cycle of items which includes Lara's journal, a backpack and a watch. If you explore the menu system a bit more, you'll discover the unlockable outfits Lara can obtain, many of which are based on outfits she wore throughout her earlier adventures. Some of those outfits can be unlocked with a purchase including the Square Enix, Agent 47 and Deus Ex inspired designs. But, there are 10 costumes from the classic games  which the player can unlock simply by collecting relics along the path.

Lara's movements will bring a smile to classic fans too,  as the game sees the return of the impractical but iconic flips, handstands and slides. And just wait until you discover a relic! There's lots of nice little homages to the classics.
 Exploration. The goal for each level is to move from A to B, solving the puzzles and manoeuvring around obstacles which block your path as you go. Movement is relatively simple with Lara only able to move on a specific path. While it could make the gameplay too easy and without challenge, it's actually the opposite. The player is restricted to work within a certain area with a growing danger and limited ways to escape.While there is a limitation to where you can go, the art style creates that sense of wonder, placing Lara in the middle of a mesmerising tomb rather than just focusing on the areas she can travel to. Even while standing still, the world is alive with activity, whether it's the foliage catching in the wind, or creatures scuttling along the black border, it feels as though Lara is transversing a breathing environment.

Puzzles. The game is presented in a series of five books, which in total features 41 levels. Each level has one main puzzle and several smaller ones in the form of enemies, which we'll touch on a little later. While there's a simple path from start to finish, puzzles and traps spices up the experience. Avoiding enemies can force the player to think several steps ahead to get the advantage. Sometimes perfecting a level could take multiple tries. As a result, it may not be a fast paced action game but it's certainly engaging. The game is turn-based which means the environments changes after Lara makes her move, this includes blades, baddies and boulders, so there's no need to rush your move. It's better to take your time!
Combat.  While Lara Croft Go isn't a combat game, it has a combat element. Enemies are a puzzle mechanic instead of just existing . Creatures like the snakes are stationary and will only attack Lara once she moves within one space of them, and only if they are facing towards her. They are easily taken down with a surprise attack from the back or side. In addition to her pistols, Lara can collect spears which she can throw at the snakes if they are on a path parallel to her. Spiders are a little more tricky and will follow a predetermined path.. While shooting them may be difficult, levers can help trap them and remove them from our path. Perhaps one of the most interesting creatures are the lizards which follows Lara if you get too close. Their insistence to follow her steps exactly can also be their downfall, as the player can lead them over broken footpaths. (Step once on a footpath to unsettle it, again to break it.)

Relics. Collectibles are scattered around the maps, either right next to the paths or in the far distance. Simply clicking on the pots will reveal the artifacts inside. Once you collect them, your total is saved even if you die on your next step. Collecting all of the relic fragments or crystals will unlock new outfits which you can use throughout the adventure. Some of these pots may be hidden by the environment and only seen on a particular step. You can replay levels to collect all the collectibles within the space, but later levels will have checkpoints to make replaying easier.

The Verdict. Lara Croft Go is available now on Apple Devices, Android and Windows Phone. If you can, make sure to check it out! It's a sweet and engaging adventure game with a unique style and a beautiful watercolour look. There's no tutorial, it just throws you into the action, but the game's controls are easily to to pick up making it the perfect game to pick up and play.

If you enjoyed the classic Tomb Raider games, you'll enjoy this!

Disclaimer: My brother checked out the game during the UK press event for Lara Croft Go, arranged by Square Enix. My copy of the game was purchased on the Google Play store this morning.


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