Lara Croft Go Review

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Game Title: Lara Croft Go
Developer: Square Enix Montreal
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 1.1 GB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

I’ve always been a bit of a Tomb Raider fan.  I played the original back on PC, and fell in the love with the PS2/PS3 Trilogy with Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld.  Back last gen, I played Anniversary and Legend’s PSP versions to death to the point where I practically have both games memorized at this point, and I’m even re-discovering them now via Steam on the GPD Win handheld.

One thing I’ve missed, though, is having a PS Vita or 3DS native game starring Lara Croft, be it a Tomb Raider game or an entry in the “Lara Croft” series like Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light.  That all changed last week, when Square Enix surprised everyone at PlayStation Experience by revealing and releasing a PlayStation version of the hit Mobile Lara Croft game, filled with new content not in any other release of the game.

Needless to say, I dove in as soon as Square Enix PR granted me a review code and I’ve got a review ready for you!  Here are my thoughts on the PS Vita version of Lara Croft Go!

Story

Due to this game having no story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

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Lara Croft Go is a turn-based puzzle game in the same style as previous hit mobile game, Hitman Go.  In each area, you and the environment each take a turn for movement.  As you go through each turn, your goal is to solve puzzles and reach the end of the room to move onto the next area.  Imagine it like Hitman Go, but with more puzzle orientation and less on killing targets.

The biggest aspect of the PlayStation version of this game is the fact that it has temporary exclusivity over the newest DLC expansion of the game.  The “Mirror of Spirits” expansion is not coming to non-PlayStation platforms like Mobile and PC until March 2017.  Until then, only the PS4 and PS Vita version will have access to this expansion.

As you may guess, this is what you’d call a “definitive” version of the game, since it contains the base game, the Shards of Life expansion released as a Mobile update, and the previously-mentioned Mirror of Spirits expansion.

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Playing through the game is a matter of going through stages and puzzle-solving.  Each section of the game will have you going through tombs and doing what Lara does best, Tomb-Raiding.  Your main goal will be to navigate through the area and reach the exit without being spotted and attacked by enemies.  You do this by taking certain paths, moving objects in the way of enemies, or by sneaking up behind enemies and taking them out.

The latter is something Hitman Go players should be familiar with.  As long as you don’t land directly in front of an enemy’s line of sight, they can’t attack and kill you.  Lara Croft Go mixes things up, though.  Some enemies can spot you a few spots away and will start chasing you.  This gives you the sense of the chase and needing to find a way to use your environment to either kill the enemy or block it from going after you further.

With the in-depth stuff increasing, the game’s difficulty does as well.  Lara Croft Go is pretty simple for the first few levels, but when you get close to the end of the main game, and especially in the expansions, things get very difficult.

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In the Mobile version of the game, you could use hints to direct you on how to finish that area.  When you ran out of hints, you had to use In-App Purchases to use real money to buy more hints.  In the PlayStation version, there are no IAPs, meaning that for paying $9.99 instead of $4.99 for the mobile version, you get endless hints that never run out.

As far as time is concerned, the main game has around 41 levels to go through, and the expansions total up to around 20-30 more.  With each level likely taking you at least 3-5 minutes, that gives you a good 4-6 hours of play time, which isn’t bad for a game that only costs $9.99.

Controls

First off, this game is fully compatible with the PlayStation TV.  Everything you do can be controlled with the touch screen like the Mobile version, but can also be controlled with the buttons on your Vita or DS3/DS4.  It’s quite funny when you think about it, with a Mobile game port being PSTV compatible yet console-made games Dragon Quest Builders and World of Final Fantasy are not.

Moving on the board/stage is done with the Left Analog Stick and that’s what you’ll be using the most.  The only other buttons you’ll be using outside of menus is the Square button, for when you have a spear to use for attacking faraway enemies.  Pretty much all of the other buttons aren’t used much, if at all.

Presentation

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Visually, no complaints.  The fact that Lara Croft Go looks more like a game of Lara running around tombs than Hitman Go looked like it was just some board game does the game some credit.  Aside from loving Tomb Raider, being able to see Lara climbing and fighting enemies by actually climbing and shooting gives the game some depth over its predecessor.

Not really a lot to say about music.  It’s there and it fits the scenario, but it’s nothing that’ll stand out at you.  There aren’t any intense, action-packed adrenaline rush songs like you’d find in the main series.  But it works well for this type of game.

Performance is where all of my nitpicks are.  Hitman Go on the Vita played decently well.  Lara Croft Go doesn’t.  Let’s start by talking about the Load Times.  Going from level to level or even respawning when you die takes quite a bit of time.  The shortest loading sequence I experienced was around 12 seconds while the longest was well over 30 seconds.

The next thing is the frame-rate.  You can tell in menus and in some stages that the game struggles a bit.  You see the frames jumping and stuttering.  A couple stages, though, really take the cake.  During these two stages the frame rate tanks to something awful.  An example would be like going from 30 fps to 15 fps for an entire stage.  This and the former point made me think they might have just rushed the PlayStation versions for PSX since Hitman Go’s Vita version played pretty well.  However, the PS4 version of Lara Croft Go plays wonderfully.  It’s only the Vita version that has these problems.

And the final thing about performance is crashing.  There were several instances where I was playing through a critical stage, completed it, and the game crashed as soon as it tried to load the next stage.  Granted, auto-save made sure I didn’t lose any progress, but it crashes a lot more than it should.

Summary

Lara Croft Go is a fine successor to Hitman Go with a Tomb Raider twist.  The Vita version isn’t very well-tuned when compared to the PS4 and Mobile versions, but it’s still worth the plunge if you’re a handheld Tomb Raider fan looking for some Lara on the Vita or PSTV. 

7/10

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