Lara Croft Go Iterates on Hitman Go for a True Tomb Raider Adventure
A whole new spin on things.
A little over a year ago, Square Enix Montreal released Hitman Go, a strategy-puzzle game in which you guide a tiny figurine Agent 47 along spaces on a game board. Each board was a small self-contained puzzle in which you had to take out enemies--also represented as tiny figures--collect briefcases of cash, and make your way to a finish marker.
At the company's E3 press conference, Square Enix announced Lara Croft Go, a new take on the mobile puzzle game featuring Tomb Raider's iconic heroine. But while Lara's puzzle journey borrows key elements from Agent 47's, the experience is vastly different thanks to new obstacles, tools, and enemies.
For one thing, Lara Croft Go's art style doesn't follow the same boardgame aesthetic as Hitman Go. It looks like a cartoon, with little Lara (of the original series, not the reboot) running from space to space, climbing up walls, and sometimes even backflipping between points. You view Lara's journey as though you're peeking at her through a canopy of trees, with the silhouettes of bugs and rustling leaves moving around in the foreground. In the distance, beyond Lara's current puzzle, you'll sometimes see something move--something large and sinister, a creature Lara may encounter in later levels.
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Lara Croft Go also ditches Hitman Go's flat horizontal plane for a varied series of cliff faces, steps, and other vertical change-ups. Sometimes puzzles require Lara to move to a space and pull a lever that will alternate the terrain; walls shift up or down and platforms move into place to give Lara a clear path out. Some puzzles have spaces peppered with cracks; Lara can only walk over these cracked spaces once, as a second step will shatter the stone and send Lara falling to her demise. This adds another strategy element to an already cleverly-designed puzzle set, as it prevents you from backtracking in some areas and requires you to really think your moves carefully.
Other neat obstacles include deadly creatures. In the hands-on demo I saw, the spaces were filled with snakes. Like in Hitman Go, you can only dispatch enemies by approaching them from the side or the back. Facing a snake head on means certain death for Lara. Later puzzles introduced enemies that chase you if you move two spaces near them. Sometimes you can take these enemies out by luring them over cracked spaces and trapping them in holes, or throwing a spear at them. Spears are a one-use item that can be collected on the board, then thrown at an enemy two spaces away. Other puzzles include multiple enemies facing Lara at the beginning, so you have to choose carefully which one to use your precious spear on.
Navigating Lara through these puzzles doesn't feel like a simple puzzle game at all; I feel like I'm playing a true Tomb Raider game. A narrative connects each puzzle Lara faces, and without spoiling it I can say that it involves what she does best: treasure hunting. Players won't just be solving environmental challenges and moving pieces around, they'll be actively guiding Lara on an adventure in a new, innovative way. There's something special happening in Lara Croft Go, and it's hard to explain without getting your hands on it. It's the same Hitman Go magic, but with a twist that is unmistakably Tomb Raider-y in nature.
Lara Croft Go innovates on Hitman Go in some very entertaining ways, and I'm eager to get my hands on more. There is currently no date for the mobile game's release, but it's already looking like another high point in Square Montreal's string of creative mobile games.
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