For some reason, the trend of porting mobile games to home console always strikes me as a little odd.
Generally, games designed with mobiles in mind lose more in translation when leaping onto a big screen than when the likes of, say, Bully is ported into your hand. In addition to porting a 5″ sized resolution onto a 48″ plasma, mapping simplistic swipe gestures to an analog stick – while working decently well – never quite has the same satisfying feeling and can be prone to error.
Lara Croft GO is sort of an exception to that rule. Purely because the quality of the game manages to stand on its own merits. It’s not your traditional mobile game where you’re cutting a rope or slingshotting a bird into a destructible building, it’s about logical thinking. And timing. Because of that, you’re able to look past some of the technical shortcomings that come along with it because the style of play is better suited.
For instance, the juttery framerate and grueling loading screens that seem to hamper the game throughout. At first, I thought it might have something to do with Trophy Synchronisation as there’s often an extended time delay when you find a collectible before it slots into the transparent shape or jewel to add to your collection. While Game Centre notifications would have been rooted into the engine, the way Playstation tracks these is different and more complex. However, after some playing around with the Vita version, I realised that it’s the cross-save functionality and it’s a lot worse on Sony’s handheld.
When played next to the mobile version – which is practically seamless – you really notice the limitations of the port and the price you have to pay for maintaining your progress between the two formats. A similar issue occured with Hitman GO – except that you could choose to take advantage of Cross-Save, whereas it just seems embedded into Lara Croft GO. I’m both surprised and disappointed to see similar issues make a comeback here and actually be worse.
And, as forementioned, the control scheme definitely throws up its share of frustrations. Unusually, Square Enix Montreal have opted not to use the PS4 Trackpad for taps and swipes. You can’t even use the D-Pad for timed precision. Lara’s movements are fully governed by the left analog stick, with the right used to hunt for collectibles hidden around the environment. For the most part, the right stick works well, though you will sometimes need to place it dead centre on the object you’re tracking otherwise it won’t log.
The left stick, however, will be a love-hate relationship throughout. One moment you feel like you’re attuned to the rhythm, able to get around free and easy, the next it’s taking too long to register your movements, or you’re not facing the right way to throw a javelin or move a pillar and have to take long ways around. It’s times like these when you long for that decisive tap.
When solving puzzles, you’ll have these genuine ‘Eureka!’ moments that bring a smile to your face, but then you accidentally send Lara one step too far with an inadvertant flick of the stick, causing insta-death.
Each area has various turn-based puzzles. Sometimes you’ll need to hold down a switch to activate various platforms, sometimes you’ll need to dangle from a ledge to escape an enemy, and sometimes you’ll have to avoid stepping on a crack in the floor or you’ll be sent sailing into the abyss. Lara is usually being chased by a big-bad, or she’s in search of an anicent relic, but unlike previous Tomb Raider games the story isn’t the focal point of the experience.
Unlike the previously released Hitman GO, it feels less like a static board game and more fluid, dynamic and action-packed, almost a perfect match for this genre. Comparitively, it’s also a lot more fun.
But unusually for a mobile port, that about sums up the criticism. The engine has ported across to big screens extremely well. In fact, seeing the refracting light beams and beautifully drawn landscapes in full view can occassionally be breathtaking. Watching Lara slink around the course, her enemies imposingly do the same, is silky smooth.
There is a reason Lara Croft GO has won award after award, constantly being heaped with praise. It may not be as jaw-droppingly stunning to watch as Rise of the Tomb Raider, but it’s genuinely a great game. Not just in comparison to everything happening on the mobile scene, but across the board. And while Deus Ex GO has also proven to be a formidable addition to Square Enix Montreal’s roadmap, this – unquestionably – remains their crown jewel.
It’s not a perfect port. You may even prefer to stick to your tablet, but the additional chapter – which is equal measures formidable and fantastic – coupled with the cross-buy and cross-save opportunities, as well as seeing the game play out on the big screen might make you reconsider that double dip.
If I had a wish list – apart from fixes for the highlighted issues – I also would have loved a quick restart button the likes of which you’ll find in Trials and Steep. Some puzzles will require multiple attempts to get right and occassionally you’ll find that you made a wrong move, meaning you can’t complete the section anyway. This would have cut out the start > menu > restart button routine, or forcing a character death when it isn’t needed.
But on the whole, this is a game that deserves to be played. If you’ve somehow not managed to get around to it yet, this currently is the definitive edition of a classic with an exclusive chapter, bogged down by technical hiccups and rebellious controls.
The loading and saving is awful on Vita at the moment. Lara Croft GO is supposed to be filled with rapid-fire, quick-succession levels, but instead the Vita version is getting bogged down by trying to talk to the PS4 all the time and there’s no clear way to turn the functionality off. One quick glance at the mobile version and you’ll see the difference is night and day. Square Enix Montreal really need to give this a second look.
The good news? You can alternate between touch and analog control seamlessly and that makes you feel in control of the game like never before. It looks and feels great, with Vita’s screen really doing the visuals justice.
So yeah, I really enjoyed playing Lara Croft GO on Vita, I just didn’t appreciate all the wasted time in-between.
+ Game looks surprisingly beautiful on the big screen
+ Still fantastic to play
+ Additional chapter adds even more value
+ Cross-Buy with Vita
– Cross-Save with Vita is painfully slow
– Control issues with PS4 version and no use of touchpad
– Could have used an insta-restart button
Lara Croft GO
7.5 / 10
Platform review : – Playstation 4 & Playstation Vita