Lara Croft GO Review and Guide

Posted: Aug. 27, 2015

Lara Croft GO is a thoughtfully, intricately and delightfully crafted work of art that transcends all benchmarks for sheer excellence in mobile gaming.

I just finished playing Lara Croft GO - released today, August 27th, 2015 for iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Windows Store - and I'm still very much on a high from what I've just experienced. I was given a free early access copy of Lara Croft GO a little under 48 hours ago, on the morning of August 25th, for review purposes as part of a random drawing for participants in Crystal Dynamics' Official Fansite Program. Over the past couple days, I've been overjoyed at finally being able to play this much-anticipated, extremely promising game - and I can honestly say that it surpassed all my expectations. I played the iOS version, and today I'll be buying the Windows Store version for my laptop to see how that version plays.

I'll start this article with my written review, in which I'll avoid spoilers (but I will include some details about the game, of course). Below, you'll find a comprehensive collection of key game data. For my massive set of key screenshots (including all relics and outfits, as well as the starting point of every area in each level), as well as extracted assets, official screenshots and key art, visit my Lara Croft GO Assets archive.

Lara Croft GO is the second designed-for-mobile Tomb Raider game - as much a marvelous surprise as the first, Relic Run, released earlier this year - and the second in a series of sorts from Square Enix Montreal, following the tremendously unique Hitman GO. If you've played that game, you know that it's an absolutely brilliant turn-based puzzle game built around a board game concept. Lara Croft GO, however, is not a clone of the Hitman GO style. Square took the GO name to create a series of mobile games, and they took the idea of creating a turn-based puzzle game, but from that point forward, Lara Croft GO goes its own way.

From the moment you launch GO and see its classic Tomb Raider rotating menu, with each item brought to animated life, you'll know that you're in for a magical experience. There are so many exceptional little details throughout the game just like this carefully designed menu - not to mention that the menu isn't the only nod for fans of the classic Tomb Raider games. There's a nice little something that occurs semi-rarely but often enough in the game, which I won't name but I will say that it's handled with a slow grace that allows you to appreciate it - you'll know it when you see it! And then at the very, very end of the game, there's a little something for classic Tomb Raider fans there as well. Once you venture into the game's sub-menus, they're all smooth, intuitive and pristine, and the understated elegance of the game's UI is unobtrusive, highly stylized and, in a word, perfect.

If you've watched any of the trailers or looked at any of the screenshots, I probably don't need to say much about GO's graphics - they're unbelievably beautiful. Every individual area of the game could be a framed print on my wall, and then my apartment would be a Lara Croft GO art gallery, which would be awesome! The stylized, animated art direction of the game is masterfully refined and cohesive, and the colorful variety of the environments truly takes the player on an epic journey with Lara. The level design is amazing, and the GO landscape is a world of adventure that happens to be filled with puzzles - the integraton of the puzzles into the gameworld is flawless. GO is filled with "cherry on top" moments, where the subtlest of details - such as plants moving, or birds flying in the background - make every scene lush and alive with movement.

Pixel Audio's soundtrack is the definition of "melodically atmospheric" - the way that the music sets the game's mood is complete, breathtaking perfection. The many accompanying sound effects also draw you into the adventure. While some fans have felt that the game doesn't have enough of a "Tomb Raider feel" in the music, I absolutely disagree with the concept that something different equals something lacking. Every element of a game should serve the whole, and Lara Croft GO is such a unique game, it requires a unique musical landscape. Not to mention that Pixel Audio's contemplative score is the perfect mood for turn-based puzzling and the perfect companion to the game's art style - the game wouldn't be the same without it. The complete Lara Croft GO Official Soundtrack has now been released. I could listen to the poignant perfection of Lara Croft GO's soundtrack all day!

Unlike Hitman GO, Lara Croft GO tells a story, and reminds you of the story throughout, using a nested puzzle gameplay structure but also an escalating sense of danger. Lara Croft GO's boss occasionally stirs and passes by in the background, rumbling through the level unseen as you progress, sometimes making more dramatic appearances. The game's climactic boss battle - well, I don't want to spoil anything for you. Let me just say that even the concept of putting a boss battle into a turn-based puzzle game is genius, and the execution of the concept is nothing short of incredible.

Lara Croft GO has five level sets - three primary level sets, with an introduction set and an epilogue set (in a traditional five-act form, with each part playing an integral role in the story). The number of levels in each set increases as you go, and the number of areas in each level (and their complexity and depth) also increases. While the initial levels consist of just one "screen" or "area," GO builds up to 4 packed puzzle areas per level (some levels in my listing have up to 5 areas, but this occurs when the last area is a travel area only and not a puzzle area). This structure allows the game to ease the player into its more difficult puzzles, introducing a mechanic, building upon it, and then combining it with previously introduced mechanics. Warning - once you start to play, you'll be hooked! Lara Croft GO is thoroughly fun, engaging, and very hard to put down!

If you have to leave the game in the middle of a level and then come back to it, you'll start in the area that you were last in - you don't have to go back to the beginning of the level. Likewise, if you need to restart a level because you've created a situation that can't be solved but you haven't died, you'll restart in the area you were in - you won't have to replay the whole thing up to that point. Even more considerate is the restart function during the game's boss battle. Most areas in the boss battle have two "stages," and if you get past the first stage of an area and don't make it through the second stage, once again the restart doesn't make you start at the beginning.

You can replay any level at any time after you've finished it, and you can also reset your game progress from the Settings sub-menu. Doing this clears all of your level progress and also resets your outfits and relics, but it doesn't reset your achievements (unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view). Yes, Lara Croft GO does have achievements - 14 of them in total. They're mostly pretty standard, being awarded as you progress through the game, or generally easy to get. There is one that's pretty tricky - "Master Builder" - which had me stumped until I got a clue that was the most I was comfortable "spoiling" for myself - what level it could be achieved on.

My single minor "criticism" of Lara Croft GO is a small detail that I feel was a missed opportunity. The five level sets are presented as five colored journals. Inside the journals, each level is represented by a Polaroid-styled image, one per page, and the loading screens show your progression through each level set as a journal page with line drawings of your encounters in each level. This interface concept and the design work is fantastic, but one aspect of it, the five plain colored journal covers, feels out of place. I would have loved to see a diamond-shaped icon/symbol representing that set of levels on the cover of each journal - drawn in the same style as the loading screens, as if Lara drew it - for me, that would have been the perfect finishing touch in terms of creating a cohesive interface design and reinforcing the game's story and the theming of each level set.

(Okay, there's one other small detail that was a bit of a disappointment - there's one part of the boss fight that I feel wasn't as spectacular as the rest of it. I won't be spoiling anything by saying that the part with the pillar felt perhaps a bit unrealistic or not as awesome as the rest.)

GO's puzzles are very smartly designed. They often include multiple vertical spaces, which makes for really cool levels. The puzzles become increasingly complex the further you play, and the puzzle mechanics are wonderfully varied. There are three types of animal enemies you'll have to deal with - snakes, salamanders and spiders - and you won't just face them in combat, rather, you'll have to use their differing behaviors to solve puzzles. Other puzzle mechanics include levers, pressure plates, spinning floor blades that travel in grooves, collapsing squares, moving squares (both horizontal and vertical), movable pillars, rolling boulders, throwing spears, torches, arrow shooters and more - and the game utilizes all of these mechanics in countless clever combinations.

As far as difficulty goes, even the most difficult puzzles will not be too difficult for the casual gamer. As a pure puzzle game, I can imagine that creating the difficulty ramp was no easy task, since the game has to be accessible for players who aren't as skilled at puzzle solving, while still providing an enjoyable challenge for the more experienced Tomb Raider fans who want complex puzzles. Although most puzzles can generally be solved within a few minutes, the puzzles give a very rewarding sense of satisfaction when you solve them. I always found myself admiring the puzzle designs after I solved them, especially when a mechanic was used in a new, cool way that I hadn't expected. The most number of times that I had to replay an area to figure out the correct sequence to solve it was about a dozen times. The most amount of time I got stuck in an area was around 10 minutes.

As Lara explores the levels, she'll run across relic vases (or relic jars, as I like to call them). These vases contain relic fragments and gems. Each level set has one relic and one set of gems - collect all the relic fragments, and you'll assemble the complete relic and unlock an outfit. Collect all the gems in the entire game, and you'll unlock an additional outfit. I've listed detailed information about each relic, gem set and outfit in the game data and screenshots below. In addition to the Tomb Raider outfits you can unlock, there's also a "Square Unix Universe Outfit Pack" - outfits for Lara based on Hitman, Deus Ex and Just Cause - that you can purchase for just $2.29. Not my thing, especially since the game is quite generous with all the Tomb Raider outfits you can unlock, but that option is there if you want it.

Relic vases have a glimmer to them to help you spot them, and they crumble when you tap them - and you don't have to be next to them to acquire their contents. You'll have to keep an eye out for them - because of the vertically-layered levels, the foreground silhouettes and the distant backgrounds, some vases can only be spotted from one square in an area before your movement causes them to be obscured from view. In fact, at least one is hidden from view by the game's puzzles and can only be seen when Lara is on one particular square that becomes inaccessible after she moves further. In the later levels, some of the vases will barely be peeking out for you to spot them. And don't forget to look for a vase when you're on the last square before you leave the level - you'll kick yourself, as I did, if you spot a vase while Lara is running off the screen! Sometimes, finding the relic vases will leave you scratching your head as much as the game's puzzles.

The good news is that if you miss a relic vase, you don't have to replay the entire level - unless the one you missed is in the last area of the level! As soon as you've found the missing vase or vases, you can leave the level and you'll keep your relic piece.

In terms of length, Lara Croft GO took about a full day to finish on my first playthrough, enjoying the game and collecting all the relic fragments and gems. My second playthrough was dedicated to notes and screenshots. On my third playthrough, remembering most of the puzzles (but not all of them), Lara Croft GO took a solid 2 hours to complete, which I feel is more than worth the game's reasonable $4.99 price tag. While there is a lot of gameplay depth here, I would very much welcome a Lara Croft GO 2 that was twice as long. But I do feel that this game is the perfect length for what it sets out to do. It's a refreshingly simple, pure Lara Croft Tomb Raider puzzle adventure experience - it tells a story, it has a lot of puzzles and between the music and the visuals, it's a veritable work of interactive art.

Lara Croft GO has an in-game hint system available as an in-app purchase for a rather pricey $5.79, but it's really not necessary, as the puzzles are challenging but don't become insanely difficult. From the purchase screen, it appears that the game will display the path you need to follow to complete the section you're stuck on. I can't review it, because I didn't buy it - it's not my thing! But my advice would be to take your time, enjoy the puzzles and enjoy the game. If you are REALLY stuck and choose to ruin it for yourself, there's always YouTube, which is free. I'm sure someone out there has already made a walkthrough for every level - those YouTube folks are pretty fast when it comes to this kind of thing! You can also always email me (make sure to put "Lara Croft GO" in the subject) or use the Contact form if you want just a SMALL hint - I'm happy to help!

At the core of Lara Croft GO - as well as Hitman GO and Lara Croft Relic Run, for that matter - is the understanding that the mobile gaming experience is at its best when it's not trying to port or create a dumbed-down version of a console or PC gaming experience - rather, mobile gaming is a completely unique gaming arena with its own potential for amazing gaming experiences. (I can't take credit for this idea, but I absolutely agree with it - this is something that Todd Howard talked about in relation to Bethesda's Fallout mobile game, Fallout Shelter.)

You can probably tell that I can't say enough to recommend Lara Croft GO, but I'll wrap this up and get to the pretty pictures! I'll close by saying that the abundance of love that Square Enix Montreal has poured into this game really shows from start to finish - Lara Croft GO is a perfect, must-play gaming experience, not only for Tomb Raider fans but for all gamers, and I hope by now that you've stopped reading and are instead playing Lara Croft GO right now!

Lara Croft GO Guide for Levels, Outfits, Relics, Gems and Mechanics (including Enemies)

This guide doesn't include a walkthrough for puzzle solutions or relic vase locations, and here's why: Lara Croft GO isn't THAT challenging. If you do get stuck, I recommend enjoying it - it probably won't last too long! I do, however, give some hints at the bottom of this guide.

What this guide does include is a detailed breakdown of every area of every level in Lara Croft GO with a lot of helpful and interesting reference information. In the tables, "Travel" indicates that the area doesn't have a puzzle - some areas are travel-only areas. "Boss" indicates that Lara Croft GO's boss makes an appearance in this area. "Relics" is short for relic fragments, because you find the relics in fragments.

Also at the bottom of this guide is a list of achievements.


Total Levels: 41
Total Areas: 95
Total Puzzle Areas: 77
Total Relic Vases: 117
Total Relic Fragments: 36
Total Gems: 81
Total Snakes: 122
Total Salamanders: 33
Total Spiders: 24

1The EntranceDark BlueThe Gilded Skull4Quartz6Bomber Jacket
1The Maze of SnakesTealThe Twin Snakes10Emerald19Area 51
3The Maze of StonesLight BlueThe Frozen Spider12Sapphire32Antarctica
4The Maze of SpiritsRedThe Blood Salamander7Ruby17Wetsuit
5The EscapeYellowThe Necklace of Dreams3Topaze7Catsuit
36All Gems81Midas Lara

1The Entrance56---
1The Maze of Snakes11194310-
3The Maze of Stones133235717
4The Maze of Spirits92631156
5The Escape3121311


Journal 1
Journal Title: The Entrance
Journal Color: Dark Blue
Levels: 5
Areas: 6
Relic: The Gilded Skull
Relic Unlocks: Bomber Jacket Outfit
Relic Fragments: 4
Gem Set: Quartz
Gems: 6

#Level TitleAreasRelicsGemsNew Mechanic
1A Forgotten Path211-
2A Sleepy Cave111Levers, Moving Platforms
3A Ruined Route112Collapsing Squares
4A Clever Climb112-
5A Key to an Unknown Gate1---


Journal 2
Journal Title: The Maze of Snakes
Journal Color: Teal
Levels: 11
Areas: 19
Relic: The Twin Snakes
Relic Unlocks: Area 51 Outfit
Relic Fragments: 10
Gem Set: Emerald
Gems: 19

#Level TitleAreasRelicsGemsNew Mechanic
1The Swamp of Fangs312Snakes
2Snake Pit112-
3The Bridge of Many Sides111Spinning Blades
4The Tower of Blades112-
5Scaling by Danger112-
6The Canyon of a Thousand Snakes413Throwing Spears
7Dodging a Fang112-
8One Deadly Step112Salamanders
9Cold-Blooded Cliff211-
10The Key of Stones312-
11Return to the Gate1---


Journal 3
Journal Title: The Maze of Stones
Journal Color: Light Blue
Levels: 13
Areas: 32
Relic: The Frozen Spider
Relic Unlocks: Antarctica Outfit
Relic Fragments: 12
Gem Set: Sapphire
Gems: 32

#Level TitleAreasRelicsGemsNew Mechanic
1Through the Web313Spiders
2Down a Spider's Leg112-
3The Terrace of Forked Tongues313Pressure Plates
4Blades of Prey213-
5Pushing Right Back112Pushing Blocks
6The Dam's Edge313-
7The Temple of the Wise212Movable Pillars
8The Balcony of Stone213-
9The Chamber of Balance313-
10A Narrow Escape312Rolling Boulders
11Rolling On313-
12The Key of Spirits513-
13Through the Gate1---


Journal 4
Journal Title: The Maze of Spirits
Journal Color: Red
Levels: 9
Areas: 26
Relic: The Blood Salamander
Relic Unlocks: Wetsuit Outfit
Relic Fragments: 7
Gem Set: Ruby
Gems: 17

#Level TitleAreasRelicsGemsNew Mechanic
1The Lowest Point2---
2The Doorstep of Spirits413Torches
3The Cliffs of Fire312-
4A Well-Placed Arrow413Arrow Shooters
5Using the Trap313-
6The Wall of Blades312-
7The Throne of the Ancients412Boss Battle
8The Queen of Venom212-
9The Atlas of Beyond1---


Journal 5
Journal Title: The Escape
Journal Color: Yellow
Levels: 3
Areas: 12
Relic: The Necklace of Dreams
Relic Unlocks: Catsuit Outfit
Relic Fragments: 3
Gem Set: Topaze
Gems: 7
All Gems Unlocks: Midas Lara

#Level TitleAreasRelicsGemsNew Mechanic
1A Closing Door512Timed Pull Levers
2One Last Challenge413-
3A Bridge to Daylight312-



One achievement is listed as "Hidden" until you complete it. I didn't really feel that it needed to be - normally, achievements are hidden for being spoilers - and since I've already discussed the fact that Lara Croft GO has a boss in this article, the achievement that's "Hidden" until you complete it is the achievement for defeating GO's boss.

#NameDescription when CompletePoints
1Key of SnakesFound the Key of Snakes25
2Key of StonesFound the Key of Stones25
3Key of SpiritsFound the Key of Spirits25
4Atlas of BeyondDiscovered the Atlas of Beyond25
5OphidiophobiaSlayed the Queen of Venom25
6ArchaeologistFound a Relic Fragment25
7HistorianCompleted a Relic50
8CuratorCompleted all Relics75
9Preservation SocietyBroke all Vases100
10Gathering MossGot crushed by a Boulder25
11Getting CraftyStacked two Pillars25
12Master BuilderStacked three Pillars50
13Into the AbyssKilled a creature by making it fall to its death25
14Put this Apple on your HeadThrew a spear six nodes or farther50


Having trouble finding relic vases? My advice is to play the level slowly and look around every time you make a move, because some vases can only be spotted from one position or during one event (such as a moving platform). The tables above may also be helpful in narrowing down how many you need to find in each area of each level.

Wondering in which level you can achieve "Put this Apple on your Head"? Highlight this text to find out: The Terrace of Forked Tongues

Wondering in which level you can achieve "Master Builder"? Highlight this text to find out: The Doorstep of Spirits

"Master Builder" Clue #1 - Highlight this text to read the clue: Proceed with the level as you would normally proceed to solve it, and get rid of the snakes. Then try solving the pillars.

Need more help? Visit Stella's step-by-step walkthrough!

For my massive set of key screenshots (including all relics and outfits, as well as the starting point of every area in each level), as well as extracted assets, official screenshots and key art, visit my Lara Croft GO Assets archive.