Review: Lara Croft Go: Mirror of Spirits19 May 2017 0
Review: Lara Croft Go: Mirror of Spirits
Released 13 Apr 2017
Back in 2014, Square Enix developed and released Hitman Go. A complete left-turn for the series, taking Agent 47 and throwing him into a collection of virtual boards; incorporating turn-based mechanics with a sleek minimalist design – the blueprints for 2016’s Hitman can be found here, taking the core components and refining them to a polished sheen. One year later and Lara Croft found herself on the receiving end of the “Go” treatment. Both games were met with a positive reception, and coincided with the revitalization of both franchises for console – sitting neatly alongside as their own entities.
March saw the release of what is being effectively sold as the last expansion for Lara Croft Go, and because Square Enix are a lovely bunch, the expansion was free – though you still need to purchase the full game if you have yet to do so. Titled Lara Croft Go: Mirror of Spirits, the new expansion features over 25 puzzles, new mechanics, and overall a different tone to the original game. That expansion has now made its way to iOS and Android, and again is entirely free. Having missed out on it first time round, let’s see what a fresh pair of eyes make of it.
The expansion comes to us by way of KO_OP, a small studio based out Montreal, Quebec. They focus on creating low poly games, and have a wonderfully unique sense of style about them, meaning while Mirror of Spirits does fit within the visual aesthetic of Lara Croft Go, it takes a tonal shift to a more surreal, dreamlike setting that it absolutely nails. The ambient sound design fits to create an atmosphere and setting that falls in line with Monument Valley or the recently reviewed Euclidean Lands. I give Square Enix all the praise for handing out one of their properties, as the end result is something that feels different yet similar.
The core new mechanic introduced for this expansion is a mirrored version of Lara. Though the game weaves her in and out, with levels split into several stages, staggering the mechanic alongside a series of ideas that are built on throughout. When your mirrored self does appear, she is privy to her own collection of environmental hazards, meaning you have to think several steps ahead for two characters. Visually, it looks impressive: seeing Lara and her mirrored self swap places into each other’s ‘world’ and no doubt is a technical achievement
Another new concept introduced is the rays of light that trigger the movement of platforms. The original game is littered with switches that can be triggered by Lara, along with snakes, spiders, and the utter bastard of a lizard that follows you around. The rays of light work in a similar fashion by moving a platform somewhere else in the stage when Lara or one of creatures moves in front. The one added layer to this is the movable pillar that has no effect on the light. Some areas will combine multiple elements, which becomes particularly daunting when you need to find a way to get the mirrored version of Lara in the right place, while also lining a spider up at the right point to block of a ray of light.
It is incredibly satisfying when it all comes together, and they are the type of puzzles where the answer isn’t clearly in front of you. Instead – and this is a broad overview of the ‘GO’ games in general – solving puzzles here requires a bit of forward thinking, trial & error, and when needed: a bit of brute force. Sometimes you luck into the correct answer, but even playing around with the mechanics the games offers is enjoyable, because the rules for these mechanics are consistent; the spider will always move the same way, a specific coloured switch will move the correlating specific coloured platform, the pillars will always block the light. It means that even if you walk into a new room and have no idea what the solution is, before long you will have an understanding of all the tools, letting you jump in and mess around immediately.
The hidden gems and pieces of treasure still litter each stage like something out of "Where’s Wally" - and still feel a bit unnecessary. They don’t force you to explore the levels, and the levels are not designed with that in mind, so the implementation just seems forced.
The game’s first expansion, The Shard of Life, was a reaction to the complaints that Lara Croft Go was too easy. Here, the difficulty and complexity of the puzzles is matched with a new direction in tone and feel. Honestly it is a shame that this is the last expansion, as I’d love to see the license handed out to other smaller developers to see what they would come up with. And considering the success of Hitman’s staggered release of content last year, there is a proven track record.
While complaining about the length of free content would take some cheek, the campaign is extremely short. Bar one or two puzzles that will cause a headache, Mirror of Spirits is over in two hours, with the ending feeling a bit abrupt. Though the game has little in the way of story to tell (as is the case with the minimalist approach to the GO games), it feels like KO_OP scratch the surface of the ideas presented, and the few in-game scenes could have easily been expanded on.
The good news though, for anyone who has not played Lara Croft Go, is the whole package with the expansions combined makes for around eight hours worth of content. You can make a one-off purchase and gain hints for all puzzles in the game – fundamentally breaking the game. I would highly recommend avoiding this, as it is simply not necessary.