There is hardly any handheld console that does not have a conventional Tomb Raider game.
It’s a different story when developers try to make something relevant for a smartphone as game ports to this platform don't get enough attention and are usually not successful.
However, Lara Croft: Relic Run is an endless-runner game that was built exclusively for mobile phones in mind.
You can tell that the mobile game tries to combine the adventurous gameplay of the franchise with simplified controls and running mechanics, which sounds about the right approach to take in this situation.
But, does it manage to provide a worthwhile Tomb Raider experience, or is it a failed attempt at cashing in on the hype? Let’s find out.
The gameplay of Lara Croft: Relic Run is split into several sections in every run.
Firstly, we have the usual endless-running in which all you have to do is swipe the screen to avoid obstacles and collect the items that you see. The game tries to mix this up by adding a few extra things, such as running on walls when a jump isn’t possible, and dedicated animations in which Lara performs acrobatics to get across things.
Secondly, there are shooting sections that randomly appear in every run. Normally, you will have one or two waves of enemies that you can shoot with different types of weapons. However, on rare occasions, you will fight giant dinosaurs that are like a proper boss fight and require patience and precision to be defeated.
On the third number, we have driving sections where Lara gets her hands on a vehicle and you have to drive it through obstacles until you automatically perform a few cool stunts and eventually jump off of it after dumping it in the sea – which leads you back into the normal running.
Lastly, there is a section where Lara holds onto a rope and runs on walls, with the player helping her avoid obstacles.
The game has two different types of modes. The main one is the mission-based levels that reveal the game’s storyline as you go, and in it, you always have to either collect a certain number of coins, run for a fixed distance, gather clues and items, or fight a fixed number of enemies. Playing these missions unlocks new outfits and power-ups, new maps, and the ‘Endless’ mode.
The Endless mode is the second type of run and is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to run for as long as you like without a goal, and you run into every different type of gameplay section by default. This is a great contrast from the mission-based levels as those are incredibly specific and often have a slow pace, with the run ending as soon as the objective is complete.
Lara Croft: Relic Run is not as over-the-top as it should be and it takes too long to introduce several things that make the runs more entertaining later down the line. However, it’s still a fun game to play by endless-runner standards and manages to mix itself up enough to keep things a bit fresh.
Personally, I liked the Endless mode more than the mission-based levels because of the fact that the Endless mode mixes up every type of gameplay section in a single run.
Unlocking things isn’t that satisfying because of the fact that everything is overpriced and the game gives you the premium currency needed for buying them at a snail’s pace.
It’s not a mobile game that can keep you hooked if you’re not a big fan of endless-runners, but if you do like that genre then this game is a good choice if you're looking for a bit of action mixed into it.
The graphics of Relic Run are visibly outdated.
They were decent for the time when the game originally came out, but it’s one of the least updated games on the Play Store over the years and although it looks alright, you can tell that the textures and graphics quality is a relic of the past.
The low graphics quality does not hold the game back from being enjoyable, but for a franchise as big as Tomb Raider – it’s certainly a shame that the game has been left for dead with no particular improvements after its initial release.
The UI of the game is pretty decent, but just like the graphics, it’s showing its age today. It’s not as smooth as it should be and does not feel modern enough. Some minor things are annoying too, such as the game completely freezing unless you do certain tutorial-instructed tasks or the fact that it always leads you to the next mission automatically instead of letting you choose on the map.
These things are a bit of a nitpick though and don’t affect the overall experience all that much.
The polish on the other hand is a complicated thing to address. It’s definitely a very polished game with great performance and very few issues – but that’s something that can alter between the devices that you play it on.
Similar to most old games that the developers give up on, Lara Croft: Relic Run has technical issues on some of the newer phones and a lot of players have run into a problem where the game does not let them progress past level 40.
The sound design of the game is very generic and there is almost no background music aside from the main menu. The sound effects are not bad, but they’re not particularly high-quality either.
Lara Croft: Relic Run is a difficult game to assign a rating to.
It’s a fun mobile game that has many great ideas, but it does not try to be anything more than a small distraction despite the fact that the game has the potential to be a lot more.
There's also a lack of optimization for newer mobile devices and thus many technical problems the game runs into.