Outside of companion apps and digital strategy guides, triple-A game franchises and mobile platforms have had a somewhat strained relationship. The pairing of the two often results in mediocre, poorly-optimized games that do little more than offer a stripped-down barebones version of the normal console experience and which also often come with intrusive in-app purchases. The stigma such games invariably fostered amongst more dedicated gamers naturally led them to worry when Square Enix first announced it was developing a mobile game set within the Hitman universe. However, the newly launched Hitman GO manages to sidestep many of the pitfalls that other mobile iterations fall prey to by taking iconic Hitman elements and injecting them into a gameplay format that compliments mobile gaming rather well: strategy and puzzle solving.
Hitman GO once again casts players into the role of the iconic Agent 47 as he works his way through a variety of missions, taking out assigned targets using both stealth and force. Instead of fully rendered 3D environments however, the levels in Hitman GO are instead presented as minimalist diorama game boards with both 47 and his adversaries being represented by game board-esque player pieces that move along set pathways. As players guide 47 through each board layout, they must elude or eliminate guards and utilize a variety of different power-ups such as distractions, disguises, and even firearms. Each of the game’s five worlds (including one based off of Hitman: Blood Money) contains its own unique enemy types and environmental puzzles, forcing players to think on the fly and plan out their strategies as they guide 47 to each level’s exit.
Hitman fans will see a lot of familiar elements from the console games such as the use of disguises to evade certain enemy types, picking off distant targets with the sniper rifle power-up, and even using 47’s iconic Silver Baller pistols to eliminate multiple enemies at once. Each mission in Hitman GO has a total of three different medals that can be earned; one for simply completing the mission and another two for meeting mission-specific requirements such as killing all of the mission’s enemies or completing the mission within a certain number of turns. Since collecting these medals is essential in order to unlock new worlds, players are encouraged to go back and replay previously cleared missions, mixing up their strategies in order to meet each mission’s medal criteria.
I don’t really consider myself the most avid puzzle/strategy fan but I still found the puzzles in Hitman GO to be more than manageable; though some of the later missions will definitely tease the brains of even hardcore puzzle aficionados. Fortunatly, a handy limited-use hint system is available if you get really stuck and it can even be custom-set to a specific medal challenge if there’s one medal in particular you’re really struggling to earn. I purchased Hitman GO on the day it came out (last Thursday, April 17) and having played it with a fair amount of regularity, I’m already almost done with the final world and I’ve earned every medal in the first and second worlds as well so if you’re looking for a game that will suck up a lot of your time in the long run, Hitman GO might not be the best choice.
If I were to have anything overtly negative to say about Hitman GO, it would really only be minor nitpicks and complaints. Despite being based on the Hitman series, the game has no story to speak of (though since it’s meant to be a digital representation of a board game, that’s a forgivable offense). Some of the in-game menus and icons are also bunched too close together and can be confusing to navigate (you’d be amazed how many times I accidently tapped the “Restart Level” button when I meant to tap the button that displays the level’s medal requirements). Still, neither of these issues really affected my enjoyment of the game and they likely won’t bother even hardcore Hitman fans.
Despite its short length, Hitman GO is still very much worth its $4.99 asking price. It may not keep you coming back for weeks on end but it is an admirable attempt on Square Enix’s part to take a familiar franchise and successfully rework it without losing the iconic elements of what made the previous games so popular. The game is suitable for strategy/puzzle fans of all skill levels and it also comes with integrated Apple Game Center integration and achievements so completionists can show off their puzzle-based assassination accomplishments. If Square Enix can take some of its other popular franchises and give them the same sort of mobile makeover as they’ve done with Hitman GO, there might come a time when gamers no longer fear seeing the word “mobile” mentioned within the same breath as their favorite game series.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Hitman franchise, there’s a lot to love in Agent 47’s new puzzle-based mobile outing. The amount of content you get with your $4.99 purchase might not seem that substantial to some players but a wrapped “coming soon” package in Hitman GO’s world select screen suggests that Square Enix has more content planned for the game down the road (though whether this new content is free or not remains to be seen). In the meantime, if you’re on the lookout for a fun new puzzle game you can take with you on the go, Hitman GO should suit you just fine.