Hitman Go launched last month on iOS and is coming soon to Android and to put it simply, this is how mobile versions of big console and PC titles should be done. When a mobile version of Hitman was first announced I imagined a terrible port of one of the earlier Hitman titles ‘optimised for mobile’ which basically involves swiping in and out of cover, or some really poor and complicated on-screen buttons. But what Hitman Go actually shows us is that big console and PC titles can be brought to mobile, when done correctly.
Hitman Go takes the initial core concept of Hitman and turns it into a fantastic puzzle game. It’s like Square Enix/IO Interactive had boiled down every part of the Hitman series right to the games initial conception before the first game, Hitman: Codename 47, was released in 2000. It actually slaps you in the face a little and makes you realise that Hitman isn’t a third person shooter, it is in fact a glorified puzzle game with superb graphics.
Hitman Go is a turn based puzzle game which reimagines the Hitman universe as a board game with each level represented by tiny, beautiful dioramas. I’m not exaggerating either, each and every level is stunning from the interior of the buildings, to the lush gardens outside. Even the little miniature swimming pools look good enough to dive into. At first glance you’d just think that each level was designed for a puzzle to be slapped on top, but each level design is created with a puzzle in mind, they’re not only great to look at, but it acts as a functioning part of the puzzle.
With it being a Hitman game you can definitely expect to be put into the shoes of Agent 47 but this time he’s not quite the way you remember him. He’s still all dapper in his perfectly fitting suit, but he’s a still, motionless puzzle piece. He’s also joined by a handful of other still, motionless puzzle pieces that act as NPC enemies, and targeted ‘hits’ which all collectively form a play set which contains a handful of puzzles.
Each level is laid out accordingly with linked-together lines that represent moves. Each move can be done by swiping your little Agent 47 puzzle piece from point to point in order to navigate your way to the levels pre-determined exit. As simple as it sounds you’re then introduced to the games enemies. It’s these puzzle pieces that act as the biggest challenge to this seemingly impossible board game.
During the early stages of the game you’ll be met with motionless grunts in blue jackets which, when you enter their line of site, will knock you over in a similar way you’d knock someone’s Bishop down in Chess. From here you have to figure out how to navigate the level to either avoid being seen, or to cleverly take-out the denim wearing grunts so you can navigate each level freely.
The further you progress you’re introduced to more and more enemies who each have their own unique traits. There’s mustard jacket wearing guards who after each taken turn move a single place in a predetermined path, there’s also cyan jacket grunts who rotate on the spot whilst poking out a knife, as you can guess each time you end up in their line of sight, usually one move ahead, you’ll be taken down and you’ll have to start said level again.
The game itself is eerily quiet and offers no real narrative. Throughout the game you’re required to figure out yourself how to complete the game and learn what each enemy does, and what landing on top of a rock has to offer. Only rarely you’ll be shown an Ikea-style diorama of what standing on a square which also contains a plant actually does. This isn’t a negative point however, the games hotel-lobby style soundtrack and narrative actually add to the games overall experience, I think the addition of a mission briefing before each level would take you away from the simplistic nature of the game.
Navigating each level is ridiculously simple and designed perfectly for mobile. I’ve already mentioned the swipe movement to move your model 47, but you can also drag the diorama around so you can carefully plan your next move, though movement of the level is fairly limited and you can’t completely change the angle you’re looking, but it actually complements the game really well.
Aside from trying to avoid stepping in the path of an enemy by swiping from left to right, up and down, you can also come across pick ups. These pick ups are single use items which help you progress through the level by other means. These pick ups consist of rocks, cans, and weapons, but they can only be used once and during the next move, there’s no saving them for later. Rocks and cans, once picked up can be thrown to a handful of pre-determined spaces which, if a guard is in ear shot, will bring them to that area, this is a perfect way to get them to play right into your hands, or if you prefer, to get them out of the way for a no-kill score.
Weapons work pretty much the same way, you must use them there and then and they only have a single shot so you must choose wisely on who to take out. Thankfully, unlike the main game, enemies who are eliminated are removed from the board and placed next to the diorama like discarded chess pieces, this means that grunts who cross the paths of eliminated enemies aren’t alerted which some may think takes you away from the core Hitman experience, but the game is complicated enough as it is.. come on.
Despite the simplistic gameplay Hitman Go is surprisingly difficult and at points totally impossible. Thankfully you’re given a set amount of hints which can be used one of several ways. To either complete the level without completing any of the objectives, complete the level in the minimum amount of moves, complete the level with the briefcase in tow, or complete the briefcase without killing anyone. If a hint is selected you’re then given a step-by-step walkthrough of the level from start to finish.
Sadly though, once your hints are gone, they’re gone. To get more you actually have to purchase them, using real money. That’s right, Hitman Go, a game you’ve just paid £3 for has in-app-purchases which take advantage of those who are stuck and/or impatient. This is one of my biggest pet peeves..
Moving swiftly on, I previously mentioned objectives; to add an extra level of replayability each level in Hitman Go contains one or two (mostly) optional objectives, things such as picking up a briefcase and completing the mission to completing a mission without making a single kill. It’s these objectives that give you a fantastic sense of achievement once you’ve already completed a fairly difficult level, they can also quickly become a frustrating addition to the game as a set amount of objectives need to be completed before you can go ahead and unlock another play set.
Overall, Hitman Go is a fantastic toilet game that’ll have you sitting on the porcelain throne for absolutely hours on end. I was actually really surprised how well detailed the game was even on the iPhone 5S too, it would definitely look and play much better on the iPad, but the game was still perfectly playable despite the small screen real estate of the iPhone.
The gameplay overall is simple enough for anyone to pick up despite how far into the game you are it’s this simplicity however that can make the game drag on a little bit. During the more advanced levels you’ll realise that you’ll need to repeat the same move over and over again until the enemy pieces are in the right position for you to proceed, this often requires you to go from one spot to another over, and over, and over, again, back and forth, back and forth.. you get the idea.
This can often make some levels quite tedious and a little frustrating but thankfully the game is addictive enough to have you coming back for more waltzing action until you complete that pesky level.
This review was based on the iPhone 5S version of Hitman Go provided to us by Square Enix