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“Stealth board game” isn’t exactly a common genre, but it’s the best way to describe Hitman GO, the debut project from Square Enix’s new Montreal studio. It strips down and repurposes classic stealth mechanics from the popular console and computer assassination game series, and the result is a novel experience that’s perfectly suited for the App Store.
Hitman GO takes place on a series of game boards with a grid overlay, populated by security guards, night watchmen, and unwitting police officers. The iconically chrome-domed Agent 47 must sneak his way through each diorama, one space at a time, while completing objectives and avoiding detection by the patrolling enemies. If need be, Agent 47 can “kill” other pieces by occupying their space on the board. In keeping with the series’ tradition, 47 also has a few tricks at his disposal: a well-thrown rock can distract a wandering guard, for example, but a color-coded disguise can fool him altogether.
These goodies add extra layers of complexity to the puzzles on offer, but they build on a solid foundation of stealth gameplay: line of sight, pattern recognition, and timing are just as important to Hitman GO as they are in its more freeform predecessors. Hitman GO is to professional assassinations as chess is to medieval warfare, and the result is a more cerebral and pensive take on the series. Stubborn brute force won’t get Agent 47 very far.
Hitman GO’s larger structure is common for iOS puzzlers: you can earn up to three stars for each level, and earning these stars unlocks the later portions of the game. You might earn a star for dispatching a certain number of guards, for example, or completing objectives quickly or non-violently. These optional objectives are a nod to Hitman’s openness, but they also work well to illustrate the range of options provided by an ostensibly limited set of mechanics.
The bottom line. Hitman GO is a clever and stylish work of alchemy, bringing elegant stealth mechanics to a new platform and a fresh genre.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 6.0 or later
Clever mix of stealth and board game mechanics. Puzzle design offers a broad range of goals and solutions. Captures the feel and atmosphere of its console cousins.
Being spotted means starting over, which is a real pain for complicated, multi-step puzzles. Hitman Go also chews up battery life.