Hitman GO isn’t the kind of Hitman game you would expect, unless you were expecting a turn based puzzle game styled like a board game. It isn’t focused on turning the Hitman experience into a board game though; it instead provides the player with a distinct experience with flavours of the popular series. It doesn’t rely on its legacy, but these touches do enhance it, allowing it to be a great puzzle game in its own right as well as an interesting instalment in the franchise.
The game is made up of different worlds, each with a number of stages that you have to progress through in order. These worlds are presented as different board game sets and every level fits into the world’s distinct aesthetic. The environments are familiar Hitman locales, mostly looking like stages out of Absolution, but with a bonus world based on Blood Money.
In each level Agent 47 is a piece that you move around a board, usually towards a specified end point (though some levels mix up objectives really nicely). The catch is, these levels are populated by enemies and when you move everything else moves. Enemies each have their own pattern and the challenge is working out how to successfully move Agent 47 around the board to his goal.
A lot of the enjoyment comes from the solidity of this premise. It suits iOS perfectly and it is just a lot of fun to move 47 round and to puzzle out how to complete levels. What allows the game to keep being so good though is its level of inventiveness. There are a decent number of levels, each with three distinct goals (one being how you complete the level, the other two being bonus objectives). Later on, completing the level can get satisfyingly challenging, but the real difficulty usually lies in the bonuses. They are the difference between merely getting through the level and doing it in the best way possible. The best bonuses force you to rethink strategies and play in interesting ways that exhibit an impressive amount of depth.
On top of this, the game consistently adds great new mechanics. This stops things from getting stale and each addition gives another satisfying layer of challenge and complexity. New guards and obstacles are introduced rather frequently, but each new feature has a defined rule set. Things only work one way and will always work in that fashion. This makes it a well-balanced experience that is easy to understand, but difficult to master.
Another impressive part is how the game handles tutorials. Much like the other Hitman games, experimentation is encouraged. Levels will just have new enemies and obstacles in them and it is up to you to work out what that means. The restricted rule set of each piece means it is easy to figure out what each thing does, but leaving this discovery to the player rather than a text box makes things so much more enjoyable. It makes the experience feel more organic and it is definitely more involving. The game doesn’t hold your hand - there’s not even any exposition – everything is just conveyed through gameplay and it’s handled so well that nothing else is needed.
The game’s presentation is also top notch. Though environments look a bit aliased and basic on higher definition displays, the aesthetic still holds up really nicely. It’s a very simple and clean look, but it’s classy and distinctive. It’s an evocative and memorable art style that suits the game and, weirdly, suits the franchise. They manage to incorporate series staples in interesting ways that never feel forced. It always feels like the developer are using only what fits with this unique game, rather than trying to force franchise tropes into this separate experience.
Hitman GO isn’t justHitman on iOS and, frankly, that’s a good thing. What it is, is a very satisfying puzzle game with a consistent and increasingly complex rule set. The presentation is sublime, including how it conveys information to you, and how it looks and feels. Being a Hitman fan doesn’t mean you will enjoy this, though if you like well-made puzzlers this should be right up your alley. However, the little flavours of Hitman in it do add an extra appeal to fans of that series and of this genre. It’s a clever use of a franchise that feels necessarily distinct yet oddly at home. Its structure and gameplay fit perfectly on its platform (though the iPhone version is occasionally handicapped by the smaller screen), and it is a great game that iOS users should pick up right away.