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The bald and barcoded professional assassin, Agent 47, has cleverly killed his way through five installments of the Hitman series for the past 14 years. Hitman Go (available now for iOS devices and coming soon to Android) takes the core puzzle-solving of the series and renders it down into a smart, turn-based mobile puzzler.
You’ll still have weapons, hiding places, disguises, shortcuts, and items you can use to distract a variety of enemy types. But this time around, the action takes place one turn at a time as you move and then enemies respond in patterns unique to their type. Runners move back and forth along a preset path while the seemingly paranoid knife-wielders spin 180 degrees each turn, constantly checking their backs. You need to either avoid or eliminate these opponents and make your way to the exit (and the next level). Every few completed levels will bring you to a board that has a specific assassination target that you must take down to achieve success.
What you’ll like
It teaches you without holding your hand
Hitman Go expertly teaches you how to play, how to use new objects, and how to deal with new types of enemies, all without using a single word or presenting you with any formal tutorial. You’ll encounter each new element gradually, and near the end, you’ll have to combine everything you learned to complete your objectives. I’m sure anyone who’s had to suffer through an unskippable hour of learning the controls on a console game will appreciate how Hitman Go teaches you without insulting your intelligence.
Bonus objectives encourage multiple playthroughs with different solutions
Aside from the first handful of stages, each level in Hitman Go has at least three objectives. The first is always the completion of the level, but the second two can vary. Some of these include things such as completing the level in a certain number of turns or less, eliminating all enemies, not killing any enemies, or retrieving a briefcase that’s usually placed in a dangerous area. This encourages you both to play each level more than once and to find alternate solutions, which greatly adds to the replayability.
Crisp, inventive presentation
Hitman Go features a pleasant and clever board game presentation that has you moving what appears to be miniature playing pieces through diorama-style levels. It’s a unique and well-done aesthetic that I don’t recall seeing before, and it fits the theme and style of the gameplay perfectly. The levels are cohesive, and each one features a part of the larger whole as you navigate down streets, through houses, and around tennis courts. Even the level-select screen is consistent with the stages you explore, giving you a zoomed-out view of the game world as a whole.
What you won’t like
Bonus objectives are not completely optional
Since you must complete a certain number of objectives to unlock the next set of levels, finding alternate solutions isn’t always optional. Hitman Go forces you to play through levels more than once, which may be frustrating for some people as they try to avoid stages that they find particularly difficult or just plain annoying.
Trial and error may turn off some players
Even though the effects of weapons and objects and the patterns of various enemies are not difficult to learn, some levels just boil down to a repetitive exercise of trial and error. Most players will likely find one or two stages where the solution isn’t intuitively obvious. When this happens, your only recourse is just to keep trying over and over until you find the solution through brute force. Since you cannot progress to the next level until you find at least one solution to the previous one, some people may find this a bit tedious at times. While Hitman Go does provide you with a limited number of hints (read: turn-by-turn solutions), once you exhaust these first five, your only recourse to obtain more is through an in-app purchase.
Hitman Go is a smart and well-designed puzzle game that proves being an assassin can be fun, even in a meticulous, turn-based way. The variety of enemies and gameplay additions, gradually introduced, keep the action fresh until the end, and the numerous but short levels with multiple objectives make this a great mobile experience. Even if you’re not familiar with the Hitman series, I’d consider giving this clever and enjoyable excercise in murderous problem solving at least one shot.
Hitman Go is available now on iOS devices. An Android version is coming soon. The publisher provided GamesBeat with an iOS download code for the purposes of this review.