The Hitman series has spawned some of the greatest stealth based games ever. What made them so special, at least to me, was that they allowed you to complete missions whichever way you wanted. If you wanted to run in guns blazing, which generally left you with unsatisfactory results, you were allowed to do so. If you wanted to go in stealth mode, so be it. You could complete missions without ever killing anyone, except the target to be assassinated or you could leave the map without a single breath of life. That level of player freedom was exhilarating.
Now the game has come to mobile in the form of Hitman Go and they, incredibly, have managed to keep that freedom alive in this mobile board game. Truth be told, I was a little sceptical at first when I heard it was a board game but a few levels in and I am hooked.
The story isn’t the focus
The game shies away from explaining why the person you need to kill is being killed. There are no cut scenes or that distinctive female voice calling out “Agent 47”. This may disappoint some, however what it means is that you are kept immersed in the ‘puzzle’ aspect of the game. The focus isn’t on who you are killing or why. It’s how you achieve it. It’s about solving the puzzle.
The game takes you through 5 chapters, each with their own set of levels and unique designs, assassination targets and guard types. There are a lot of missions to complete in the game with a "coming soon" sign hinting at more chapters with even more missions. Chapters are initially locked, but as you complete missions, you gather enough objectives to unlock new chapters.
Gameplay – A well crafted and stimulating puzzle
Throughout my time playing Hitman Go, I kept being reminded of Flow Free. If you don’t know that it is, it’s essentially a game where you have to connect dots of matching colours without overlapping. What makes it complicated is you have to fill up the entire grid upon which you’re playing and this requires the player to plan in advance on how to complete a level. Hitman Go is much the same.
The game is a board game and you start at one point and have to slide your way to the “exit” which takes you to the next level. Guards stand in your way, sometimes standing still, sometimes roaming around as they patrol. You can kill them, but the catch is that you can only approach them from behind or to the side. As it is a board game, it is essentially turn based, in the sense that for every move you make, the guards make one too.
What ensues is this absolutely incredible game where you need to calculate all your moves as well as those of the guards. You are able to create diversions such as throwing objects that create a noise which will alter the paths patrolling guards take or change the direction and position stationary guards are facing.
I can’t do the game justice with words, which is a problem seeing as I’m a writer. You will find yourself pulling your hair out when you think you’ve calculated the best path, only to realise you forgot to factor in one guard’s movement. On the other side of the spectrum, there’s no better feeling than coming up with a plan and watching it play out perfectly.
As you progress through the game, new mechanics appear to you, such as trapdoors that allow you to basically teleport from one point to another. You are able to hide in your surroundings such as pot plants as well as use various tools of the trade in some levels such as Agent 47's much loved Silverballers. Some levels also have briefcases, which are bonuses you can collect if you’re looking for an extra challenge. There are other achievements you can collect such as finishing a level in a set number of moves or less, not killing a single guard, killing everyone etc.
Graphics and sound – Simple but beautifully executed (excuse the pun)
The game looks as good as Agent 47’s suit. The figurines are simple and resemble a board game but they are so wonderfully created. The various levels also have a lot of effort put into them despite the “board game” look. A luscious garden with a gardener mowing it. A crystal clear, blue pool with bikini clad girls swimming in the sun. Dark streets at night, with deceivingly warm glows from lampposts. The various levels are beautifully crafted and give you something to admire whilst you plot your moves.
There is something satisfying about hearing a ‘knock’ as you kill a guard and his piece tumbles to the ground, before being placed on the side of the board. The music that plays during missions and the main screen is reminiscent of old Hitman games with its combination of eerie but haunting scores. But really, you’ll be keeping the sound on because of the clink and clank of board pieces being knocked down and the clack of rocks as you throw them on the ground to distract guards.
Final thoughts - A rare masterpiece
I have rarely been impressed by mobile games, mainly due to the negative bias I have towards the casual nature of the majority, however Hitman Go left me stunned. It is well made and it incredulously retains the feel of previous Hitman games, whilst crossing to the less robust mobile platform, by allowing you to complete missions in various ways.
Puzzle games often cater to the masses and become fairly easy and predictable, but Hitman Go avoids that pitfall. The game is difficult, especially if you want to complete levels 100% (get all the achievements) but this only serves to make the game feel that much more rewarding. If you enjoy puzzle games, regardless of if you played previous Hitman titles, you will love this game and it’s worth every cent you spend on it.
Hitman Go is available on Android and iOS devices. The damage to your wallet is R54.99 on Android and R59.99 on iOS and you can purchase it on the Play Store here and iTunes here. The size of the game is 236mb.
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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd