Saturday, April 26, 2014

Review: Hitman GO for iPhone and iPad

I don't think it had ever happened to me to be completely blown away by the aesthetics of a game as it happened for Hitman GO by Square Enix when I saw it during the TouchArcade live stream on Twitch.
After playing most of it I'd say that the puzzles are a bit on the easy side, and tend to be repetitive, but I certainly find it enjoyable enough to want to complete it (and wait for new levels to be released).

What makes Hitman GO so visually attractive is the care that has been taken to make it look like a physical board game, to the point that every scenario is depicted as an expansion pack with its own box and figures.
The levels themselves look like dioramas, depicting snapshots of daily life. There is often a cinematic intro, though I think that the swimming pool idea has been a bit abused throughout the game.
You can manually move the camera, but only by a limited amount, and it will snap back to its predetermined position as soon as you lift your finger from the screen. Even if it's only a cosmetical thing, I would surely have appreciated more freedom.

But that's too much talking about the visuals. Let's see what the puzzles are actually about.

You control the black character, your main goal is to avoid (or kill as needed) the enemy characters and reach the exit.
The action is turn based: you make a move, then all enemies make their move at the same time. If you land on a spot occupied by an enemy, you kill him; if they do the opposite, you lose. In the level above, you can see the most basic enemy type: a blue guy that just stands still and looks in a fixed direction. All you have to do is avoid passing on the spot right in front of him.

The more active yellow enemies are soon introduced, which move back and forth along a straight line.
A useful thing to note is that the enemies are totally dumb and will strictly follow their routine regardles of how you move. In particular, in the image above you can just move up and you will kill the yellow guy, even if he's looking at you. This is something that you can rarely do, however, because of parity reasons. Since both you and the enemies move by one step every turn, if the distance between you and an enemy is even (like the top right and bottom left guys in the image above), there's no way for you to land on them during your turn. Therefore, they can kill you but you can't kill them. If the distance is odd (like the top center guy) you can kill them and they can't kill you. Needless to say, the latter case is very uncommon.

There is only one way to invert the parity: using manholes, like in the puzzle below.
The manholes are the two squares on the right. During your turn, you can enter one manhole and exit from another. Since in the level above the distance between the manholes is even, this means that during your turn you move by an even number of steps instead of the usual one, and this inverts the parity. This can allow you to kill enemies that would be impossible to kill otherwise.

As said, the enemy characters are dumb and they will do just one thing, but there is an exception: from time to time you will find objects like stones that you can throw nearby to make a noise. This will alert the enemies close enough to where you threw the object: they will walk there and then resume their routine from there, which might mean patrolling a different area.
There are many more elements, which are introduced gradually throughout the game, including:
  • Ferns that you can hide behind.
  • Locked doors and keys to open them. An interesting side effect of opening a door is that it might affect the patrolling route of some enemies.
  • Disguises. Oddly, when you wear a disguise of one color, you only fool enemies of that color. The other enemies still kill you.
  • Rifles and guns to kill enemies at a distance, but also enemies carrying shields so that firing at them is ineffective!
  • And of course, other kinds of enemies.

Additionally to the primary goal, each level has two secondary goals which vary, but the most common are "get the briefcase" and "finish in less than X moves". Others include "don't kill anyone" and "kill everyone". In some very rare cases you can achieve all goals in a single play, but in most cases the secondary goals are incompatible, so you'll have to play a level twice to get both. You will want to do that, because the achieved goals is used to unlock the additional scenarios.

Currently there are 5 scenarios for a total of more than 60 levels, with more promised for the future.
If you fail to unlock the scenarios through normal play, you can still unlock them using in-app purchases, and you can also buy hints that will reveal the solution of each level.

As said at the beginning, I found the puzzles a bit repetitive and easy. The new elements regularly introduced help to keep the game fresh, but the mechanics don't leave much freedom to the player. The way to the exit is usually pretty obvious, and in many cases all you have to do is move back and forth between two spots waiting for the right time to sneak past an enemy. Even the secondary goals don't add much difficulty. On the plus side, you can surely plan your solution using logic and never feel like you need to move around randomly.

If you are looking for challenging turn-based puzzles, I'd suggest to also look at NiƱo, but if you're happy with a mild challenge and a stellar presentation, definitely consider this game.


Logical Reasoning★★★★★
User Interface★★★★☆
Loading Time★★★☆☆
Saves Partial Progress
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©2014 Nicola Salmoria. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express and written permission is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicola Salmoria and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.