Just what I thought I always wanted: an assassination game with miniatures.
With so many games being released on Android and iOS, it’s not surprising that more popular (and “suspectedly” popular) titles will make their way to a full portable game release, whether we like it or not. Usually they’re at least good, your Bejeweled and Peggle, so that’s a perk when they’re sent to be reviewed by console outlets like GR. But whether or not they actually deserve a full retail release is another thing… some of the freebie releases like Angry Birds and Cut The Rope had full-price releases, which just feels dirty and greedy.
But here, we have an interesting mobile game starring Agent 47, Hitman GO: Definitive Edition for both PS4 and Vita, given the downloadable treatment for eight bucks. And it’s worth that kind of price, definitely, especially with some added content inspired further by the Hitman full releases.
Like most mobile games, Hitman GO is designed with bite-sized levels in mind. Every unique area and stage is laid out like a diorama with the logistics of a board game, with a simple set of objectives. Smooth, detailed environments of a scene already in motion, topped with moving pawns on their set path—some will move from space to space in a line, traveling to the end and turning around in a continuous walk, and others will only react once a player moves within a certain distance or from the right angle. New figures appear for every boxed set of levels unlocked, so it never gets too boring.
Every move is one-for-one, meaning every time the player’s pawn is moved, every other figure will shift as well. The challenge is to either avoid figures, “kill” figures (like a pawn taking another pawn in chess), or to use their movements against them to clear a path to your goal. As your only buttons are directional, with the occasional pick-up of a use-immediately distraction item or sniper rifle, the learning curve is exceptionally low.
Most of the stages are designed to be “point A to point B," with obstacles and enemies littering the path in their scripted movement. A few stages in each “box”/level pack will include a stage dedicated to an assassination—a figure in red at the end of the layout that needs to be accessed, either to kill by direct connection or even accessing a specific sniper rifle placed on the map to do the job. The music changes only for these maps; usually tinkling notes reminiscent of the movie The Social Network play in the background, but on those assassination stages, the background changes to a classical performance of “Ave Maria”. Because, everybody knows murder is so much classier when set to Franz Schubert. How thoughtful.
The gameplay itself isn’t very complex, but the layouts and enemy placement make it tricky, laid out to block and manipulate your path in both obvious and confusing ways. There are always three goals for each stage, one being to reach the exit or make the kill, and the other two a rotating batch designed for the stage—kill all or don’t kill any, grab the briefcase, navigate within a certain number of turns, which from my experience is always “with this number of turns” as some simply can’t be fewer than the number offered. The difficulty curve isn’t too steep overall for advancing to the next stage in a level pack (which is dressed up like a board game), and usually at least one of the secondary goals can be accomplished without much trouble, so advancing and unlocking further level packs is easy to do.
One downside is that every level feels limited due to the small space they’re played on, and after they’ve been played and figured out, there’s not much draw to come back again. For bite-sized experience, I guess this is fine, but without any way to explore further (like the underside of multi-tiered dioramas) and just enjoy the visual, there isn’t a reason to replay anything after a stage is fully defeated.
For a simple experience, with multiple objectives per stage that can’t be all completed at once (with a handful of exceptions), so it’s good as a short-term distraction. Hitman GO is designed to be a temporary go-to for those times you’re stuck in minor delays, like a doctor’s appointment when you’ve arrived early, not the DMV or anything crazy. It’ll do the trick, but aside from the lovely visual style, it’s a largely forgettable experience. Not a bad one, but “oh yeah, I remember playing this” nostalgia after you’ve worked through the levels in the few hours it takes to shoot through.