Stealthy Assassin Series Hitman GO Makes a Luscious Board Game
Hitman GO by Square Enix is an iOS app available in the iTunes App Store for US$4.99. I can safely say that I never would have imagined turning the Hitman video game series into a luscious dioramic board game for iOS. Lucky for us, that's what Square Enix did with last week's Hitman GO release.
Apple featured the game in the App Store, and for good reason: The graphical representation of the boards you play on is a visual feast, showing well-lit 3D-like cutaways of rooms, mansions, tennis courts, swimming pools and the like. You play as the cloned assassin, Agent 47, who is a plastic figurine able to move in straight lines one spot at time, just like you might move on a board game.
Your job? Snatch up briefcases, get out of locations alive, and sometimes, of course, take out a mark. The goal is stealth, of course, so you have to avoid being seen, which inevitably results in a quick board-game death: Your Agent 47 playing piece is knocked over or kicked off the board.
Inside Hitman GO
Hitman GO is essentially a puzzle game. The bad guys are either immobile sentries or mobile guards. The sentries stay put, which means you have to find ways around them -- or you have to sneak up and take them out. Often you can get through a level without being seen -- or you can do it with force.
Each level contains a couple of extra challenges, like getting to the exit in fewer than a certain number of moves, or getting through without killing anyone. Just because you make it through a level doesn't mean that you made it through in the simplest -- or most creative -- manner.
Along the way, you're able to hide in things like large potted plants, throw rocks to distract guards, use disguises, or jump through trap doors to move across a particular board. Progress far enough and you'll find sniper rifles and Agent 47's iconic Silverballers (a .45 stainless steel pistol).
The core of Hitman GO is the puzzle on each level -- how to make the hit with the least amount of fuss -- or simply get out alive. As you play, you'll find yourself moving back and forth, staying out of a single-move line-of-sight, figuring out how guards move about the board.
In some situations, there will be a half-dozen or more guards and sentries, which presents dynamic puzzle challenges. Fortunately, the challenges can be figured out through hard-core smarts as well as through some trial and error. If you fail, the game reloads the level fairly quickly, letting you get right back into the action.
Of course, if you really get stuck, especially as the puzzles get increasingly difficult, Hitman GO provides you with five hints, which you can use to walk you through a level. Use them up, and you can buy another 5 Hints Pack for $1.99 through an in-app purchase. Or you can unlock a chapter for $0.99. You can also pick up 25 hints for $12.99 or buy a complete walkthrough for $14.99.
The point? You can puzzle your way through most of the levels -- without needing some sort of special ninja speed moves, for example -- but if you get stuck, you can get in-game help for a reasonable price. Hitman GO does not seem to be created with the sole intent of breeding addiction that can be preyed upon through in-app purchases. Basically, even if you're a terrible hitman, you can complete this game for less than $20.
Last of all, the surprising Hitman GO game for iOS manages to evoke a subtle mood through fantastic sound effects, music, snappy retro board game play and fantastic lighting. Play it with headphones for the best effect, and if you don't want to get any sleep at night, play it in bed until your battery runs out.