GAME REVIEW

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 Hitmanvideo 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: Thegraphical 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, Agent47, who is a plastic figurine able to move in straight lines one spotat time, just like you might move on a board game.

Your job? Snatch up briefcases, get out of locations alive, andsometimes, of course, take out a mark. The goal is stealth, of course,so you have to avoid being seen, which inevitably results in a quickboard-game death: Your Agent 47 playing piece is knocked over orkicked off the board.

Inside Hitman GO

Hitman GO is essentially a puzzle game. The bad guys are eitherimmobile sentries or mobile guards. The sentries stay put, which meansyou have to find ways around them — or you have to sneak up and takethem out. Often you can get through a level without being seen — oryou can do it with force.

Each level contains a couple of extrachallenges, like getting to the exit in fewer than a certain number ofmoves, or getting through without killing anyone. Just because you makeit through a level doesn’t mean that you made it through in thesimplest — 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 trapdoors to move across a particular board. Progress far enough andyou’ll find sniper rifles and Agent 47’s iconic Silverballers (a .45stainless steel pistol).

Intriguing Puzzles

The core of Hitman GO is the puzzle on each level — how to make thehit with the least amount of fuss — or simply get out alive. As youplay, you’ll find yourself moving back and forth, staying out of asingle-move line-of-sight, figuring out how guards move about theboard.

In some situations, there will be a half-dozen or more guardsand sentries, which presents dynamic puzzle challenges. Fortunately,the challenges can be figured out through hard-core smarts as well asthrough some trial and error. If you fail, the game reloads the levelfairly quickly, letting you get right back into the action.

Satisfying? Definitely

Of course, if you really get stuck, especially as the puzzles getincreasingly difficult, Hitman GO provides you with five hints, which youcan use to walk you through a level. Use them up, and you can buyanother 5 Hints Pack for $1.99 through an in-app purchase. Or you canunlock a chapter for $0.99. You can also pick up 25 hints for $12.99or buy a complete walkthrough for $14.99.

The point? You can puzzleyour way through most of the levels — without needing some sort ofspecial ninja speed moves, for example — but if you get stuck, youcan get in-game help for a reasonable price. Hitman GO does not seem tobe created with the sole intent of breeding addiction that can bepreyed upon through in-app purchases. Basically, even if you’re aterrible hitman, you can complete this game for less than $20.

Last of all, the surprising Hitman GO game for iOS manages to evoke asubtle mood through fantastic sound effects, music, snappy retro boardgame play and fantastic lighting. Play it withheadphones for the best effect, and if you don’t want to get any sleepat night, play it in bed until your battery runs out.

TechNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com. You can also connect with him on Google+.

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