[As Read on GIO.]
When I first heard the Hitman series and Agent 47 were coming to iOS devices, I was less than pleased. However, I did not expect it to appear in such a fashion as it did, and am glad that it worked out for the most part. Never in a long period of time would I have guessed that Square’s assassin would be able to work in a puzzle/strategy game format, but it nails some groundwork and base mechanics excellently. The only reason it doesn’t warrant a higher score here is the pure frustration some objectives can cause in their trial and error ways- not for lack of skills required. Obviously, I wouldn’t consider this mobile title as any canon of the series- it is essentially storyless and basically for fun and games only.
I particularly liked the style in which Agent 47’s exploits are detailed, shown as above to be a little board game set-up of sorts in actually beautiful detail for iOS devices as well. Not only do the crisp looks and models work well, but the base options and mechanics function properly the majority of the time as well, making it one of the best handled games in the series surprisingly. Of course, naturally things are a little more hectic and harder to control in an action title than a turn-based strategic one, but the control remains something of a certain degree of importance here as well, and it shows.
Each diorama shows enemies and other characters as models of various form- just as Agent 47 himself is represented here. The guards add to some of the strategic element as well in that there are multiple variations, each affecting strategy differently. You have multiple colors- blue, green, red, orange essentially, each representing a type of guard behavior to anticipate in the gameplay itself. Walking guards move in straight lines, blues are stationary, and others change directions almost at random every other turn. You can see the set paths so you aren’t entirely out of the loop when dealing with enemies, but that doesn’t make the game any less strategic or thought-provoking.
As simple as all of this might sound, and as simple as it really is in execution as well, it comes together in a complexity surprising for a mobile title. Everything about the game is simple save for the fact that you must avoid guards and nab your target, which on higher levels is a lot more difficult that even I anticipated. I know Agent 47 isn’t known for pushover challenges, and that he often faces difficult tasks, but some of these scenarios will really leave you scratching your head- and in this case, there’s no run and gun option viable for use. Which brings me to one of the disappointments of the game- the hints system. Like most mobile cash cows, you can buy hints for progression through difficult areas. Yep, you heard right.
Even a (semi-respected) company and developer such as Square wants to take your money even after getting a game of theirs. Classy- move aside EA and your micro-transactions. However, this is a minor gripe after all- if an annoying occurrence more and more commonly in games today, mobile or not. You of course are given the option of purchasing hints or not, and are otherwise not forced into purchasing anything outside of the title unless you choose to do so. Although that’s not to say the game doesn’t try to heavily persuade you into doing so sporadically throughout with suggestions…
The main element of strategy stems from deciding what to do during your one space move per turn, moving around carefully or making a beeline in between oblivious guards, hoping they won’t suddenly change directions in their patrol. In a set-up like this, it is obviously easier to actually see patrolling guard routes than a standard action game, and you don’t need to worry about visible weapons or any of that nonsense. Here, it’s as simple as being seen one space in front of a guard and you’re asked to restart because you’ve been caught. Come up behind a guard however and you can knock his piece off the board- effectively “killing” him.
I’ve heard several people compare the game to a simpler version of chess with noticeably less strict rules, and I concur. Although there are many differences between Go and the thinking man’s game, the base rules of movement (mostly) apply if you imagine Agent 47 as a king and the guards as pawns essentially, with the exception of the one space moving rule. It sometimes annoyed me that the larger boards were still limiting in their interconnected pathways, however this just added to the strategy and thought required of players so it wasn’t too much of a loss in most instances, although it would cause failure at times.
Don’t think the premise is simply to assassinate a target or to simply make it through heavily patrolled areas however, as there are several other elements in play beyond these basics. Later on in some levels there are extra items that can be used as distractions or better weapons, such as a sniper rifle or a brick or similar heavy object to throw. While these items change the pace a little bit, the rest of the action and gameplay remains mostly unchanged, for better or worse, despite the fact that Square does a good job of pacing throughout the title and constantly introducing new features.
There are some bonuses to be earned in this particular adventure as well, as 47 can get kudos for completing the level in a certain number of moves, being a pugilist or pacifist (depending), or even collecting special pick-up items. As with the challenges of the normal games, this adds replayability and more overall fun to the title, as well as some extra strategic options for players already breezing through the base content. It probably helps that in order to unlock certain level sets/packs, you’re tasked with completing specific objectives before you’re allowed to continue, so it won’t always warrant entire play-overs.
While there are a good number of levels and several very creative ideas that I would like to see more of, there are also several bland, almost basic tutorial levels spread throughout the package that bring the others down. All in all, it is a moderately strong package and deal despite this fact, and the frustration is kept to a minimum thanks to introduction of new enemies and items as you progress, keeping an otherwise old experience fresh.
Concept: Change the action-packed and stealth-oriented assassination games of Square and IO into a strategic puzzle game experience and turn-based mobile title.
Graphics: The unique board set-up and crisp object and model looks are something that I would definitely like to see more of in mobile titles, and that could be incorporated in many ways into other games.
Sound: It’s mostly comprised of basic board game sounds of moving pieces, but there are a few easter eggs from the main series to be found at certain points as well.
Playability: You’re your own worst nightmare if you can’t get used to the finger swiping mechanics required, but most everything is so basic that it handles perfectly fine on any iOS device you can get the title on.
Entertainment: A lot of the strategy hinges solely on trial and error gameplay which can be frustrating, but when you do put together a stellar run there’s no feeling of accomplishment in a mobile title like it.
Replay Value: Moderate.
Overall Score: 7.5