I'm not sure whether Square Enix Montreal realized what it stumbled upon when it made Hitman Go. The passion project was an homage to board games, but the studio couldn't have known it was also creating a framework to encapsulate and distill the iconic qualities of such varied franchises. Through three iterations, each has captured the spirit of the series it represents. The latest, Deus Ex Go, is another masterwork in recreating an accurate sensation with entirely different mechanics.
If you've missed out on the previous Go games, a primer is in order. The series takes existing games in the publisher's catalogue--so far sticking exclusively with those western ones acquired when Square Enix bought Eidos--and tunes them into mobile isometric puzzle games. What's shocking is how flexible this concept has proven itself to be, having now represented Hitman, Tomb Raider, and Deus Ex, respectively. Square Enix Montreal has an imitable knack for seeing the defining traits of a series and translating them to this medium.
In Deus Ex's case, that means representing the three pillars: combat, stealth, and hacking, each with varying levels of success. Combat is lacking, as it's really no different than we've seen in any Go game. If you catch an enemy unaware and move overlapping their space, you do a special takedown maneuver. The more significant gameplay comes from how it translates stealth and hacking.
Stealth is a power-up found intermittently throughout stages, and it lasts exactly two moves. That makes it almost universally useless as a combat option, since you'll nearly never be that close to an enemy that you couldn't take down without stealth anyway. Instead, this comes to play in solving puzzles by sneaking past enemies and automated sentries.
Hacking is a good deal more complicated, and serves as the most significant puzzle element. Entering a hacking node will take you into a separate movement grid, creating a sub-puzzle to trace a line toward the hacking target. Enemies who step over a spot anywhere on the line will deactivate it, which serves as both an obstacle and a necessary component of the some puzzles. It adds a new dimension to the puzzles that forces you to think in layers, and it makes solving the puzzles that much more fulfilling.
Its one drawback is unfortunately the same one as the other Go games. At some point, without fail, puzzle solutions rely on moving your character back and forth repeatedly to get an enemy into the correct position. These solutions always feel like math problems on a standardized test: if Adam Jensen is traveling west at one square per turn, and a sentry bot is traveling east along a parallel line at one square per turn, how many times does Adam Jensen have to move back and forth to use the sentry bot as cover?
It reserves this tedious puzzle style for the last cluster, but that also means it doesn't finish as strong as the rest of the game. Worse yet, there is no way to take back a single move, so if you make an errant swipe or a small mistake, you'd better hope you remember the exact sequence of those back-and-forth moves you just made.
What a Hack
The core of Deus Ex Go, though, remains a spectacular achievement. The Go series has consistently impressed me with how well it intuits the quintessential qualities that make up the games it's meant to represent. Deus Ex Go is the most cohesively designed and complex of the set so far, and that's saying something.
This review is based on a iOS download code provided by the publisher. Deus Ex Go is now available on iOS and Android for $4.99.
Deus Ex GO
- Another near-perfect translation into mobile puzzle framework
- Stylish visuals blend simple Go aesthetic with Deus Ex
- Hacking adds a new dimension to puzzles
- Some later puzzles over-reliant on movement cycling
Steve Watts posted a new article, Deus Ex Go Review: A Layer Deeper