Hitman Go is an exceptional game.
If I sound surprised, it might be because I am, as I wasn't at all sure what to expect out of a game which takes 47 - everyone's favourite stealth killer from the Hitman franchise - and deposits him into a turn-based strategy board game based in a series of diorama-like rooms.
But it becomes pretty obvious pretty quickly that this game is a cut above some of the Xbox-enabled stuff we've seen on Windows Phone in recent times.
Hitman Go transforms 47, his enemies, his jobs/hits ... his world in fact, into diorama-like rooms and maps, inhabited by wooden pieces which move in patterns around a playing area akin to a board game.
47 is tasked with working through each level, either to reach an endpoint or take out a target, without being "detected" by enemies.
In a nod to the Hitman games we all know, each level has a number of goals for 47 to fulfil - from killing his "mark" to reaching the end, retrieving a briefcase, not killing any enemies and completing the level in a target number of moves or less.
Most levels also have other Hitman franchise "trademarks" - items to distract enemies, places to hide, trapdoors, disguises and weapons (including 47's trademark silverballers).
And if you/47 should be detected, the wooden piece modelled on our favourite bald assassin is knocked over and the level quickly re-starts, ready for you to have another go.
Levels become increasingly challenging (though not impossibly so), and you can have as many goes as you want. In fact, most levels will require more than one playthrough in order to fulfil all the goals (again, a nod to the franchise).
Beauty in Simplicity
The real beauty in this game is in its simplicity.
The game is stunning to look at. Gorgeous. Stark, spare aesthetics based around dioramas that are simple yet beautiful.
The detail on the levels - from hiding places and weapons right down to 47's trademark bald head and tailored suit (replete with red tie) is top notch.
The sound is, again, spare but fits perfectly with the game. Controls are perfectly suited to mobile gaming - smooth and responsive.
And in the occasional level the haunting refrain of Ava Maria can be heard as 47 goes about his business.
This game has got the "just one more go - I'll get it this time around" replayability in spades.
Varied enemies, disguises and weapons, and hiding places make the gameplay varied enough to continually offer somthing new, as well as a challenge.
It is perfect to play in short bursts (I've found it to be a great distraction on public transport) or even relaxing with a coffee or whatnot.
And when you find yourself slipping into the groove - overcoming challenges and polishing off levels quickly, there are definitely a couple of "fist-pump moments".
Hitman Go is a universal app. Pay once and play it on both the Windows Phone and via Windows 8. Please note though that as of time of writing, the Windows 8 achievements are not enabled. We look forward to that being fixed ASAP.
EDIT May 6: The Windows 8 version of the game is now properly Xbox enabled, with achievements unlocking. Please note though that achievements DO NOT SYNC across WP and Win8. Two playthroughs beckon...
The game's pricetag - anywhere from around $5 in the US to more than $6 in Australia isn't cheap, but you do get plenty in return (as well as the ability to play on two platforms).
Players can buy solutions for levels for "real money" but I wouldn't recommend it - if you get really stuck either take a break and come back, or refer to YouTube.
The vast majority - if not all - the achievements come through story progression and normal gameplay. Great news given the number of grindfests the Windows Phone often plays host to.
Hitman Go does something very rare.
It takes an established franchise, almost completely transforms it into something else yet does it so well that the new game feels as much a part of the franchise as any other.
I highly recommend it. one of the best Xbox-enabled Windows Phone games I've played in quite a while.