Why the Go Games Matter: Refining from Console to Mobile (and Back Again)

At a time when mobile games based on major franchises are increasingly free to play revenue generators or basic collectible games with online service links, it has been refreshing to play the Go series by Square Enix Montreal. Translating their big franchises in Hitman, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and Deus Ex into portable titles that take design elements from each series and distills them down into a turn based, square or diagonal point grid to eliminate enemies in increasingly elaborate puzzles is both surprisingly addictive and savvy in approach.

Porting the games to the PlayStation 4 has been a big win, introducing many console gamers that missed out on the initial mobile launches. The combination of a current console release version, trophies, sale prices and a big screen presentation drove me to try the Lara Croft version followed by Hitman before diving into the iOS versions to play through them again. While Deus Ex Go is currently mobile only, it is expected to follow its Go brethren to Sony’s console and should translate as well onto television screens.

Hitman Go is the most abstract in its interpretation as a board game, rendering Agent 47 and the array of enemies as figures on a grid that knock pieces off with each kill. It has a steep difficulty curve in later levels that relies extensively on complicated pattern shifting that can be frustrating, but the mix of abstract design and clever scenarios make it worthwhile.

Lara Croft Go keeps more of the core adventure style with more focus on navigation and the environment while translating parts of Hitman like the chasing enemies over. It has a wider range of colour palettes and enemy variety to go with treasure hunting side quests layered into each level, making it closer to its inspiration in both aesthetic and action. This is my personal favourite!

Deus Ex Go switches to a triangular grid but keeps many of the other mechanics from the previous Go games. It feels more constrained by the format, in part due to the slower speed and smaller screen of its mobile version.

Overall, Square Enix has a winning formula with this series. The translation of obvious franchises like Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts or dark horse candidates (Life is Strange?) are opportunities that I hope they explore.

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