Being a stealth assassin sounds like the coolest job ever. Hunkering down in the shadows, sneaking up on your target, and quietly handling your business – all without making a peep or being noticed by anyone. While it sounds cool on paper, I could never actually handle being an assassin in real life. I feel bad even swatting a fly, and I'm clumsy as all get-out. I wouldn't last a second.
Recreating the feeling of being a bad ass assassin through video games is something I'm capable of, though, and series like Metal Gear and Splinter Cell have done a good job over the years at putting players in those shoes. So when I saw an iOS game simply titled Stealth Assassin [$0.99 / Free], where all you do is sneak around and take out marks, I got excited.
And it delivers everything it promises in its name: level after level of assassination jobs, but an inaccurate control scheme has had me pulling my hair out in frustration, not to mention getting myself constantly killed, in what is an otherwise fun game about covert killing.
Stealth Assassin presents its levels in a top-down view. You, as the assassin, spawn in one part of the level with your target in another, and with any number of guards lurking around too. Your job is to avoid alerting the guards, who are sporting the classic "vision cone" which you'll need to steer clear of, assassinate your helpless target, and then get to the exit point alive.
What's really clever about Stealth Assassin is how it scores you for each mission. Just killing your target and exiting is the main goal, but you'll earn a badge for doing so under 30 seconds. Also, nothing causes suspicion like a dead body lying around, so you'll earn another badge for escaping without the guards seeing your target's body.
Finally, even if you are spotted by guards it's not immediately game over. They will shoot you on sight and pursue you, but you can still run away from them, even killing your target and escaping the level in the process if you're fast enough. However, to earn a perfect score on a mission you'll want to carry out your task both without being seen by a guard at all or taking any damage from them.
Oh, and to help out your cause your character has a couple of special abilities that he (she?) can use. A cloaking ability lets you hide in plain sight and avoid alerting a guard even if you end up in their vision cone, and a speed-up ability lets you run super fast if you need to swoop in and kill your target or escape a pursuing guard. Both abilities are temporary, and run for as long as the meter in the upper left corner lasts, which recharges when the abilities aren't being used.
So, Stealth Assassin is a really neat game, and with 120 missions to tackle it's a meaty one at that. But like I mentioned, the controls are just killing it for me. In theory they sound great: a touch anywhere analog stick controls your assassin's movement, a quick double tap enables you to briefly run, and a tap-and-hold enables your temporary cloaking.
The problem is that the virtual stick just is not accurate enough. I'm constantly getting stuck on corners in the environment, accidentally running right out into the open when I didn't mean to, and going in a direction other than the one I intended. It's incredibly frustrating because I love everything else about the game so much, but I really want to feel like I have full control over my actions and right now it's more like I'm fumbling through every mission.
The silver lining is that Stealth Assassin is by no means unplayable, and if you think it looks like a cool game then it's still worth checking. Just prepare to have moments of frustration and botched assassination attempts due to the controls. The developer is active in our forums and has made one control tweak already, which was an improvement, but hopefully some more tweaking can be done to get things just right.
Even with the controls, I haven't stopped playing Stealth Assassin which is a testament to what a quality game it is. So if you've dreamed of being a stealthy killer and can put up with some control wonkiness, at the very least give Stealth Assassin's free version a look.