The thing that has made the Square Enix Montreal “GO" series so appealing is that the games have been so subversive, as well as being fun puzzlers. Hitman GO ($4.99) was a particularly absurdist take on Hitman, what with all the stealth kills and assassinations taking place as figures on a game board knocking each other over. Something about distilling the game down to that feels particularly amusing. Lara Croft GO ($4.99) was a bit more in line with the brand, but still felt like a unique take on the series with a Monument Valley ($3.99) esque aesthetic and the lower-polygon-count look, along with the fantasy environments in play. It was still rather fun to play, though. The concern with Deus Ex GO ($4.99) was whether Square Enix Montreal could deliver more fun turn-based puzzling, but what I think we were missing was whether they could cleverly subvert the themes of the Deus Ex series, and that’s really missing here.
See, instead of trying to provide some kind of clever setup, Deus Ex GO just is a straightforward story – augmented Adam Jensen tracks down some kind of criminal conspiracy. I suppose the GO-style simplification comes down to making enemy behaviors simpler than in the game, with elements such as provocation that you have to use to your advantage. But thematically, while the entire game takes place in a simpler, digital-style environment, I wonder if that was a stylistic choice as much as it was a measure to cut costs. After all, this is the smallest of the 3 GO games in file size – though oddly, it’s still a real resource hog on even the iPhone 6 Plus I mostly played on. Perhaps it will be more amusing to those who have played a ton of the Deus Ex games, especially Human Revolution, but if you’re coming from an outsider perspective, expect much of this game to be lost on you, thematically. Regardless, the game looks gorgeous.
So, we’re left with the puzzle gameplay, and it brings some new stuff to the table, but nothing earth-shattering. You still move, and then enemies move, with the idea being that you don’t want to get killed by any of the threats like giant walking robots or blitzing armored guards. So, you can kill enemies by stabbing them – no guns for Adam Jensen, apparently – from the side or behind. Diagonal paths as well as cardinal paths come into play, which is one of the key features of the puzzles here. One puzzle has a guard that rotates between positions, and you’ll only not draw their attention if they’re facing the one way that has their back to you. In fact, it feels like the game uses an aspect of tricking enemies for your own purposes a lot. That’s just immensely satisfying, to get a drone to bomb an enemy for you, or to hack a gun to shoot the enemy soldiers instead of shooting you when you walk past.
Yes, hacking has to play a role in the game, because this is Deus Ex, after all. You get terminals which can modify certain elements, such as changing the behavior of guns, forming platforms, et al. These terminals have to have connecting electrical paths, and while they’re forgiving in that they don’t have to follow the fixed walking paths (so they can go over some gaps), they can’t intersect with other electrical paths. This does come into play, as do enemies stomping out the terminals’ effects, and some enemies that will destroy the path itself. Again, these will need to be exploited in order to succeed. Your other ability is a powerup that can be used either to go invisible for two turns (but not invincible if you run into a rampaging enemy) or to remotely hack a terminal. Especially because of this dual usage, some puzzles force you to think just how you have to use this power.
The game throws a lot at you with the challenges you have to manage, but if you get stuck, there are solutions available – for a price. You get 2 for free, and then it’s $1.99 for 2 more, with bigger bundles for more money. The solutions thankfully make you feel like an idiot for not catching them before – like the guard having his back to you makes sense once you see it in action. But I’d still love, especially for a paid game, to have a cheaper bunch of solutions or maybe a one-time unlock to get all the solutions if so desired. Though, the game also has a live event mode with new levels on a weekly basis that seem to tie in to rewards you can get in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, so there you go.
I’m kind of divided as to how I feel about Deus Ex GO. On one hand, it’s a puzzler that compelled me to play several levels at a time when I had a chance, and it feels really satisfying to conquer the various challenges the game gives you. But on another, it feels merely like an iteration on a formula that was intended to break up the standard formula of these Square Enix Montreal games. And the theme is just kind of bland, unlike the board game theme of Hitman GO and the treasure quest with giant dragon of Lara Croft GO. Here, it’s just a bunch of puzzles with an unmemorable story, and a spartan setup. It’s not a bad game, and if it’s your first GO game, any complaints about iteration and sameness won’t matter, because the core formula is still strong. And the idea of making turn-based puzzle games on popular franchises is still intriguing. But there felt like a spark of cleverness with the first 2 GO games, and even Hitman Sniper ($0.99), which had plenty of subversive moments to it. Here, it just feels like “Deus Ex puzzle game" and the execution isn’t bad, but it’s just not very exciting. Perhaps that’s unfair, because I have played a ton of their other stuff, and on its own, this would be a fantastic game. So, if you’re going in fresh to this series or love Deus Ex, don’t hesitate to check it out. Otherwise, if you wait for a sale on this I won’t judge you, though it’s still a well-made game. I want to see this series continue, but future games need more of a spark of originality to them that this game is lacking.