The Google Play Store is overflowing with puzzle games, so it really takes a special game to rise above the noise and demand attention. Deus Ex GO has potential to be one of those games, but it wasn't an entirely smooth experience out of the gate.
Deus Ex GO is the latest mobile release from Montreal-based developer Square Enix. It's the third title in their "GO" franchise, which jumps into an established action-adventure franchise (see: Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO) and spins off a challenging turn-based action-puzzle adventure.
For those unfamiliar with the Deus Ex franchise, the story takes place in the not-too-distant future — set against a cyberpunk dystopian backdrop — where humans and computers have become one thanks to augmentation technology. You play as Adam Jensen, a mechanically augmented security agent on a mission to hunt down terrorists.
And that's exactly where the game begins, with Jensen breaching the walls of a compound under terrorist attack. Stylistically, the game does a great job from start to finish of keeping with the Deus Ex futuristic, hacker motif. The graphics are sharp; Square Enix blends their simplified "GO" art style with the Deus Ex digital themes to create a fully immersive experience. The kill animations are both varied and smooth, leading to some very satisfying moments when you finally figure out how to take out that guard and progress through to the next level. The story is simple yet intriguing, and unfolds as you play via popup dialog boxes.
Gameplay starts off simple — move here, take out unsuspecting guard, progress to finish — but as you progress, the game slowly layers on new mechanics. Hacking stations, marked in yellow, allow you to activate certain floor tiles and control enemy turrets. Augmentation powerups are strategically scattered throughout, giving you the ability to slip past enemies or, in later stages, control hacking stations at a distance. With no punishment for failure and typically only one correct path through each level, the game rewards trial-and-error gameplay. When you feel you're truly stumped, you have the option of using a solution, which walk you through the level move-by-move. You are given three solutions at the start of the Story Mode with a menu available for buying via in-app purchases — but where's the fun in that?
If you've played the previous "GO" titles and are fearful that Deus Ex Go is more of the same, fear not. Square Enix has shifted from the square grid pattern found in Hitman GO and Lara Croft GO, opting for a hexagonal grid here that adds another dimension to the puzzles and also just seems like a natural fit with the game's theme. The puzzles are challenging but not impossible — the few times I did use a solution to get past a level, I felt stupid learning I was only off by one move.
Beyond the Story Mode (which features 54 challenging levels), Deus Ex GO also includes Weekly Challenges. Considering the relatively short length of the campaign, this is a great feature to justify the $4.99 price. The promised addition of a Puzzle Maker mode in a future update should also greatly up the value and replayability.
But for all the great things I have to say about this game, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the issues I battled with trying to complete it. Having bought and downloaded the game from the Google Play Store, the game ended up crashing and forcing my phone (Nexus 6P) to reboot four times. FOUR TIMES. Progress was always saved, and it may well have been a issue related to my hardware. Regardless, I'm here to report my experiences, and it caused my frustration to grow every time it happened.
Often times a new level would load but not allow me to move, forcing me to back out to the level-select screen and restart the level. These glitches were annoying, but never dissuaded me from continuing the campaign. I'll chalk them up to first-release technical issues that should hopefully be addressed in future updates.
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Deus Ex GO, despite it's relatively short Story Mode and the times where the game started bugging out. I would recommend it to both fans of Deus Ex, and puzzle gamers alike.
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