Square Enix’s Go series of games does a remarkable job of taking what makes a franchise great, and then stripping it down to the very basics. It started with Hitman (stealth and assassinations) before moving on to Tomb Raider (exploration and adventure) and now comes Deus Ex. Like its predecessors, Deus Ex Go is a turn-based puzzle game that has you moving a character through levels that look and feel like a cross between a board game and a diorama. But even with a much smaller sense of scale, it manages to capture exactly what makes Deus Ex so fun.
Just like in the more recent Deus Ex games, Deus Ex Go puts you in the role of augmented hero Adam Jensen. And his abilities remain intact here: he can attack enemies using the blades in his cyborg arms, or hack computers to alter the world around him, or use far-out technologies to do things like temporarily turn invisible. The difference is that this isn’t an action game; instead of controlling Jensen in a third-person shooter, you’re swiping him around the screen, moving him from place to place on a board filled with enemies and other obstacles.
The levels in Deus Ex Go all center around infiltrating a location, so the ultimate goal is to get from one end of the level to the next. Things start simply enough. You have to deal with guards who will charge at you once they see you, and you can only get past them by sneaking up from behind or using invisibility. Eventually the game introduces robotic sentinels and automated turrets, but things really get interesting once you learn to hack various systems. The learning curve feels just about perfect — after a few dozen levels you’ll be remote hacking floor panels to trap guards without even thinking about it.
Deus Ex Go also maintains the series’ distinct sense of style. The futuristic soundtrack is fantastic, and the miniature levels really nail the angular, cyberpunk look first introduced by Human Revolution in 2011. For the most part, all of the elements feel right, though the introduction of dialog and a more in-depth story are rare missteps. It’s not a huge problem, but it does interrupt with the flow of the game.
That said, Deus Ex Go does rectify one of the big issues of both Hitman Go and Lara Croft Go: you won’t have to wait months for new levels once you finish the campaign. Instead, new, daily levels will be released every weekday, ensuring you always have a distraction for your commute. There’s even a level editor in the works so that eventually you’ll be able to build your own. So the only question now is what property Square is going to turn into a puzzle game next.