Square Enix Montreal’s Go series scratches a particular itch, spinning off the action-oriented series into grid-based puzzlers. Like its predecessor Hitman Go, Deus Ex Go revolves around stealth, meaning you can’t run up to an enemy without getting coldcocked and sent back to the start of the level. Instead, the appeal comes from figuring out what combination of gadgets and tactical moves along the grid can outwit your foes. When Deus Ex Go is firing on all cylinders, it’s an enjoyable (if not earth-shattering) experience.
Deus Ex Go looks slick, with polished visuals and a lovely sci-fi art design that makes guiding the cybernetic hacker Adam Jensen through levels. If you can’t avoid enemies completely, you have to take them out. Initially this is easy, with you just sneaking up behind them and killing them outright. As the games goes on, this gets trickier, with grids expanding or twisting in shape, forcing you to lead guards on chases so you can swing back around and kill them as they return to their original positions. Other times, you have to trap them in glowing restraint circles or trick them into walking to their deaths. During certain levels, you also have to take control of turrets and use special abilities, like an invaluable cloaking device that lets you stay invisible for a single move.
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The majority of puzzles are relatively easy to solve, and at their peak they convey the sense that you are a master of stealth, seeing all tactical options and choosing the best one. One of my favorite moments was tricking an enemy to run after me, only to have him step in front of a sentry gun. This caused him to take the bullet and opened my path to the exit – my reward for winning the war of wits.
Despite how much cool tech you’re getting to overcome obstacles, you never feel too powerful, nor are you unequipped to handle the situation. This balance is one of Deus Ex Go’s best features, though I wish I encountered more challenging puzzles along the way. Despite a few head-scratchers, none of the puzzles are as hard as the difficult sequences in the previous two Go games. However, on the whole, they’re tough enough that you can’t breeze through all – especially in later levels.
While Deus Ex Go isn’t a narrative-focused title by any stretch of the imagination, I was still a little disappointed by the lack of an engaging story. The bare-bones plot here reeks more of half-hearted tie-in than something that can stand on its own legs, with most of it told through poorly-written conversations between Jensen and his compatriots that ultimately amount to contrived reasons to justify why he’s sneaking around.
Square Enix’s Go brand has emerged as one of the more entertaining series on mobile, and Deus Ex continues to be solid entertainment in that vein. The fact that Deus Ex Go plays a lot like its predecessors isn’t a problem, since the design still feels fresh – but it does make me wonder when future Go installments will innovate on the design established in Hitman Go. When I finished Deus Ex, I was mostly content with the four hours I had plugged into it. I occasionally felt clever at solving a tricky puzzle, and I liked the visual presentation. However, it didn’t sink its hooks into me like Hitman Go – a game I still return to occasionally years later. I doubt I’ll ever play Deus Ex Go again, but it was fun while it lasted.