Reviewer: Michael Mendis
Developer: Square Enix Montréal
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Android (reviewed), iOS
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Video game publisher Square Enix has an interesting series of mobile games that they have been creating over the last few years, making turn-based puzzle games themed around one of their pre-existing action franchises typically only seen on console or PC. Last year I played Lara Croft GO, their Tomb Raider themed mobile game, and really enjoyed it, due to its well designed puzzles, engaging atmosphere, and the hidden collectibles that netted you some extra rewards. When I heard that Deus Ex GO had come out earlier this year, I was excited to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it seems that not all of Square Enix’s “GO” games are created equal.
From a story perspective, Deus Ex GO doesn’t have much to offer, particularly someone like me who has only a limited understanding of Deus Ex lore; in fact, you are expected to be familiar with the Deus Ex series in order to make sense of the barebones plot that is present in GO. Playing as Adam Jensen (the main character of the recent Deus Ex games), you are tossed into a mission for Task Force 29, searching for a terrorist named Novak. Not far into your mission, however, a hacker friend contacts you, and says that there may be more to Novak than meets the eye. None of these characters receive much else in the way of further explanation or depth. If you don’t already have an idea of who these characters are, tough luck; you just have to sit through their dialogue when they occasionally interrupt you at various points throughout the game. When you reach the end of the mission, your two allies have differing opinions on how they want you to finish it, and you have to make a choice; the plot is so meaningless to the rest of the game, though, that the choice at the end felt equally pointless, lacking any sort of weight or impact on the player.
The goal of each level is to move Jensen from point to point along a branching dotted line until he reaches the finish. Each stage has various obstacles to stop Jensen, from security guards, to robots, to automated turrets; if any of them kill Jensen, you start over from the beginning of the level. The gameplay is strictly turn-based, meaning that enemies don’t move along the dotted line until you do; this gives the player the opportunity to stop and think about how to solve the puzzle. Completing a level in the fewest steps possible nets you a gold rating, encouraging the player to plan each move carefully and replay levels they haven’t yet perfected. Unfortunately, some of the levels (especially early on) are designed in such a way that you are all but forced to complete the level in a set number of steps, which detracts from the game’s replayability.
For the levels that don’t hold your hand in such a direct manner, the puzzle design vacillates between clever and tedious (and occasionally manages to be both at the same time). On the one hand, there are a good variety of enemies and other hazards to overcome, as well as a handful of powerups you can use to complete the challenge; in some levels you’ll hack turrets to take down enemies, while in others you’ll use camouflage to sneak your way past guards. On the other hand, you’ll often find yourself pacing back and forth between two points in order to get a robot to move into the right position, which feels like a chore rather than, well, fun.
In light of Square Enix’s previous entry in its mobile puzzle series, Lara Croft GO, Deus Ex GO is not only inconsistent, but disappointing as well. Lara Croft didn’t have any of these design errors; on top of that, LC features hidden treasures in each level and unlockable outfits, whereas Deus Ex lacks any such extras. If there’s one extra feature that helps DE GO stand out from its predecessor, it’s the ability to create and share your own levels with the community. This is a really neat feature that works well with puzzle games, and one that would certainly be welcome in any future GO titles.
As a whole, Deus Ex GO is a shallow experience. While it earns good marks for the planning that is needed to perfect each level and the ability to create and share levels with the community, it isn’t enough to overcome the dull gameplay and the half-hearted attempt at a story.
OVERALL SCORE: D