You probably wouldn’t watch Aida performed in the Spin studio of your gym. And it’s unlikely you’d enjoy doing your big shop at Costco while in your full scuba gear.
Context is everything.
I’m currently playing two puzzle games. They're both pretty similar actually: each consists of one-puzzle-per-screen in which you have to use your limited ability to manipulate the environment so that your operative --- a hit man and a sneaky thief – makes it to the exit.
The games are Framed from Loveshack and Hitman Go Definitive Edition from Square Enix Montreal. Framed is a delicious, noir-themed affair in which you rearrange comic-book-style frames so that your outlaw is able to traverse the murky urban jungle to safety. In Hitman Go, you use distractions and careful movement to take out your target and escape the area without being detected.
I’m really enjoying Framed. I’m not having that much fun with Hitman Go. Why? Because Framed is on an appropriate platform and Hitman Go isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Hitman Go is a cute little game. It’s presented exactly as a board game, which is a clever and charming design choice:
As you can see, I mean that literally. It actually looks like you are looking down at a three-dimensional model populated by little figures that can be moved around.
In each scenario, you have to figure out how to get your bald assassin to the exit (a) without getting caught, after having accomplished (b) specific goals as well as (c) optional goals.
The game starts quite simply and the difficulty ramps up. Many of the boards only take a couple of minutes to complete (particularly if you’re smarter than I am), which makes it a perfect game for a mobile platform. You're given various limited ways to distract (or change the “sight cone”) of the guards so that you can slip past them. How you use these tools, and what routes you try, determine your success.
That virtue is shared by Framed. Framed is presented as a series of animated comic book panels. Your task is to rearrange, rotate or otherwise manipulate the frames so that your protagonist can navigate safely from the top left of the screen to the bottom right. Sometimes you can switch frame positions. Sometimes you can rotate screens. Each change results in a different little movie playing, and only one arrangement will lead to success.
Both games are friendly and are easy on the player. By that I do not mean the puzzles stay easy. What I mean is that when you mess up, the game quickly resets and invites you to try again. This makes it a pleasure to try different ideas. In both games, the correct solution is often not the most obvious one.
Both games ooze style. Hitman makes you feel as though you might be in a war room, plotting out a series of daring assassinations with doll-sized figures and realistic movie-miniature models to help you come up with the best plan of attack. Framed uses a liquid art style and slinky noir music to put you in a deliciously naughty mood as you help your nefarious parkour protagonist navigate dangerous environments.
However, if you told me I could only keep one of them, I wouldn’t hesitate to give up on Hitman Go. Why? Because I’m playing the new, “Definitive Edition” version on the PS4. And a game this small, this compact, this mobile, has no business on the PS4. It has no business on my 55 inch television.
If I’m sitting in my comfy chair in my living room, with my PS4 controller in my hand, looking at my wide screen TV, I am not in the mood to play a tiny mobile puzzle game. I want to play a large game.
I really think what happened is that Square Enix Montreal simply overplayed their hand here. They got some nice reviews for the mobile version of Hitman Go and some suit thought they should extend the brand. In this case it wasn’t a good idea. It actually reduces the game, rather than expanding it.
I want to add that I’m really trying to be a snob here. I've actually happily played mobile games on my television screen before. There was a device you could get for the GameCube that allowed you to play GBA games on your TV screen through the GameCube. It was called GameBoy Player and I used it to play the GBA version of Final Fantasy V on my big television. It was great, because, even though it was a GBA cartridge, FFV is a HUGE game with enormous depth and scope. It was perfectly at home on my television. (The GBA version was a port of an older game originally meant for television screens, anyway).
So if you have it in your budget to pick up two cool new mobile puzzle escape games, by all means get both Hitman Go and Framed. But I highly recommend the mobile version of Hitman. And if you can only pony up the dough for one of the games, go for Framed.
Loveshack. Platforms: iOS, Android
Hitman Go: Definitive Edition: B-
Square Enix Montreal. Platforms: PS4, PS Vita, Steam (Windows and Linux)
Hitman Go: B
Square Enix Montreal. Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows Phone