It's well-documented that the stealth sections of most non-stealth games suck. Why is it, then, that there's an entire popular genre of stealth games? How do these titles manage to succeed where stealth levels fail? Because a good stealth game approaches subterfuge as a puzzle, and gives the players several ways to get the right answer. Hitman Go, a spin-off from the Hitman series, takes this core gameplay idea and boils it down to its simplest essence: puzzle-solving.

Hitman Go presents players with what looks to be a series of Hitman-themed board games. Each level is represented by a board, each character gets represented by small figurines, and you'll move in turns (along with your enemies) to get Agent 47 where he needs to go without getting caught by the guards. It sounds simple, but as you progress new rules and wrinkles to the gameplay present themselves, keeping things fresh and brain-teasing without any mechanics overstaying their welcome. For example, the earliest levels pit you against unmoving guards; attack them from the side or behind, and they're off the board, leaving you free to move around as you please. Later you encounter new foes, like roaming guards or direction-changing guards, and new elements to deal with, like rocks you can throw as a distraction, pots you can hide in, and trapdoors.

What's most impressive about Hitman Go's presentation is the way it trains you to deal with each new obstacle without ever using a single word or tutorial. The best games teach you by having you play rather than showing/telling you what to do, and Hitman Go accomplishes this idea with flying colors.

Though each level tends to have a straightforward goal, like reaching the exit or assassinating a particular mark, they also have bonus objectives to complete, such as not killing anyone, grabbing a briefcase, or finishing the level within a certain number of turns. These objectives provide a little bit of extra mileage in the form of multiple playthroughs, but you'll need to do a majority of them to unlock each gated chapter, so they're not entirely optional.

Hitman Go's simple, board game aesthetic works in brilliant tandem with its intuitive gameplay, really giving you the sense of playing a wood-and-paper, turn-based game. The sounds are fairly minimalist, with the occasional bit of music or background noise to provide color to a level and the tapping of the moving figurines to punctuate each move. While Hitman Go's experience brings a surprising amount of brain-teasing fun, it's not without a few issues. You begin the game with five hints, which will show you a step-by-step instruction on how to complete an objective in a level. If you run out, well, the in-app store is more than happy to let you buy more. In fact, if you're weak of brain you can pretty much buy your way through everything in Hitman Go, which does sour the experience a bit for those who want to get by on their skills.

Hitman Go takes the boiled-down essence of the stealth genre and brilliantly translates it into a mobile puzzler that's easy on the eyes and challenging on the brain. Though its in-app purchases sully this great title a bit, when there's a puzzle game as entertaining (and challenging) as this it's hard not to recommend.

This review is based on a purchased download of Hitman Go for iOS.

App Store Link: Hitman Go for iPhone and iPad | By Square Enix I Price: $4.99 | Version: 1.2 | 236 MB| Rating 12+

9.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating