All That Glitters…
Playgendary Limited’s action-textured puzzle logic android game Hitmasters wooed me with its unique art style, humorous off-brand skins and charming custom animations. As far as first impressions go, Hitmasters drew me in with its promise of challenging levels and multiple game modes. But things became apparent on the first date: Hitmasters is just another gold-digger.
Hitmasters had the potential to be a fresh take on the classic physics puzzle genre, but with an action-oriented twist. The player controls a stationary gun-toting hitman whose goal is to clear each level of bad guys. You accomplish this in myriad ways, namely shooting various explosives or other objects in various physics-based puzzles. The levels start out simple enough, and unfortunately, they stay that way.
What did impress me was the amount of effort Playgendary Limited applied to specific features. The art style, character design and original score were all campy, fun and wholly unique. My favorite bit of polish was the addition of cute little dances and emotes your hitman can perform while idle. There are dozens of unlockable skins for both the hitman and weapons comprised almost entirely of generic versions of pop culture icons. The charm of shooting people up with a portal gun as “Gordon Freeman” or “Batman” was certainly not lost on me. However, try as I might, I couldn’t hold on to that enjoyment very long. Hitmasters seemed dead set on hampering my fun at every possible turn.
I was bombarded (and I mean just absolutely assaulted) with in-game ads. It was horrific. An ad would automatically play after completing any and every level. Before and after every unlock. Hell, if you so much as idled for 15 seconds–be it the title screen or mid-level–you guessed it, ad. Ads, ads, ads. Now, an ad after each level might not sound too bad to you. However, when a standard level consists only of a moment to assess the room, a moment of shooting once and then it’s over, it becomes very grating very quickly. It became an interminable cycle of playing for five seconds, sitting through a 30-second ad, playing five seconds, waiting for 30, playing five, waiting for 30, ad nauseam, ad infinitum. Ads really freaking suck.
Let’s explore what I mean by a “standard level.” Because don’t get it twisted, they’re all standard levels. Hitmasters never gives itself room to grow. Frankly, it barely has room to breathe. A level will introduce a simple puzzle mechanic–such as timing an explosion with a rolling ball to knock it on course with an enemy–only to immediately abandon it for a new, equally simple gimmick. They never bother to build or expand upon any ideas they introduce into something actually challenging. Hitmasters squanders its unique take on classic puzzle logic games and seems content with just being a mindless way to pass the time.
Moreover, I have yet to tell my deepest regret. I spent hours slogging through the game, unlocking all three bonus game modes and investing a fair bit of time into each. They, too, proved profoundly disappointing. Each mode is supposed to showcase a unique weapon–including a gravity gun, ricochet gun and acid vials– allowing for different play styles. For example, in the ricochet mode, six times out of ten the levels weren’t even designed specifically for ricocheting bullets. It was clear they were merely repurposed levels from the main game mode. Hitmasters fails to live up to its name by adamantly refusing to challenge the player. Let alone helping them rise to mastery.
Despite an impressive amount of polish, Hitmasters can’t help shooting itself in the foot. It breaks my heart seeing it continue to limp on, knowing it could’ve been so much more. But ultimately, it remains shallow, vapid and only interested in lining its own pockets. Yes, unfortunately, the tale of Hitmasters is a tragedy. One of wasted potential and misstep after misstep. I don’t see a second date happening anytime soon.
Is it Hardcore?
Hardcore disappointing, maybe.
A cautionary tale of dollar signs for eyes blinding your ambition, Hitmasters is a perfect example of how to alienate fans and quell any semblance of excitement. Perfect if you need a mindless distraction, but still want to feel frustrated every now and then.