In the eyes of the press, we gamers are stereotypically pictured as smelly, hairy, secluded, violent brain dead children who don’t know anything outside of the virtual world. Whereas I strongly agree with 2 of them, (you decide which ones you want to believe), gamers are far from brain dead and, much like Liam Neeson, we have a very particular set of skills. Sure I don’t know advanced calculus or how to fix a car, but I’m a dam good shot on Call of Duty, and yeah I know I don’t hike through rough terrain and have delicious abs, but my games consoles are keeping my brain more active than you could possibly imagine, and this latest module on action platforming meets intense puzzler is worthy of any Oxbridge classroom; your move smarty pants!
Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is the fantastic sequel to Curve Studio’s “Stealth Bastard” which was released originally in 2011. Spawning a couple more reboot’s and enhanced additions, Stealth Inc 2 is the first new release to expand on “Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark”, releasing first on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One. Posing as a unique hybrid of classic Metal Gear Solid stealth tactics and difficult Super Meat Boy-esque gameplay, Stealth Inc 2 aims to entertain you with familiar arcade platforming and drive you into a coma with its enjoyably frustrating puzzles. Set in a mysterious cloning facility, you control a sole Clone who appears to be more aware of its surroundings than others in the factory. Defying your fate from the hands of your creator, you must scout out the entire facility and rescue your hapless friends from certain death, much to the disgust of the scientist who wants you to die. Using the shadows as your most powerful ally, you must remain undetected from cameras, robots and turrets to avoid death and become a tiny hero. As far as puzzle games go they can be rather hit or miss, so how does Stealth Inc 2 stack up against its competitors? To be honest, they’re not even in the same league.
Having played the original Stealth Inc its clear from the get go how much the sequel has projected the series, not only in its visuals and brand new levels, but in how different the game now plays and how much better it has become. In ‘Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark’, you simply progressed from level to level much like a mobile puzzle game, however in ‘A Game of Clones’, you now have to travel to each level and navigate your way round the gargantuan cloning factory. Navigating your way around the game can sometimes be more challenging than the levels themselves, which makes the game hugely enjoyable and challenging from start to finish. Much like the Oddworld franchise, the aim of the game is to narrowly avoid peril and rescue your comrades, and again much like the Oddworld franchise you’ll find yourself revisiting certain areas of the game time and time again, only this time you can do something a little different. During each chapter, the levels will focus around a particular gadget you are encouraged to use, take the handy ‘Inflate-O-Mate’ for example which can be used as a step, for plugging holes and cutting off laser beams, and once you’ve finished each chapter you can use it in your travels, thus opening up obstacles in previously uncompleted areas. This new and somewhat innovative way to play a puzzle game has not only made it a great and intriguing game, it has given it some well needed longevity that will be sure to dry out your eyeballs in no time. Each of the game’s new gadgets make every chapter a refreshing delight as each one couldn’t be any different from the other, which was very surprising to discover as puzzle games can often be far too similar and repetitive.
As with great power comes great responsibility, as too does new gadgets, which sadly also brings a massive amount of frustration and game rage when they don’t cooperate. Not all of Stealth Inc 2 requires you to be stealthy and calculated as you’ll soon discover when you’re fighting bosses, which will ask you to think fast and use what you have as quickly as possible, which isn’t easy when the game gets confused. More often than not, my clone wouldn’t stop attempting to throw my “Inflate-O-Mate”, which when I needed it caused him to throw it in the wrong direction or not at all, meaning I died an awful lot; the same can be said for another gadget which would often not respond too accurately causing it to kill me instead of hitting a switch. The game’s art direction is superbly dark and claustrophobic at times, however sometimes it can make the simplest puzzle difficult to complete if your eyes haven’t adjusted to the lighting. Activating switches and terminals will make new locations available to you and lights come on to distort the shadows, however I found in some cases I couldn’t differentiate between a hole and a platform, which when I chose the wrong option my game rage took over. Though you can argue its part of the game’s charm, it did get too frustrating at times that I just found myself jumping towards blacked out walls hoping there was a ledge to hang on to. Due to the game’s huge map, sometimes I found myself heading in the wrong direction and attempting to tackle an obstacle that I wasn’t ready for, and it was only down to finding online walkthroughs that I realised I had to retrace my footsteps. The game also features a mini map to help guide you through the factory, however it doesn’t always indicate you on exactly how you get to where you’re supposed to, meaning you could find yourself getting lost and having the autosave kick in miles away from where you want to be.
‘Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones’ is a wonderfully difficult and addictive puzzler and a fantastic achievement for Curve Studios. Taking an already successful format they’ve improved their franchise tenfold and the end product is a challenging and brilliant platformer that is honestly one of the best indie games I’ve ever played. Running at 60fps, the game runs incredibly fast that even death doesn’t slow the game down, which is great because you’ll die an awful lot. Opening up the game’s setting for you to explore gives you a hell of a lot to do which actually can be just as difficult as the levels you’re trying to find. Each chapter is greatly dissimilar and boasts an unparalleled level of difficulty which will keep you playing for a lot longer than you initially might think. Sporting an expansive level editor, players can once again have a go at carving their own challenges and uploading them on to the online community, who can thus play and rate your creations, opening up an almost infinite amount of content for you to enjoy. Sure it doesn’t come without its imperfections and brutal enemy A.I and what starts out fun can quickly spiral into a thrown controller and sulking face. The narrative is minimal but it does nicely illustrate the story and encourage you to carry on playing, which is nice for a stealth game as to this day I’m still struggling to process what the hell Metal Gear Solid 2 is all about.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.