I never managed to complete Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark, the predecessor to Curve Studios Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones. That game was very good at making me look bad – with death being a common occurrence whenever I loaded up the title.
So when I received Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones, I was a little hesitant about playing through the game; with memories of the rage quits that the original title brought about flooding back to me. However, Stealth Inc. 2’s undeniable charm and excellent design shattered the hesitation and I quickly found myself unable to put the game down, no matter how hard it got!
You play the game as one of many clones – little robotic fellas who have been created in a lab so that scientists can carry out tests on them. Once the clones have served their purpose and meet their doom, the green goggles that each clone wears are then used as a child’s toy and are actually given away with fast-food.
Once the clone becomes aware of this, the race is on to escape the facility – which contains different areas to explore that require Metroidvania-style upgrades to reach. Each of these areas consists of eight test stages that you will need to complete in order to reach the next area and continue on.
Each area’s test stages serve the purpose to introduce a new equipable item that you will need to put to use to complete said stages. These are a new addition in to the series, and have been implemented impeccably well – from the Inflate-a-Mate to the Jack Boy, each of the items that you unlock adds to the overall quality of the gameplay. In addition to their introduction here, once you complete the eight tests in a particular area that gadget is then yours to keep to aide your exploration of the PTi Testing Laboratory.
This leads me to another neat touch that Curve Studios has added to its stealth-platform title; the world outside of the test stages is a level within itself. Exploring each room of the facility is a must, as you need to track down the stages in each area in order to complete them. There are also briefcases hidden around the map that will unlock hats and outfits so that you can dress up your clone if you so wish! Being able to explore and having to find your own way around the facility is pretty fun, and I am glad that Curve decided to structure the game like this – with the whole setup kind of reminiscent of Valve’s brilliant first-person puzzler Portal.
Getting about in the game is very intuitive, with the left analogue stick controlling your character’s movement, X as jump, and Circle enabling you to crouch. As you unlock the gadgets that are available in the game they will be mapped to the left and right trigger, whilst Select will bring up the map of the facility should you get lost. Another great design element is the detection alerts, which are shown via your clone’s goggles. If the goggles are green it means that you are out of sight, with orange being part-visible, and red meaning that you have been spotted – so keep it green if you wish to stay alive and make it through the game!
Unlike most other games in the stealth genre, Stealth Inc. 2 is a game that urges you to tackle its many levels as quick as you can. Each playthrough of a stage is graded with a letter, with S-Rank being the best possible outcome (I rarely saw an A, let alone an S!). These are marked using three simple criteria; the amount of times you died in a stage, the amount of times you were spotted by the many different enemies in a stage, and how long it took you to reach the end gate. Alongside being graded by the game on your performance, there are also online leaderboards built into the title – meaning that you can judge your efficient traversals of stages against other gamers across the world.
In addition to the leaderboard social feature, there is also another which has been introduced in Stealth Inc. 2; the ability for players to create their own stages – a la LittleBigPlanet. Although I didn’t try my hands at creating a stage (as I am pretty rubbish with level editors), I did play through some of the levels that the community had created so far and they were pretty impressive. The addition of player-created levels are certainly a welcome addition to what is already a game packed with levels for you to work your way through!
Looking at the levels and graphics themselves however, they seem to have been given a bit of an upgrade when comparing them to those in the original title. Characters and objects appear to look a little more 3D than they did previously, and the environments have a little more character to them. The game will even flash up messages on the walls of the game that make for some brilliant reading, if you care to take the time (and you should!).
The lighting and audio in the game are also top-notch, though given the way that they are used in-game as part of the gameplay, you would expect them to be good. The only downside for me was that although the environments are an improvement on those that were in A Clone in the Dark, they are still a little drab and gloomy. I know that is down to the game’s setting and theme, but I think a little more colour would truly highlight how great this game could look!
When all is said and done, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones improves upon everything that was great in the original title to give us a game that is even more fun. Although the difficulty seems to have been lowered for the sequel (either that or I am getting better – although I doubt that!), there are still moments that will have you scratching your head or screaming at your Vita as you die for the ump-teenth time trying to figure out a solution to a troublesome puzzle. This still makes Stealth Inc. 2 a challenging title and completing a tricky section will give you a great feeling of accomplishment – not unlike the triumphant feeling that must have been felt in the developer’s office when they finally unleashed this brilliant little gem on the PSN earlier this month!