by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
If you were just looking at screenshots and videos of Stealth Inc 2, you might think that it was simply a simple puzzle game wearing its obvious influences on its sleeve. It looks like a Minion from Despicable Me has donned some Sam Fisher style goggles and been let loose in a facility that is seemingly under the control of a human version of GLaDOS. Even its subtitle: A Game of Clones appears to be luring you into thinking that this isn’t an original game you should take seriously. However, once you start to play you instantly get the sense that proper work has been put into this, and is a genuine product in its own right.
As the subtitle would suggest, you play as a clone, albeit a slightly smarter one than the rest of your brethren. The main antagonist is a man in competition for most clone kills in this sprawling testing facility, and he only needs one more to take the crown. However, with you, he has met his match. You will be spending the next 7-8 hours collecting useful items and avoiding all the deadly traps and machinery that the facility has to offer.
It has an almost Metroid-vania style way of introducing new items and mechanics to you. There are various coloured areas of the map that you uncover as you progress. Each area has a number of tests associated with it, and these are all designed to help you get to grips with your devices. To start with, you have the ‘Inflate-a-mate’, which is a small box you can throw or place at your feet. Pressing a button inflates it, lifting you upwards, or providing enough weight to sit on a button and unlock a door for you. If you inflate and jump at the same time, it will give you a massive boost.
Next you will unlock an item which allows you to hack the various robots that inhabit the facility, all of which have a desire to kill you if they spot you. There is an orb that floats around searching for you, a robot that patrols back and forth, robotic dogs that chase after you and bark, alerting other devices nearby. They are not just there to harm you though, as they can be used in clever ways to your advantage. The patrolling robots are dumb, and will just walk back and forth no matter what, so they won’t really mind if you just box them in so they are walking back and forth on a button you need pressed.
The puzzles and their associated mechanics are laid out very well, and in such a way that you are learning while you are doing, which is always the hallmark of a good puzzle game. Soon enough you will enter scenarios where you will have to use multiple devices to figure out the way forward. You are not granted the item in the overworld until you have completed all of the tests in a specific area. However once you have got it, you will probably be able to go back to a previously visited area and unlock something new. Usually you will want to use it to open up a new area, but there are also hidden items which unlock new outfits for your clone, which are a nice touch.
Visually, the game is quite basic, although there is a nice style to it. One thing to be said is that it is very dark. Shadows are everywhere, and your goggles will change colour based on where you are standing, indicating your visibility to enemies. It’s a cool feature, however I did find myself turning up the brightness in areas where there are shadows absolutely everywhere. This is linked to the fact that in the overworld, it’s not always clear exactly where you have to go. There is usually a blip on the map pointing to the next area you have to be, but it doesn’t tell you how to get there. This isn’t a huge problem, but it did lead to a few periods of unwanted aimless wandering.
Laughing in the face of death
The story is delivered through basic picture style cutscenes with brief captions. However the real laughs come from the short notes that the antagonist projects onto the walls as you progress through the facility. Funny dark humour that especially hits home right after the game has tricked you into dying (this happens a fair amount), serves to alleviate some of the frustration that you’d usually feel after dying. When you do get squashed, or lasered, or spiked, you simply go back to a checkpoint which are liberally placed throughout each level. The timer even resets to what it was before, so you don’t lose any time if you are chasing that top leaderboard score.
Don’t be fooled by its obvious influences. Stealth Inc 2 is a great little game that stands out on its own. Funny, with intuitive mechanics, it is never impossibly difficult, and it is paced really well. It may not top any of the games it is paying tribute to, but there is enough originality here to make it worth a purchase.
Great little puzzle game with original mechanics and ideas, along with funny quips throughout.
Quite dark in places, influences are very obvious (albeit probably intentionally).