GAME NAME: Stealth Inc.: A Clone in the Dark
DEVELOPER(S): Cureve Studios
PUBLISHER(S): Curve Studios
PLATFORM(S): PS3, PS Vita
GENRE(S): Platformer, Puzzle
RELEASE DATE(S): 24 July 2013
The gaming industry, over the past few years, has seen quite an increase in indie, logic-puzzler type games. Games like Limbo and Braid, for example, which make the simple seem deceptively more complex; games that rely on level design more than anything else. Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark falls into that same category, but does it match up to other similar games, or is it not as smart as it thinks?
Stealth Inc. barely has a story, but if one were to use their imagination, you could say that you take control of a clone, a little robot clone who needs to pass a bunch of tests to make it out of the labs he finds himself in. Narrative aside, and while the clone never utters a word, yet you can’t help but feel a bond with the little guy as he tries to ‘escape’ the confines of his existence as a clone.
Stealth Inc. consists of 10 stages with 8 levels in each, amounting to 80 levels in total. Each level requires players to make it across a bunch of obstacles in order to get out of the door on the far side of the room. It may sound simple, but the introduction of increasingly complex obstacles as you go along makes for a solid challenge.
For example, at the beginning of a level, you may just have to jump over spikes to hack a computer and open the door, while the next level will see you having to hack other computers and press buttons in a specific order in order to clear a path and open the door to the next level. And it gets even more complicated than that as enemy sentry robots and cameras fill the screen. In this case, players need to use the shadows to their advantage and ensure that they are not seen, or risk being destroyed in an instant.
Stealth Inc. will never leave things the way they are however, and by game’s end, even the previously outlined puzzles may, in hindsight, seem a little simple as the game makes things even trickier requiring you to get the robots into other sections of the stage to push the buttons for you so that you can progress. It requires serious thought and planning, and most likely a fair bit of trial and error as well. Apart from the first few levels, which really act as a tutorial, there is very little chance that you will successfully complete a stage without restarting at least once. Some stages may even make you want to throw in the towel, but a bit of patience and careful thought goes a long way.
Each stage also has what could be termed a boss level, where you will need to cross the area in a far more difficult manner than in the other levels. It is these boss levels that really test your wit and ability to figure out what needs to go where, and when.
Stealth Inc. may seem difficult but nothing is impossible in the game, and when you work it out, you quickly realise just how simple it always was. It does a great job of introducing new challenges at a solid pace as you progress, rather than throwing everything at you all at once. The learning curve is a steep one, but never an overwhelming one, and it is that balance which makes Stealth Inc. such a joy to play.
Adding to the incredible level design is a soundtrack that can only be described as ‘fitting perfectly’. It just matches the theme of the game so well, and adds to the atmosphere created within your environment. Your clone, at times, will feel like an agent straight out of Mission Impossible, and the music brilliantly emphasises this.
If there is one complaint I’d level at Stealth Inc. it’s that it’s over relatively quickly. This is mitigated to some degree by offering a definite sense of replayability thanks to the game’s design. The replayability comes in a number of forms. First off, you are graded on each level depending on your time, deaths and the amount of times you are spotted. If you manage to get through under the allotted time, with no deaths, and without being spotted, you will get an “S” rating. Depending on how far over the time you go, and how many deaths and spots you have, your ranking will drop.
Also adding to the replayability of the game is collectibles in the form of a Helix which is hidden somewhere on every level. Going back for these will improve your ranking and unlock more extras as you go along. Lastly, every time you finish a full stage of 8 levels, you will unlock new gear. While you start with just a standard clone, you can soon unlock the ability to camouflage , to deploy a hologram, a sound decoy and more. With each unlock the level you play changes somewhat. Some become much easier, while others become a bit more challenging if you want to try and use the ability effectively. Using the other clones with the extra abilities will serve to improve your ranking as you should be able to get through a level quicker and with less hassle, but it certainly doesn’t take away from the thought process needed to traverse an area.
Stealth Inc. also includes a level editor for even more levels to play for as well as other unlockables which are gathered from playing through the various levels. And if you have a PS Vita, you can get the game on the cross-buy initiative meaning that you pay for it once and get it on both platforms. The PS Vita version is almost indistinguishable from the PS3 version, and perhaps even lends itself better to the handheld format.
Overall, Stealth Inc. is a great example of more coming from something, seemingly, less. It has level design which is consistent throughout the 80 levels, bringing something unique and challenging to every level played. It looks excellent for an indie platformer and with the accompanying music, it manages to hit all the right notes expected from an indie game of this type. If you haven’t tested your mind in a while, and want to experience a game that will keep you coming back for me, Stealth Inc. is not something to miss.