I’ve said before in a previous article that I really enjoy stealth games. I enjoy watching and waiting in the shadows, avoiding detection, listening in on guard conversations while narrowly avoiding sentry turrets, cameras or animals on the lookout. All this without breaking a sweat. Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark is not your typical stealth game however. Combining elements from Portal and Dark Souls and playing like Super Meat Boy meets Metal Gear Solid, Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark is a satisfying and extremely challenging game that gives you bang for your buck.
Stealth Inc. starts off with your unnamed, goggle-wearing clone character emerging from a pod and immediately starting his testing. From there, the game’s story doesn’t pick up. You’re just an expendable clone and you do tests in these underground test facilities like all the other players around the world. I was reminded of Portal from the way the game gives itself characterisation. Messages like “Trying hard to impress?” or “Failing is learning” are projected onto the walls, mixed in between common tutorial notes. Like Portal, the game completely revolves around test chambers in an undisclosed test facility. Yet unlike Portal, there’s no humour or engaging voice behind these passive-aggressive hints dotted around the levels. Aside from a few notes on enemies and clones you receive at the end of a level, there’s not much else story-wise. The game certainly let me down with the story arc as I felt there could have been a fun tale to tell with these interesting looking clone characters and rather creepy setting of an underground test facility.
The game looks great and is very detailed. There are a lot of minute details from blood splatters and bones on the floor to wires hanging from walls that help capture the feeling of being in a desolate laboratory. As you play through the game, you will see identical clones running through other test chambers and often being brutally slaughtered in the process. Bright and colourful graphics and neat robot designs are featured often in the game yet the star of the game is the lighting. As the game requires you to hide in shadows to bypass security, there are many lights in the game that cast realistic shadows onto the surfaces. One portion of the game had me pushing a block towards a light and the block itself cast a shadow onto me which I then used to hide from an overhead camera. The lighting in the game is very cool and works excellently. A lot of work has been put into it and it shows.
Stealth Inc. is a very straightforward game. You begin a test chamber and go from point A to point B by hacking a terminal to open the exit while being graded on your time, how often you died and if you were spotted. You get 3 chances to skip a level but I rarely used it. Stealth Inc’s puzzles are hard but they can be solved when you spend time to think about it. The game has 8 sectors with 10 test chambers for each sector. Overall, there are about 80 test chambers for you to solve. The game uses a grade system to tell you how well you did on each test chamber. Most players will start off high in the A and B levels but the difficulty ramps up suddenly. You need to be quick on your feet as the clock ticks onwards yet you also need to think about where you need to go. I often had to restart a level as I went the wrong way or made a mistake that could not be fixed. You have to figure out a level quickly based on what the game has taught you already.
Stealth Inc.’s concept is simple. Avoid cameras, robots and turrets, stay in the shadows and move fast. The clone’s goggles will glow red if it is visible and will glow green if it is not visible. All of the enemies in the game have a green cone of vision that you can run past for a half a second before triggering the enemy’s defense mode but it is best to just avoid them all together. If a camera spots you, either a laser will trigger and kill you or the doors to leave the section of the trial will close until you return to the shadows where the camera will then reset. The game also uses block pushing and switch pushing to traverse the test chambers. When you push a switch, more of the level opens up and new areas to work with in order to solve the puzzle are revealed. The game is always telling you where to go next but in such a subtle fashion that it does not feel obtrusive. Control is never taken away from you but the game merely points in the direction it wants you to go in a very subtle manner.
Stealth Inc. has tight controls and is easy to learn how to play. The learning curve and difficulty curve are easy to follow but the difficulty does suddenly increase when you least expect it to. Stealth Inc. is simple to play but difficult to master. It can be tough, frustrating and it required me to restart a level many times. The difficulty reminded me a lot of one of my favourite games, Dark Souls. In Dark Souls, you will often find yourself against a powerful enemy that requires you to shield yourself 90% and jab at it with a spear for 10%. Yet when you get the enemy’s health very low, you get cocky. You think “I’m going to try 2 stabs instead of 1 because he’s nearly dead. What’s the worst that can happen?” and boom, you’re dead. Dark Souls requires you to find a pattern against enemies and stick to it. Like Dark Souls, Stealth Inc. incorporates the same pattern system. You have to follow the rhythm of the game. You shouldn’t rush through a level or attempt to shave off precious seconds by taking dumb risks. I mean, you can try but is the risk worth the reward? With global leader boards, there is always competition and the urge to try to outsmart the game to get a better time is what makes the game so hard. It’s a game that requires time to figure out the puzzles yet it also ranks you lower and lower for how long you take. Attempting to find a balance between figuring out a puzzle and doing so in a fast time is half the battle in this game..
Overall, I enjoyed Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark. It’s a refreshing take on the stealth genre and for $10, you get over 80 levels as well as the chance to make your own custom levels. You get a lot of value for money and it is an absolutely perfect game for the Vita. The game is also cross-buy so you can play it on your Playstation 3. Stealth Inc. is a great game that gets the balance between stealth and puzzle perfect and makes every single level feel different from the last. While there’s no story element, Stealth Inc. does offer a lot of fantastic, slick stealth platforming, strong level variations and a decent electronic soundtrack.
ONLY SINGLE PLAYER SCORE
Story – 5/10
Gameplay/Design – 8.5/10
Visuals – 8/10
Sound – 7/10
Lasting Appeal – 8/10
Overall – 7/10
(Not an average)
Platform: PS3/PS Vita
Developer: Curve Studios
Publisher: Curve Studios