Wearing my trusty goggles, my clone wanders throughout the hallways of the unnamed facility, trying to avoid detection. I stick to the shadows, skillfully navigate my way past turrets, robots, sensors, teleporters and all kinds of other challenges. I’m the expert stealth master. Nothing can touch me. Then, out of the blue, I get fried to pieces by a giant laser because I tripped the wrong sensor.
This kinda thing happens a lot in Stealth Inc, but that’s by no means a bad thing. An excruciatingly difficult platformer/stealth 2D hybrid, the game is an extremely rewarding experience that’ll have you tearing your hair out and cause you to feel awesome at the same time. That’s a pretty hard balance to strike, and Stealth Inc does it very well.
There’s a chance you may have played Stealth Inc before, back when it had another name. Originally released on PC, Sony didn’t really like the idea of calling a game ‘Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole’ so it was rebranded as Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark for its release on the PS3. This is the first time I’ve actually touched the game so I can’t comment on distinct differences, but the game still seems to be a bit harsh in places like its title was. Particularly in the way that text appears on the walls of the levels to constantly mock you and make you feel a bit pathetic when you fail. That’s why stealth is a bastard.
At its core, Stealth Inc is very simplistic. You are a nameless clone who is probably destined to die in some nasty way. If you do, you’ll be replaced by another clone. Regardless of which clone you are, you’re tasked with navigating through a level, hacking some computers and then escaping through a newly opened doorway, ideally avoiding detection all the way. You’ll run, jump and hide in the shadows as you navigate a selection of increasingly difficult environments, forcing you to use your brain to solve the difficult stages that Stealth Inc has to offer.
The evolution of mechanics in Stealth Inc is one of its strongest points. The game starts off with simple hiding and traversing, jumping over obstacles and trying to get through the level. Then it introduces sensors. Then it introduces teleporters. Then it introduces robots, turrets and combines them all together to make levels incredibly difficult. This difficult means that while the game probably won’t be for everyone, triumphing at a level that’s been causing you to get extremely angry for the past twenty minutes has its own unique sense of satisfaction.
It reminds me of Dark Souls. The amount of times I threw my controller across the room about equates to the same when I’m playing Stealth Inc. I’m not usually one for puzzles actually, but the intuitive way that this game uses the puzzles has kept me consistently engaged throughout the title and constantly forced me to die over and over again as I strive to get the best scores possible on a level.
Each level is graded dependent upon your performance. You’ll be scored on how it took you, how many times you were spotted and how many times you met your grisly end. If you’re pretty much perfect you’ll be rewarded with a shiny S rank, while being rubbish like me will net you a D rank. You can also find hidden items throughout the level which will help boost your score and these are generally a bit off the beaten path. Having this scoring system in place isn’t technically necessary, but it does give you something to strive towards. I’ve consistently went back to levels in Stealth Inc after I’ve figured out what to do in order to improve my grade, and it is this that gives the game some decent replayability.
What also makes you really want to beat the system in Stealth Inc is the snide comments that appear on walls as you navigate the levels. Even as I write this a comment just appeared telling me to ‘Just Quit’. Well I shan’t Stealth Inc. Instead I shall beat you again, and then I shall be the master. Or alternatively I’ll beat you by a fluke. One of the two.
The overall enjoyment you’ll get out of Stealth Inc depends entirely on your temperament. If you’re easily angered, can’t figure out puzzles and just wanna shoot things, this game probably isn’t for you. If you’ve got some patience, can figure out puzzles and don’t really wanna just shoot things, you might enjoy this title a lot more.
In terms of presentation, the game is very nicely rendered. It’s no oil painting, but the indie roots of the game are clearly visible and the levels have a distinct style of corporate facility about them. This is all interspersed with blood splatters on the walls, the aforementioned messages and subtle changes in real time like your clones’ goggles changing colour depending on how hidden you are.
I’d have no hesitation recommending Stealth Inc as a game you should probably try to beat. It’s not perfect by any means and the difficulty might put many off, but you’ve got a decent indie platforming game here that’s challenging, clever and at times very charming.
Give it a go!