Stealth Inc. 2 (Wii U eShop) Review
I didn’t actually realise that Stealth Inc 2 was the follow up to Stealth Inc. I know that sound ridiculous, but Stealth Inc was and always has been Stealth Bastard to me. Following a swift name change, it seems Curve have chosen to stick with the much more family friendly name for the sequel. And while its name has been scaled back to appeal to a wide audience, its gameplay certainly has not. Stealth Inc 2 has taken all the elements of Stealth Inc, given it a greater and more open approach and improved in almost every aspect. And it’s a Wii U exclusive now too.
The game wastes no time in introducing players to what little story Stealth Inc 2 has – you are a drone of sorts who is manufactured at PTI Industries. One of the senior quality assurance employees, Malcom Alderman, has become rather complacent and has accidently left one of the PTI Industries test chambers open, allowing you to escape. Therefore, it’s up to you to get out of the PTI facility in once piece as the test chambers themselves undergo routine cleaning, opening up all kinds of dangers to the drone on his daring escape.
The story of Stealth Inc 2 is pretty standard and bares no suprises, but the tone and atmosphere of the game is really well developed – something Curve Studios are no stranger to in both Lone Survivor and The Swapper. Stealth Inc 2 presents a cold and clinical, industrial setting for the player to meander through. Comments and the like will pop up from Malcolm throughout the test chambers and employ a rather humourous and yet nihilistic tone towards the drone. Think a sassy mix of Portal’s GLaDOS and Borderlands’ Handsome Jack. It’s simple and kind of derivative, but it somehow works.
Stealth Inc 2 controls pretty similarly to any typical platformer game. You can use the D-Pad or the analogue stick to move the drone around, as well as jump and crouch if you so wish. The drone has his own inventory where he’ll be able to select and use items found throughout the game – some of which are aimed with the right stick similar to games like Shadow Complex or the classic Metroid games. Speaking of Metroid, the overworld that Stealth Inc 2 takes place in is fairly similar – you can explore it, but only to the best of the abilities you’ve presently unlocked so there’s a backtracking element if you want to see everything the game has to offer.
Most of the game will be spent in this overworld that links up the games more difficult and challenging puzzles, the Test Chambers. During this time, the game isn’t just a free roam – oh no – it’s just as intense as the gameplay within those chambers. As you’d expect from the title, the main idea behind Stealth Inc 2 is to remain as hidden as possible while you progress through the chambers.
The penalty for being caught? Almost always instantaneous death. It sounds frustrating, but it’s implemented in a way that makes it actually kind of fun to discover the ways to approach a given situation. The game tells you when you’re in view of enemies or cameras, while also highlighting pretty early on that environmental effects such as steam and lighting can help you to crawl through. Essentially, it never feels unfair, you’ve got everything you need to avoid enemies so most deaths will be your own fault. Those who absolutely abhor trial-and-error mechanics in games should probably steer clear – but the mechanics themselves tap into that same compulsive need to finish each challenge as games like Super Meat Boy and N+ do.
The brunt of the challenges will take place within the Test Chambers themselves, whose entrances are scattered throughout the halls of PTI Industries. These are where the real challenge happens – as the puzzles themselves are generally based around a newly acquired item and all of its different applications, which players can then take back into the overworld to assist their exploration.
Most of the puzzles themselves are quite complex – and there were many times where I’d have to coordinate movement and activation of certain items throughout a chamber. It creates a tense sort of balancing act between inputs on both the player and the controller but despite this it never felt explicitly unfair, which is definitely something to be commended.
Being a Wii U exclusive, you’d expect the game to make great use of the GamePad and its functionality. While some may be disappointed, Stealth Inc 2 does make good use of the GamePad as much as it needs to without becoming a needless gimmick. The map itself appears on the GamePad and provides great direction for where you need to go, and that’s really about all that’s worth mentioning. Of course, there’s off-screen TV play too. It’s a small addition but it’s also better than Curve Studio’s last published title, Lone Survivor.
In terms of replayability, every test chamber can be completed either quickly, stealthily or both to earn that ever elusive S ranking. Scores and the like can also be shared to leaderboards to provide a competitive air between friends. As with more recent Wii U games, there’s also in-game options to share experiences and cries for help via the Miiverse too, although they weren’t available at the time of writing as the community wasn’t up yet.
When you’re not trying to get your drone out of the factory or trying to beat your friends on the leaderboards, there’s also a pretty extensive level editor that lets you create your own stages and share them via the Miiverse – where other players can rate and post thoughts on said levels. Having just come off reviewing Project Spark for another site, this is nowhere near as complicated as that but it still will require some patience and, of course, some creative flair to use properly. The ability to share and use them with other friends is a really great touch, however.
If you get far enough in the main game, you’ll also unlock co-operative play which is very well implemented. Rather than just chucking another character into the fold (and potentially breaking the game), the player with the GamePad will take on more of a support role while the main character will be controlled with another controller like the Wii Remote or even Pro Controller. It’s a nice mode that doesn’t feel unnecessarily tacked on – even giving the support player something to do outside of tagging along pointlessly. It’s clear the team developed the game with this mode in mind (but not the sole focus) and it’s really great that it’s done this way.
Visually, Stealth Inc 2 is pretty unremarkable but it does have its moments here and there. As previously mentioned, great care and detail has gone into the lighting and shadows toprovide an atmospheric experience as well as a believable environment. The clones themselves are well animated and thankfully come across as having lots of personality despite not uttering a single word throughout the entire game. There are times when PTI Industries gets a little bit weird visually, but generally speaking it’s so cold and clinical that I had a hard time mustering enthusiasm to get through it. It’s just so…..grey. The sound design is much better though, and it’s hard to find fault with its classic espionage film inspired soundtrack – it gives a great feel to the levels as you crouch and sneak your way to the end of each test chamber.
Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is a very worthy follow up to the original game. It takes the core gameplay of its predecessor, cracks it wide open to offer a more free-roam experience and improves on it in almost every aspect. This is one of the eShop’s best titles, but the very lacklustre visual design really brings it down – some more variety would’ve been great. But this is a game after all, and it plays very well. Just be warned, if you’re someone who was frustrated by the trial-and-error elements of games like Super Meat Boy, this is not for you. But if you’re someone who likes sneaking around in the shadows mixed with an almost Metroid-esque tinge, Stealth Inc 2 is worth checking out.
Rating: 4 / 5