Curve Digital has a reputation for designing unique experiences. From Lone Survivor to Thomas Was Alone, the developer has a knack for crafting innovative gameplay mechanics and unprecedented aesthetics. Stealth Bastard was one of their most successful entries when it released on PC in 2013, with console ports published the following year for every available platform. While I never had the opportunity to venture through the original, Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is one of the most rewarding puzzle platformers I’ve played in a long time. Challenge in most games is typically divided between either skillful reflexes or critical thinking, but Stealth Inc 2 requires both. Progressing through the mind-boggling environmental puzzles while the clock ticks away is both nerve wracking and satisfying. If you’re up for a devilishly tough and rewarding challenge, Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is for you!
Stealth Inc 2 isn’t big on storytelling. The narrative is reminiscent of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty. You’re tasked with escaping a vast testing centre that uses body parts to create fast-food dishes. The plot is simple, but the little clones are charming and they grow on you quickly. Curve Digital draws inspiration from Super Metroid for its level designs. As new gadgets and abilities are gained, test chambers (levels) become available throughout the entire map. There are no weapons, instead you acquire gadgets that need to be utilized strategically to traverse hostile landscapes. Despite being labeled a “stealth” game, Stealth Inc 2 plays more like a fast paced platformer. You’re graded on speed, so there’s little time to rest in the shadows.
"Progressing through the mind-boggling environmental puzzles while the clock ticks away is both nerve wracking and satisfying."
Curve Digital has done a remarkable job of easing players into the gameplay. The first few levels are leisurely, and serve as a mere preface to the dangers ahead. But it doesn’t take long before Stealth Inc 2 escalates in difficulty. You can expect to tear your hair out within the first hour. Some of the puzzles seem impossible, so when you finally solve them, the sense of gratification is incomparable. Stealth Inc 2 excels because it’s never unfair. There are no arbitrary solutions or frustrating AI opponents. Every obstacle is overcome with logic and quick reaction time. On the other hand, once an obstacle is overcome, it’s easy to score higher grades by replaying levels. As a result, Stealth Inc 2 become strictly an action platformer once the puzzles are worked out.
Stealth Inc 2 can be played solo or via co-op. Unfortunately, I was only able to experience the single player portion of the game. Certain puzzles are only solvable with a clone’s aid, in which case the AI comes in for assistance when not playing with friends. The AI is usually responsible for simple commands, like activating plates, so you never feel like a second player is absolutely necessary. This is a good thing, because both modes are strong on their own.
"The deviously challenging puzzles are precisely what make Curve Digital’s latest puzzle platformer one of the most satisfying indie titles in recent years."
Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones retains the stylish aesthetic of its predecessor, but it’s notably larger and more polished. There are no loading screens whatsoever, and the hub world from which the test chambers are accessed are filled with puzzles as well. Stylish as it may be, the lack of environmental diversity is somewhat disappointing. Some of the exterior levels are a welcoming change from the derivative underground landscapes, and it would have been nice to see the color palette change more often. To be fair, the developer is clearly aiming for a certain industrial tone, and in that regard, the graphics impress thoroughly.
Stealth Inc 2 isn’t for everyone. Gamers with little patience should stay away from this title at all costs. Be that as it may, the deviously challenging puzzles are precisely what make Curve Digital’s latest puzzle platformer one of the most satisfying indie titles in recent years. Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is a gem for hardcore gamers, and a perfect introduction to Curve Digital’s superb library of unique titles.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Xbox One