Stealth Inc – A Clone in the Dark: review

  • Format: PC (released as Stealth Bastard Deluxe), PS3 (PSN) and Vita (version reviewed)
  • Unleashed: 23rd (NA)/24th(EU) July
  • Publisher: Curve Studios
  • Developer: Curve Studios
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.stealthbastard.com/

How could you describe Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark? Super Meat Boy, meets themes of Portal and Abe’s Oddysee would be a rather apt way of pitching it to someone. Originally released as the freeware Stealth Bastard and then Stealth Bastard Deluxe on Steam, it now comes to Vita and PS3 via Cross-buy, with its new, more family friendly title.

You are clone, one of many in a long line of clones, produced in a testing facility. As many of the clones around you are cut down, crushed, burnt, smashed or killed via various methods, you alone seem to be capable of escaping said hazards. Everything and anything hostile will kill you if given half a chance, and with just a single hit.

Your clone is only slightly different: one, you seem to be able to make your way through the various environments, all of which are laden with traps, and two, you have a pair of goggles which change colour depending on your level of visibility. Hiding in the shadows is the only way to escape some of the automatons, though later into the game you will soon find that noise also plays a part in their search to find and kill you.

Fully visible. When you have goggles this cool, you want everyone to see you.

The game has excellent pacing for introducing mechanics and enemies, though the difficulty spikes do occasionally hit high in some levels. Each set of levels tends to play around with a few themes, like the introduction of robot sentries or teleporters. It also gets a little easier towards the end, not through skill increase but due to the particular theme being a little easier to manage, compared to the slightly more reaction-based themes of earlier levels.

Despite difficulty spikes it does make things incredibly accessible without “dumbing down” the design. Most importantly, it is unlike other instant death platformers, in that each level does have multiple checkpoints, something that you will need on your first playthrough of most levels. Secondly the inclusion of a limited level skip will surely be a most welcome feature as the higher difficulty levels will frustrate at times.

While your standard suit offers no abilities, through playing a level multiple times you will unlock the various other suits. Camouflage being the first one, it makes you invisible to enemies (though not for long) while you perform anything other than movement. Later suits include teleportation via a carried teleportation device, instant shadow device and a few others. There do seem to be a lot of devices to carry and they do change up levels quite a lot if the right one is used in the right place, but as you can play through a level already without such powers the point of using them seems a little moot.

While each area/chapter/zone is split into eight levels, each one has a boss level and two unlockable levels. The easiest of the unlockables is via the collection of Helices, gain all eight from the normal and boss levels and you will unlock a level, also with a hidden Helix. The second type of unlockable level comes in the form of being the absolute best at a level, or eight at a time as the case might as well be.

Gruesome graphics and a deliciously patronising watcher.

Each level has a rank upon completion, with “S” being the highest and also the most difficult to earn. You have to complete the level within the fastest possible time, with the lowest possible amount of deaths (usually 0 but sometimes a few are given in allowance), without being spotted too often (same as deaths, but varies, as sometimes you need to be spotted in order to progress) and without gadgets (otherwise you are capped at “A” rank).

The game has a few cartoony but gruesome depictions of death or the remains of once living clones, but it all looks quite simply, gorgeous. The game especially lends itself all too well to the Vita’s OLED screen. Crisp, clear and full of colour, which is strange for a game about being stooped in darkness, it really does look far better than the PC version, which is by no means ugly or even plain looking. One particularly clever and interesting visual design is the projected messages that display throughout the levels. Someone watching you takes immense pleasure in berating you and guiding you through the levels, missteps and all. It adds a little more to the dark humour that permeates the game.

The Level editor is nice and robust, offering pretty much everything you need in order to make your own levels and play through them. At the time of writing, sharing doesn’t seem to be a feature, so all your creations will be hidden from the public eye.

There is some “Day One DLC” though it is free for anyone who purchases the game within the first two weeks and is the same as the PC release DLC. It does contain another 20 levels though, combined with the 80 levels of the original game – that seems to be quite fair and especially appealing if you buy the game in time.

The game is good, it really is, and it’s another title in the long line of Cross-buy titles that you have no reason not to get. Playing it on Vita is definitely a great way to experience it, more so than the PC version if you’ll excuse the heretical nature of that statement. First and foremost it’s fun, but it is also challenging in a very lenient way.

critical score 8

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I’ve done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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