By: Casey Curran
Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark remains one of my favorite indie titles. It was one of those rare puzzle platformers that could offer challenging platforming with tight controls and tricky puzzles, feeling like a mix of Super Meat Boy and Portal. The Portal comparison is even more apt for Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones, as many of the changes mirror those found in Portal 2, for better or worse.
Stealth Inc was a very polished platformer, especially for an indie title, which its sequel fortunately carries over. The core platforming has no complaints, as running, jumping and climbing all feel perfect. It even fixes my one issue by axing the analog controls, so using the d-pad the whole time is perfectly acceptable.
However, the game does also introduce some new gadgets to use, which adds troubling throwing controls. These revolve around using the right stick to aim where you want to throw one of your gadgets. Not only does this slow the game down in a tedious way, but even though the game shows your throwing arc, it is really hard to land an object where you want to. I have no problem with a challenging mechanic, but this feels like trouble with something that should be intuitive. And since throwing is such an integral part of this game’s puzzles, it’s a pretty big issue.
Stealth Inc 2 remains pretty much the same as the original game in terms of its look and feel. Even for an indie title, the tech behind these graphics will not impress anyone. Rather, the game uses what little it has to let the art style be what impresses the player. The character and enemy models all have a charming look to them, the test chambers offer fun areas to roam around in and the game consistently offers notes with a sick but fun sense of humor in the background. These snide comments are the backbone of its charm, offering a GLaDOS-like entity that’s constantly mocking you.
All of these contrast very well with each other, where even the gore feels fitting. There is nothing too bad, mostly just blood splattering if your clone dies, but their cute designs never make the blood feel out of place. Everything works in conjunction for a style that only enhances the fun the game provides. Add a great soundtrack that complements its style well, and this game is an absolute winner here.
While Stealth Inc 2 is a noticeable step down from its predecessor, it is a step down in a rather interesting way. The puzzles are still inspired, the platforming is still tough and the game still blends the two very well. The issue is that two changes are made, which give the game a weaker foundation than the original.
The first of these is a hub world very similar to the first two Banjo-Kazooie titles. You will roam around an open-ended zone in an effort to find new test areas. This hub world does have its own puzzles to solve so you can get to the next area, but it doesn’t quite work.
The hub area is not nearly as fun as the test chambers, where the puzzles are trickier and the platforming more challenging. Considering how much of the introduction takes place here, the game does not have the strongest start because of this hub. To make matters worse, solving a test chamber removes barriers in the hub, so it is often hard to tell whether a room has a puzzle that needs to be solved or has a barrier that will be out of the way once you beat the next level.
The test chambers also try to add something new with gadgets. Unfortunately, however, these gadgets aren’t as much fun as how the original introduced new obstacles. When the game does introduce a new enemy or hazard, it is always fun to try to figure out how to get past them. New gadgets have their moments, but they mostly feel like they’re distracting the game from its better parts.
Stealth Inc 2 also introduces a new co-op mode where one player uses the gamepad to help the second player using a regular controller. This gamepad implementation has also been found in New Super Mario Bros U and Rayman Legends, but here it feels much more fleshed out.
Puzzles are based on both players being precise with their timing and offer each player their own challenges, which make for one of the better uses of the gamepad. The only real issue is that the different gameplay ideas put each player on a different train of thought, making solving puzzles together not work the same way it did for Portal 2. However, I still wholeheartedly recommend trying the co-op mode.
Is Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones good? Absolutely. Is it as good as its predecessor? Absolutely not. If you missed out on the original, go play that first. Not just because of its quality, but it does a much better job of introducing the gameplay mechanics — which is good because the game will run on just about any PC and can be picked up very cheap even don’t have a non-Nintendo console. If, however, you enjoyed the original or will not play any game unless it’s on a Nintendo console, then I highly recommend the second entry and hope for more in the future.