Somewhere out there is the most dangerous toy factory in the world, and you'll traverse every inch of it in Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones. Testing procedures for these advanced toys is generally unsafe, so it has to be done by a multitude of cheaply grown clones. You play as an escaped clone that explores the testing facility, finds out what's going on, and frees some of your clone brethren in doing so. That means running through a lot of hazardous tests, where gameplay can switch from carefully planned stealth to frantic escapes at the drop of a hat, and sent my brain and patience reeling. If these are learning toys, I'd hate to find out what the lesson is.
Using a mix of stealth and platforming, you make your way through a gigantic multi-level facility guarded by a variety of security measures. They include robots, alarm dogs, mobile bombs, and mega laser systems. Apparently, this company takes security way more seriously than safety guidelines.
You start with a pair of large stealth goggles, which change color according to your visibility, which makes for a amazing effect when running and jumping between light sources. Security can't see you when you're hidden in the shadows, and I loved some of the ways the game plays with light. Pushing a block a long will create a shadow for you to hide behind, and hacking a computer or flipping a switch might move walls around to reshape the level and create new hiding spots. Having the environment shift aroud is truly one of the game's more spectacular features, and making it happen is almost an reward in itself.
There are six areas in total, each dedicated to testing a specific toy. Make your way through the main facility using your little clone to find testing chambers, then play them to get a hands-on learning experience with each gadget. Beating all the chambers rewards you with the gadget permanent use, which lets you access formally unreachable places in previously visited areas. But however fun some of the gadgets might be when you start using them, it's easy to get a little bored with them after the fourth test or so. It left me wanting to try out other areas for variety's sake, but the game is designed so that you need specific gadgets to progress to new sections.
Testing rooms also have a nasty habit of suddenly changing from diliberate stealth puzzles to run-and-jump reflex sequences. Hacking a computer might trigger a trap, and then it's a run for the door while a giant buzzsaw chases you. These sequences come fast and often stand in stark contrast to how the rest of the test chamber works. Addtionally, the controls are sometimes work against th player, like how the clone will grab onto a ledge without being told to, allowing the saw blade to catch up. As someone who like the stealth gameplay much more, I wasn't a big fan of these action sequences.
Not counting all the security roaming around the main facility, the testing chambers provide a series of very challenging and clever puzzles. Some of these chambers and gadgets might be a shade too clever for their own good. The Jack Boy, which lets you control a security robot, turned out to be one of the most difficult for me to use. Controlling two characters at once requires a brain-frying level of multitasking, especially when you're trying to keep from vaporizing yourself with a laser. I found myself screaming more than a few times because I kept making the same mistakes over and over again.
Puzzles that require split second timing, like one where you're being pursued by a giant laser cannon while descending an elevator, are almost painful to play. You have to recall and toss out the Inflate-a-Mate (an inflatable block) at just the right times to block the light sources without being spotted, but the clone takes forever to turn around unless you add an extra move. Don't even get me started on having to fire a laser at a wall while your clone bobs up and down between shots. That's when the puzzles really start to feel sadistic.
Gameplay can also come to a dead halt when you reach a juncture that requires a gadget you haven't encountered yet. You could end up wandering aimlessly and backtracking to the wrong area. Given the size of the facility, running around without direction can grow tiresome very quickly.
With its cute art style, excellent use of light and shadow, and challenging puzzles, Stealth Inc. 2 is a great game to check out if you want to put your problem solving skills and reflexes to the test. Some of my favorite parts aren't necessarily in testing chambers where you have to perform death-defying feats of multitasking. It's in place like when you disguise yourself as a robot and your clone makes little robot noises in an effort to fit in. That, along with the shifting colors of the stealth goggles, and the multitude of uses for the Inflate-a-Mate are the little touches that impress upon me the most.
For the most part, Stealth Inc. 2 is a very enjoyable stealth based platforming game, but the sudden switches from planned stealth to frantic reflex based gameplay might be a turn-off for those like me.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is available digitally for $14.99. The game is rated T.
Stealth Inc 2
- Great use of lights and shadows
- Very challenging puzzles
- Large facility to explore
- Switches suddenly from stealth to reflex based action
- Some parts require exceptional multitasking
- Easy to hit dead ends that leave you wandering