An imperfect clone.
Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark was one of those great finds for me that services like PS+ make possible. Had it not shown up as a free game one month, I likely would have never known about it. At the low-cost of nothing I gave it a shot, and fell in love with the tough but fair gameplay and fantastic soundtrack. With memories of the original still relatively fresh in my mind, Curve Digital has delivered a sequel, building on the foundation of stealth platforming that made the original so much fun. Stealth Inc 2 brings a lot of new ideas that add elements to the gameplay, but it also takes a couple of large steps backwards that keep it from reaching its full potential.
The original was divided into sets of tests; completing one set would unlock the next. Stealth Inc 2 follows the same basic formula, only now each set of tests is located in a section of a large overworld. Each set of tests also introduces a new gadget for use in that set of tests, such as an inflatable companion that can be used to remotely trigger switches, or the ability to take control of patrolling robots and user them to the player’s advantage.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, Vita, Wii U, PC, PS3
The game play is excellent throughout the tests. Control is tight and responsive, and like the first game, while sections could be extremely challenging, if I failed I always knew it was because my execution was poor, and never felt like I was the victim of mechanics. The lighting and shadows all look great, which is good because they are crucial to the gameplay, as remaining invisible is the key to success.
I loved the music in A Clone in the Dark, and while it took a few levels to grow on me, the music here is just as catchy, and I can still hear it in my head. The game also follows its predecessor in that it gets a lot of its personality from the test administrator, who delivers a constant stream of Glados-like comments by way of messages on the walls.
As mentioned the game is difficult, and death is a frequent occurrence. It doesn’t slow things down though, as almost instantly I was back at the last checkpoint, ready to try again. The quick reloads help to keep the pace, but I found some of the checkpoints unnecessarily unforgiving. More than once I completed a particularly difficult section and died shortly after, only to have to repeat the whole thing, which was annoying.
Once all eight main tests in a section have been completed, that section’s gadget becomes available for use in the overworld. The goal is to capture that Metroidvania feel, where new abilities allow access to previously inaccessible areas, but the main effect is a general lack of direction, and overworld navigation quickly became a drag that interrupted the fun I was having with the tests. In more than one instance I got tired of wandering trying to find the next level, and just put the game down. It doesn’t help that the collectables scattered around the game are just cosmetic – finding a new path only to discover instead of the way forward I had found a new head or torso was a frequent disappointment.
A Game of Clones is cross-buy across the PlayStation platforms, but I was very disappointed to discover that, unlike the original, cross-save support is nowhere to be found. That basically made the other platform versions unnecessary – after getting through a few dozen tests on the Vita version, even as I was enjoying the game I wasn’t about to load up the PS4 version and start from the beginning again. The absence of cross-save is puzzling since it worked great in the previous game, and it feels like a big hole.
The core of Stealth Inc 2 is just as fun and compelling as the original, and the new gadgets add a unique twist to each section of levels. While the lack of cross-save is disappointing, it’s really the overworld that holds the game back, and it felt like the broccoli that I had to get through in order to earn the cookies that were the test chambers. The main game is still undeniably fun, and anyone who enjoyed the first (or likes a good challenge) should check it out. Just be warned, it’s an occasionally bumpy ride.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.