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Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: Curve Digital
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2D)/ Stealth/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is a quirky pastiche of elements that seem to have become commonplace in the puzzle platform genre. So much so, that it doesn't feel very original from any particular standpoint. But when it all comes down to it, it's difficult to complain about something being derivative when everything that it apes is aped quite well. So maybe Stealth Inc. 2 doesn't have many original bones in its body. That doesn't mean it's not enjoyable. Quite the contrary: this is a genre that we don't get to see enough. And if you've wanted to play a good old-fashioned 2D puzzle platformer, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is your huckleberry.

Stealth Inc. 2's visual design is solid. Most of it is exclusively in service of the gameplay, and the rest of it is reserved for developing the game's silly but sinister tone. You have a decent view of your surrounding areas at all times. Where you can go and where you can't go are very clearly detailed. More importantly, two visual clues establish exactly how visible your clone is at all times. One is extremely clever, and the other is about as subtle as a brick to the face. Clones wears goggles that glow green; picture the minions from Despicable Me mixed with Sam Fisher, and you've got an idea of what they look like. The other indicator is a sentence at the bottom of the screen that straight up tells you how visible you are. The cartoonish, somewhat cutesy aesthetic belies the fact that not only is this game dark and sardonic, but it's a much more physically and psychologically violent game than any Splinter Cell. Speaking of Ubisoft's flagship stealth franchise, it takes a page from the two most recent entries in that series and projects text on the wall. Granted, this feature is almost exclusively reserved for storytelling and tutorial purposes, but it bears mentioning.

There's no dialogue in Stealth Inc. 2, and ultimately, I think that's for the best. Firstly, it goes a long way in establishing how impersonal and callous this world is. You are literally just another clump of flesh that has been imbued with the spark of life for the sole reason of having the resultant flame snuffed out with impunity. All that you're left with are the sounds of your footfalls, the legion of mechanical obstacles, and the horrific sounds that accompany every messy fatality. Musically, the sound design fits both the visual style and the gameplay quite admirably. It's not cinematic or rife with bombast, but it's certainly at home with the "deadly laboratory" motif.


To give you an idea of just how dark and comically mean-spirited this series is, allow me to share with you its intended name, as well as the concept that gives you a reason to subject these cute little guys to such horrors. The title we know the original by is Stealth Inc.: A Clone in the Dark. You know what London-based Curve Digital originally called the freeware version of this game? Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole. Perhaps that's a more fitting name, rather than the punny referential subtitles we've got here in the States.

Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones takes place at PTi Industries, which is essentially Aperture Science for psychopaths. It's never completely clear what the company's employees produce, but their key performance indicators are less commercial and more... homicidal. You see, these Jigsaws-in-training build testing chambers loaded with implements of savage murder. And they get points every time one of their clones (expressly manufactured for this sole purpose) is killed. The future, ladies and gentlemen.

You are one of these clones, and like any rationally-minded individual, you aren't having any of it. A Game of Clones is the story of your particular clone trying to get the hell out of Dodge with as many of his fellow clones as possible. Again, this isn't original stuff; it's only a stone's throw away from Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, and several of the gameplay concepts in this game overlap those of the recently-updated classic (titled Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty). But all the elements in this game work well, and the scenarios are clever enough to feel fresh.


Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones isn't an easy game. Lots of puzzle platformers kill you with impunity until you get it right. And it's this difficulty that makes these games so satisfying. You have to learn by doing, and mistakes are going to be made. Solutions to each room are rarely immediately apparent, and experimentation is necessary at the outset. If you want to start challenging the absurd entries on the leaderboards, you're going to have to commit several lengthy sequences to muscle memory and figure out the timing yourself.

One knock I have against this game is that it's always teasing you with the timer and the leaderboards. Your first times through most of the testing chambers will never be smooth or pleasant. So much of what goes on inside each of these deathtraps is borderline impossible to predict, and it's even arguable that some of the design philosophies employed in this game are based heavily on those built into so-called "masocore" games. Games that are designed to be unfair, like I Wanna Be the Guy and Cat Mario. But unlike those, A Game of Clones is actually a good game.

Game Mechanics:

Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones controls excellently. When you want the clone to move, it moves. When you want it to stop, it stops. The only part of the control scheme that I find rather finicky is descending. Sometimes you'll cling to the edge of a platform when you don't want to, and sometimes you won't cling to it when you do want to. In most circumstances, it's not a big problem. But when precision and timing are involved, it most definitely can be.

There are two ways to progress in Stealth Inc. 2: finding test chambers and completing them. You're trying to escape PTi, and by extension, an early demise. So you move from area to area, much like you do when you complete a "world" in a more traditional platformer. You still have to deal with obstacles and enemies in your search for the way forward, however. As you discover test chambers, you must complete them if you want to progress through the main laboratories and progress through the game as a whole. Test chambers are akin to regular levels where you must simply make it from the beginning to the end while trying to suss out secret areas and hopefully save other clones from captivity. You must make use of the environment, its shadows, your wits, your reflexes, and once you get to a certain point, any gadgets the test chambers allow you to use. There are consoles, buttons, laser beams, grinders, moving platforms, and the rest of your standard stealth platformer trappings.

Stealth Inc. 2 could have very well have delivered its excellent campaign and nothing more. But Curve Digital intends for this to be a community experience. So if you finish the game and want more, you can either create your own levels using the surprisingly robust creation tools or hop online and try out other player's sanity-testing abominations, much like you can in LittleBigPlanet. It really helps give the game some longevity, even though it wasn't really lacking it to begin with.

It never reaches the exhilarating heights of Mark of the Ninja, but Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones carves out a space of its own with its clever puzzles, its oddly infectious brand of cynicism, and its commitment to being more than just a "one-and-done" experience.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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