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Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark (PlayStation 3) artwork

Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark (PlayStation 3) review

"Gameplay-wise, it's pretty unremarkable. Fortunately, it has a few other things going for it that help it add up to more"

Stealth Inc. (known as Stealth Bastard on Steam and elsewhere) is yet another indie puzzle platformer. I regret to say that this is a genre I am starting to think is a bit played out. Some of my favorite games ever are puzzle platformers (Where is My Heart?, Closure, Braid, etc.). I only started playing them a few years ago, and was so in love after playing a few strong entries in the field. But lately I've seen some really weak entries and really gotten the feeling that a lot of the puzzle platformers I see out there that I haven't played yet are not at all on the level with the great design and aesthetics I've seen from the genre's foremost entries. Stealth Inc. is a puzzle platformer with a simple stealth mechanic added in. Gameplay-wise, it's pretty unremarkable. Fortunately, it has a few other things going for it that help it add up to more than the sum of its parts.

In Stealth Inc., you play as a clone in a testing facility. The rooms of the testing facility are filled with traps and guard robots that will kill you if they find you. You have to sneak around the various security cameras and guard robots by staying in the shadows and figure out how to manipulate switches and blocks to unlock the door to the next level. The controls are very basic: X to jump, press toward a wall to grab a ledge while jumping, and square to hack computers to open doors, that's about it.

Let's start with the not so great part. As I alluded to in the intro, the gameplay here is nothing special. The puzzles are pretty basic and mostly solve themselves if you just start doing stuff. If you walk into a room and see a block, just go push it, and you will probably realize what you are supposed to do with it within 10 seconds. Do that with the few other switches and stuff you see, and you'll have the level figured out. There are a handful “Aha! moment” exceptions to this rule and a few interesting puzzle pieces thrown in here and there, but in general it is less than thrilling, especially considering that in the best of puzzle platformers, the puzzle design can be a truly mind blowing experience that stretches your perception of the game-space and the way things can work, even making you question how things work in the real world (like the trippier time manipulation segments of Braid or the bizarre perception = reality and perception does-not-equal reality concepts of Closure and Where is My Heart?, respectively). The stealth action element (SNNNNAAAAAAAKKKKEEEEEE!!!!!!) adds a nice little wrinkle by making you pull out some of your action game skills to dodge enemies, and the stealth system itself is cool (your goggles change color based on your level of visibility). But even these elements added together don't make the easy puzzles all that compelling.

Luckily, the visuals, music, and comic timing step in to make the game a lot of fun. First off, the color pallet is really nice; lots of black and pale colors for the player and the shadows you hide in, with neon greens, reds, and blues for the enemies, their fields of view, and their lasers. The comic timing portion comes into play with a combination of the ways you die and the comments projected on the wall by an unseen helper/tormentor. Someone is watching your progress and projecting words onto the wall to offer hints here and there, send in insults and doubts about your performance, and also mock you when you die. There's something about the way the game mocks you when you die that is genuinely funny. There are situations where it clearly warns you that you are about to go to a dangerous section, and then it mocks you when you inevitably die. These deaths often come in the form of rapidly moving lasers and traps that cause your character to explode into flying gore, painting the walls red, and leaving only a still pumping heart behind. I laughed out lout several times at these violent deaths and the obnoxious comments that follow, and was amused no end at how quickly your best laid plan can turn into instant laser to the face and gibs flying everywhere. The game also pulls out a handful of interesting story elements that I won't get into here that range from amusing to hilarious to grin-like a small child funny.

And then there is the amazing techno soundtrack. Each level you get one of 10 or so amazing electronic tracks randomly playing in the background. They are really a cut above most videogame music. I don't know how to describe the tracks, but they fit the sneaking-action theme really well, almost like a movie soundtrack but a little less orchestrated and a little more beat-driven than those usually are. The game is almost worth playing for the soundtrack alone.

And so, despite lackluster puzzle design, Stealth Inc. is actually a blast to play. It's hilarious and sounds amazing, and has some of the funniest deathtrap sequences in recent memory. It's controls are functional and tight, and the story takes some interesting turns. It's one of the few games where think the gameplay is weak but can still heartily recommend the experience. It's a 3 out of 5.


Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (August 27, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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