The team at Curve Digital took fans by surprise when they announced that Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones would be available exclusively on the Wii U. After the game's predecessor, A Clone in the Dark, had a successful multi-platform launch, it seemed like a no brainer to put the puzzle platformer sequel in as many hands as possible. Fast-forward almost six months and non-Nintendo gamers are finally getting their chance to infiltrate PTi Industries in the addicting and challenging sequel.
Stealth Inc 2 is a Metroidvania-style puzzle platformer (a genre that seems to be more popular than ever) that doesn't bother being subtle about its influences. The game has many allusions to Portal, Splinter Cell, and Super Meat Boy in its mechanics, narrative, and style. Unlike some other games that feel like an imitation of Portal with a different skin, Stealth Inc 2 learns from its influences and creates a unique new world full of challenging puzzles.
Much like the original, Stealth Inc 2 puts players in control of a clone working its way through the many tests and traps in PTi Industries. Clones have a very short life span and for players to stay alive as they travel from one end of PTi Industries to the other they must dodge armed guards, ceilings that drop down and crush them, and high-powered sharp fans. As one of the smarter clones enslaved by PTi, the player attempts to help his fellow clones escape the corporation.
Gameplay is divided into multiple worlds that each contain eight levels, similar to an old-school game like Mario. While working through each puzzle (which are called tests), players attempt to stay out of sight with the help of a color-coded visibility system. The clone's adorable goggles are green when he is out of sight, orange when partially visible, and red when out in plain sight. Players can use this intel to decide how to get through a room without being burned to death by a camera with a laser beam attached to it. The stealth aspect feels like part Splinter Cell and part Metal Gear Solid and leaves players stuck with some very challenging puzzles to work through. Most enemies can kill the clone in one hit, so prepare to die quite a bit as you learn the ropes. Solving the puzzles usually involves carefully staying out of sight and mastering the available tools to outsmart obstacles.
When players reach the end of the eighth level in each of the game's worlds (the different sections of PTi Industries), there is the equivalent of a boss fight. This usually involves outsmarting and outracing a powerful sentinel, which will kill players quite a few times before they successfully exit the level. The boss fights require a lot of memorization and players should learn a lesson each time they die about where a particular security camera is or where the ground is unstable.
As players successfully work through each level, new tools and gadgets will be unlocked. As you might guess when dealing with a Metroidvania game, players can use the new gadgets to go back to previous levels and reach previously unobtainable secrets. One of the earliest tools is an Inflate-a-Mate buddy (similar to Portal's Companion Cube) who will help players reach high areas or block sources of light that are causing a problem. Players eventually gain the ability to throw the Mate across the room and inflate him from a distance. Each new tool gives you more options to solve puzzles faster and faster, which makes the leaderboards for each test very addicting. Gaining new abilities (like cloning yourself and hacking into enemies) throughout the game helps keep players challenged and entertained throughout the entire campaign.
One downside to the game's light mechanic is that the setting is incredibly dark. The facility is full of interesting rooms, but the game's palette is very gloomy and will leave gamers exploring a world of darkness for the majority of the game's shortish (roughly ten hour) campaign. There are a few moments of sunlight to provide a bit of contrast, but for the most part players will be isolated in darkness. Luckily, the game's narrative sense of humor helps to lighten the mood.
Where some games would leave players who are stuck on a tough puzzle alone with their thoughts, Stealth Inc 2 takes a different approach and teases players with taunts scribbled on the walls of each level. The messages come from a disgruntled scientist who is desperately trying to kill as many clones as possible, so he can earn employee of the month. When the game's puzzles become so difficult that we started to get frustrated, it was usually the game's sense of humor that kept us motivated enough to find a solution.
Once players have mastered story mode, there is also a powerful level editor available to create new challenges. The tool gives players the power to recreate levels just as difficult (or more so) than any of the existing test chambers. The community levels section allows users to test and rate other players' creations. Once the game has been out for more than a week or two, we expect to see the community area fill up and hopefully the cream of the crop will surface thanks to five star ratings.
Unless players were really married to the GamePad, the port doesn't lose a lot in its transition away from Nintendo hardware. The Wii U version did offer the opportunity for some fun Miiverse messages, but the game is still as strong as ever on its new platforms.
Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is now available on PC, PS3, PS4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided an Xbox One code for this review