Review: Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark
It seems like I can’t remember the last time I played a methodical stealth action game. It’s probably because all I can think about right now is Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark. It’s a stealth action puzzle game whereby you control a clone who must get through a maze of deadly traps. There are only a couple flaws barely worth mentioning and I’m extremely pleased with the game so far. With a game this good, is it considered knit-picking to point out that one stray hair missed while shaving?
There is something to be said about additive quality of the Angry Birds-style menu system. Stealth Inc. deploys the same menu system, with a Sector Select screen featuring eight sectors or worlds, followed by the Chamber Select screen where all the test chambers or levels are available. Of course, you’ve gotta start at 1-1 to get to 8-8, and 80 levels is not a bad amount of gameplay. After choosing a level, there is an Equipment Select screen.
Early on in the game there was only one clone to choose from and this little guy is bare bones. I realized that after beating all the chambers in a sector, I began to unlock more equipment with each attempt until I had unlocked all six. Then I realized that I had to unlock all the equipment in each level individually. Another thing to note is that there are two leaderboards, one for the best time without equipment and one with equipment. Even more confusing is the fact that there are two separate letter ranks as well. But I will talk more about leaderboards in a bit.
Clone is a cutely design character with a stout body and oversized round head that reminds me of a character from South Park. He’s outfitted with a pair of goggles that illuminate green (remember Sam Fisher’s signature nightvision goggles) when he is completely hidden in the shadows. They’ll change to orange, yellow and finally red when he is exposed by nearby light source. Herein lies the backbone of this game’s design. Stealth Inc. takes some of the classic stealth elements of games like Splinter Cell or Metal Gear Solid and makes something quick and satisfying that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
One of the crowning achievements of Stealth Inc. is the fact that it is a fast paced stealth action game. Clone will run, jump, and ledge grab a lot while traversing the dimly test chambers. But he can also sneak by way of a slow crawl. Enemies like robots and the sentinel challenged me to understand where the shadows start and end. Also imperative to success is figuring out how to factor pushing these tall blocks around, sometimes off higher platforms, to depress switches and block light allowing access to that final computer terminal. After all, what kind of stealth game would this be without a little computer hackery?
Part of the beauty in a game like Stealth Inc. is how level design forces the player to incorporate all of the allotted movement variations in one solitary puzzle. I found the progression of this to be rather slow, drawn out over the course of at least the first two sectors, and the writing on the wall never really stopped being helpful. Unless you count the times when it would patronize my failures. The difficult ramped up pretty quickly, to the point where I had easily acquired an S rating on the first few levels, then began to decline until I narrowly completed the end of the second chapter with a letter grade at all. But I completed it, and the gratification I felt was substantial enough to want to take a break.
I got a little too excited when I noticed “Level Editor” was an option on the main menu. Oh boy! Only the best games have one of these bad boys! And while I was able to create a functioning level within about 20 minutes that included several switches, terminals, doors, pushable objects, a couple light sources, and one baddie, I realized I couldn’t do anything with it. There is no option to upload created levels so that others may enjoy, not even amongst friends. This was a big letdown for me, although I will still try to improve on my level in the future.
Stealth Inc. has a rhythmic soundtrack befitting to the rat-in-a-maze stealth puzzle gameplay. It sort of guides you, nay, pushes you to finish each level. And once you’ve finished that tough level with all its new tricks, you’ll be compelled to check your position on the global online leaderboards as was I time and time again. It’s by far the best feature a game having only a solo campaign could ever offer. I’ve already taken the #1 spot on at least three levels and it feels very rewarding. More than getting a trophy though? Well…
To really drive the bargain home, Stealth Inc. is not only part of the PLAY 2013 promo, but it’s forever a Cross-Buy entitled game. You only pay once to enjoy the same game on PS3 and Vita. Which system am I playing the game on? My main play through is being done on the Vita. I tried Stealth Inc. on PS3 first and it looks and plays beautifully. This being a YOPO title means that trophies are unified and the game supports what it calls “Cloud Sync” allowing the most recent saved game file to be uploaded to the cloud via your PSN ID.
The reason I’m sticking to Vita is because of an issue I noticed right away after I used the Cloud Sync on PS3 and switched over to the Vita for the first time. The levels I had completed on PS3 displayed a zero instead of the letter Rank I had earned. I had to replay these levels to get a letter grade to show up. This is especially disheartening given that the trophies are merged. Does this mean that if I choose to favor the Vita version after starting on PS3, I must reacquire all the S-grades on the PS3 version for the final two trophies to pop? I highly recommend choosing either PS3 or Vita to perform your primary playthrough on before relying on Cloud Sync as a form of backup. PS Plus is ideal for storing save data backups to the cloud.
Overall, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark is a sharp little puzzle game that masterfully pits the best stealth scenarios against the innate necessity to post a top time on the leaderboards. A game like this without leaderboards would still be a great game, but having them means conforming to the modern age of asynchronous competitive multiplayer. Online leaderboards may be an antisocial means of sharing ones gameplay conquests, but they are also a must-have feature in today’s games. Add to this a cute character that somehow finds the grey area between relatable and disposable, well crafted levels, a day-one expansion DLC, Cross-Buy, and Cloud Sync, and Stealth Inc. looks like another solid PSN game I can’t recommend enough.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. This review is for the PlayStation Vita version of the game.
What I Like:
- Great balance of stealth and puzzle gameplay
- It's good fun
- Great value with 80 levels to play through
- Cross-Buy, pay once for both PS3/Vita versions
- Cloud Sync saving through PlayStation Network
- Multiple leaderboards for equipped and unequipped clone
- Day one DLC available
What I Dislike:
- Letter Ranks don't display properly after Cloud Sync, potential trophy bug as a result
- Not much in the way of unlockables outside of equipment
- Everything is just faster on Vita