Puzzle games come in all shapes and forms, and are a dime a dozen. A puzzle game that successfully merges stealth, platforming and lighting elements into an engrossing game, however, is another matter entirely.
Stealth Inc. Ultimate Edition
Developed and published by Curve Studios
Available on the PS4.
*Review code provided by Curve Studios
Curve Studios’ Stealth Inc. Ultimate Edition is one such game, tasking players with completing various stages of increasing difficulty by sneaking in shadow, avoiding sentries and cameras, and pressing switches in order to reach the exit. While it was previously released as Stealth Bastard Deluxe on PC and mobile platforms, and as Stealth Inc. A Clone in the Dark on the PS3 and PS Vita, this version of the game brings 1080p visuals and all the expansion content available for the game to date, making it the definitive version. Is this re-release worth your hard-earned cash though?
Stealth Inc. puts you into the shoes of a small goggle-wearing clone that’s bred by company PTi Industries specifically for stealth scenarios. Awakening in a mysterious chamber with only one exit in sight, the clone must push forward carefully and get around a slew of obstacles if he wants to get out, or risk dying and being replaced by a fresh model.
The plot is simple and barely present – with text appearing on stage walls every so often either motivating or mocking you – as you attempt you guide the clone to the exit. It’s not really an issue though, as it’s merely a simple framing device for the overall game, and you’ll also be having too much of a crazy time to really care.
The game is a 2D puzzle platformer, with players running and jumping across gaps, clinging to edges to climb up platforms and crawling through small crawlspaces to get to other areas. Then there’s also the stealth elements, which has players slinking around in darkness to avoid being seen by the cones of green light that represent enemies’ field of vision, carefully navigating laser mazes, activating switches without being noticed and more, making it a pretty fun and unique puzzle experience.
The game is divided into various sectors, each containing a number of small stages or chambers. These stages present the player with an end goal, which is to exit the stage safely and in one piece, but how to get there is what makes this game so enjoyable. At first, all you’ll be doing is climbing, pushing switches and avoiding cameras, but as you progress through the game and the difficulty increases, more strategies and elements are introduced, like the need to manipulate light sources to stay hidden (the amount of darkness you’re in is indicated by the color of the clone’s goggles), using blocks or enemy robots to activate pressure switches, avoiding deadly turret fire, tripping sensors to activate stuff, and more. While this sounds hard enough as it is, thanks to spot-on controls, infinite lives, and checkpoints, it’s more fun than it should be, and each failure serves more as a learning experience instead of an unnecessary death.
The game also features boss battles, which play out similarly to other stages in the game, except that this time you’re facing off against a larger enemy that has a larger cone of vision and other scary features, like a pulse sonar that can spot you if you move. The objective in these encounters is still to escape to the end goal, but with such a large enemy watching your every step, players will have to be extra careful or risk exploding into a thousand pieces if they get caught. These battles are fun and tough, and you’ll have to work both your reflexes and brain if you want to pass these enforcers.
Not content with only a main campaign, the game features a lot of bonuses, amping up the replay value. Hidden through each sector are collectable helices, which will unlock a bonus stage in said sector. Getting an S rank in all the chambers will also unlock a bonus stage in the sector. Replaying stages will unlock different clone models as well, granting the player special abilities that can help improve rankings, like creating decoy clones, blending into the background for a limited time, and more. Then there’s also leaderboards, allowing you to compete against others around the globe in order to see who can beat the stage the fastest.
The game also brings two DLC campaigns: The Teleporter Chambers, and The Lost Clones. Both feature more chambers will increased difficulty, plus new gameplay elements or collectables, like elderly clones that are hidden away among the sectors.
Finally, the game also features a level editor, allowing players to come up with the stage of their dreams (or their version of hell). However, it seems that you can’t share your chamber or play others creations, so I don’t know how useful this will be to some.
Despite excellent and challenging gameplay, Stealth Inc. is not without some problems. The game seems to lag on occasion, slowing down the action and giving the visuals a blurry look. It doesn’t happen too often, but it’s weird when it does, as the clone loses sharpness and looks choppy. In addition, the game’s checkpoints can also get you stuck sometimes, as they activate at random times. In one boss battle, the checkpoint activated right within the boss’ sight. What happened then was that I would spawn only to be immediately vaporized, causing me to reload the stage. Once again, it doesn’t happen often, but it’s disappointing when it does.
Despite these shortcomings, Stealth Inc. Ultimate Edition is a fantastic stealth puzzle game that’ll have you coming back for more again and again. With loads of content and sharp visuals, this is the definitive version of the game. Whether this is your first time or want to give the game another go, you really need to check out this thrilling game.
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