It is quite fitting that Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones, a 2D stealth action game developed by Curve Digital, crept up on us. With the previous title being generally enjoyable, this was a game that was anticipated, but no more than your standard sequel. With this one though, you'll decide to play "an hour" before bed, and find that five hours have suddenly passed. Simply put, Stealth Inc 2 is a hard game to put down once, it quickly gets its hooks into the player.
Stealth Inc 2 features over sixty test chambers for the player to pass while also exploring a laboratory that is full of danger and excitement. Gameplay is classic stealth, as you'll want to stay in the shadows to avoid detection from enemies. The player will have to hack computers, save their fellow clones, and make it to the exit in each level. It is a bit of a standard setup, but by mixing several genres and throwing in a heavy dose of Castlevania influence, Stealth Inc 2 manages to build on everything that its predecessor does well and feels fresh throughout.
Few titles manage to nail a difficulty curve, all while introducing new mechanics throughout the entire experience. A Game of Clones manages to be consistently challenging, thought provoking and fun throughout its sixty levels. It does a fantastic job of never offering a challenge that is too much to overcome, while also never becoming dull or easy.
This is largely due to that the game introduces a new mechanic in each of its sets of levels. This means your clone is always finding a new tool to play with, be it the ability to hack into robotic enemies, clone himself or use an inflatable toy to his advantage. There is always the sense of excitement and joy in playing with a new toy throughout the game, although it could have used a few more moments when you have to use all of your abilities in unison with one another.
Once the player begins to master their abilities, they are able to absolutely trounce some of the early levels that gave them trouble previously. In fact, players can practically go through the air while never touching the ground if they use their inflatable device correctly. This sense of discovery in not only the world, but in their own skill set is what makes Stealth Inc 2 such a rewarding experience for a gamer.
Level design is top notch in Stealth Inc 2 and the game's narrative, which is displayed through text being projected onto walls, manages to mock and inform you while you are actively engaged in a level. A similar effect was used in Ninja Theory's DmC: Devil May Cry. This works fantastically as the game never has to disengage the player with tutorials and pop-up menus, rather the player is constantly exploring the world.
Puzzles largely involve outsmarting enemies that can destroy the player in one hit. This means avoiding combat while also figuring out the correct way to make progress. Switches will have to be triggered, computers hacked and it manages to stay simple enough to where it never feels like a foreign challenge. That said, death is always one mistake away, so you are constantly on edge.
Another area where the game stands out is in its graphical presentation. Stealth Inc 2 has an elegant art style that is able to convey a lot of information in a simple way. Throw in some great art design and a fantastic soundtrack, and you have one of the best audiovisual packages you'll find in a downloadable game. While it may not be as breathtaking as Ori and the Blind Forest, for example, it does manage to look fantastic in its own way.
Rounding out the package is a fantastic level editor that is so fully featured that you could recreate any of the game's test chambers in it. There are already some well made levels in the community hub so it will be interesting to see what kind of content comes after people have had more time to play around with the game. The main game isn't starved for content, but the level editor ensures that players will get their money's worth.
If forced to nitpick over the game, one could mention that getting around the world from point A to point B can a bit of a hassle. Each part of the overworld is just another puzzle for the player to figure out and while some of the later power-ups make it easier to traverse, death can still occur suddenly. Thankfully, there isn't much of a penalty for death, but fast travel could have made it a bit easier to explore.
It is also worth noting that Stealth Inc 2's fun narrative does not end with a bang, rather with a satisfying whimper. A gigantic, epic boss battle would have been the perfect way to cap off this gem, but players instead are treated to a simple power-trip. After such a long journey, you might find yourself asking if that is really the ending.
Thankfully, after the credits roll you'll still have plenty to do. There are still hidden levels to find, areas to explore and even another power-up to unlock! Just like in Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night you will have a desire to see every nook and cranny of this game.
Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is not only one of the best stealth games ever made, it is up there with the best platformers. Everything good from the original game has been improved upon and polished while its flaws have been fixed. Stealth Inc 2 is what other developers should look at when developing a sequel: it is one that makes the previous game obsolete. Curve Digital has developed a near perfect game that should be experienced by all gamers.