There seems to be something about puzzle games that grips a gamer. This is often a grip that won’t be loosened until everything in said game is found and conquered. While this style of game may not be to every gamer’s taste, there is no denying their overwhelming popularity at the minute. The latest puzzle game to stake its claim is Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones, a puzzle game which also throws a need for stealth skills into the mix. Having already established itself on the WiiU, it now makes the jump to Xbox One, but how well do stealth and puzzle solving mix?
The game sees you exploring a test centre as one of the many clones in the facility, being forced to partake in tests for your creator’s benefit. You soon realise that there is no happy ending to this for you, so whilst still testing, you take it upon yourself to help save other clones and explore every corner of the facility. Though they may seem blank and all the same, you will go out of your way to save your fellow clones, and definitely feel bad if you end up leaving one behind, or worse, accidentally murdering them. It is a simple enough story, which could have been expanded upon more, but is engaging enough to keep you playing through the game to see if you manage to save and free your clone army.
The testing facility acts as a hub for you to explore. The main path is vaguely laid out for you and sends you in the direction of the tests, but you'll need to venture off the beaten path to find clothing pickups and hidden test chambers. The problem is that most of these side ventures will need certain gadgets to access them, so it seems the better option is to make your way through the tests, at least for the first couple of hours. Each section of the facility has eight test chambers to find and complete, as well as the two hidden ones which you will be able to access with a gadget or two and some well-thought-out route planning. The normal test chambers have you navigating your way through the test to the exit, saving a fellow clone of two on your way if you so wish. The varying difficulty of these tests mean you may get stuck sometimes, but once you figure out the tricks you will be flying through them. With sixty chambers in total, there’s more than enough of a challenge to keep you busy for a fair few hours. If that isn’t enough of a challenge for you, there is an in game ranking system for each chamber. You will be tested on your speed, stealth and ability to not die, which will result in you scoring an S rank should you complete a test quick enough, and without being seen or killed. Whilst it can be irritating trying to complete a test quickly, stealthily and carefully all at the same time, the ranking adds a nice level of replayability in which each test might be played three, four or even more times even after the game’s story has finished.
To make each set of chambers unique, you will also be testing different gadgets along your travels. These make the tests even harder to navigate through, but manage to find a happy medium between difficult enough to pose a challenge and not so hard you get stuck for ages. The interesting gadgets you’ll be testing range from an “Inflate-A-Mate” which you can use to stand on or throw to press buttons for you, to the Adventure Light that helps guide your way through darkened levels, but can also lead to your demise if you aren’t careful enough. Once you have finished testing a gadget, you then unlock it to use in the main facility itself, which will help you along your way to collecting clothing items and finding the secret chambers. You are told how to use the gadgets at the start of the first test, but then you are left on your own to work out which barriers they can go through, and how best to make use of their abilities to save clones and complete each test. This can prove tricky though, especially with gadgets like the Jack Boy where you hack and control an enemy with some buttons on the controller, but results in overwhelming joy when you manage to work it out.
As if the test chambers weren’t challenging enough on their own, you are constantly teased and ridiculed by the writing on the wall of the chambers. Whether it is taunting you about your imminent death, or even moving switches away from you and swapping ledges on the wall, the fact of the matter is that you will spend a lot of your time dying. This just makes it all the better when you finally make it through to the end. Fortunately, there are checkpoints across the level to help you out if you don’t make it in one go. Due to the stealthy nature of the game, you want to be spending most of your time in the shade and darkness of the levels, which gets harder as more enemies search for you and the dark area gets smaller. The darkness also hides ledges and gaps in the floor as well, so will be guessing your path a lot of the time especially in the later levels. It is also your best ally, and you will always be looking for the best way to manoeuvre between the dark patches.
The game has a simplistic look that works well, and the greens, greys and blacks fit in well with its stealthy nature. Each clone has the same basic design, but also manages to have a personality, and the clothing pickups mean you can even dress up your own little clone to look like anything from a chicken to a punk. His eyes have also been designed to help, with them being green when you can’t be seen, and red when you are fully visible. The levels themselves look like they have simple designs, but have lots of hidden paths to find and will have you searching high and low. The cutscenes run as a set of pictures, which tell the story of the clones’ conflict with their master. It is told well with very few words, none whatsoever from the clones themselves, as they both fight for power and control over their lives.
Whenever you complete a test chamber, you can access it from the main menu instead of tracking back in the game to find it. It also shows whether you have found all the clones in the level, and whether you have achieved the S rank in it or not. The game also gives you chance to create your own test chambers and upload them for others to play and rate, or for you to have a go at tests others have created and rate them for yourself. Ratings are shown next to the test name and are given an average over all the ratings given, so whilst one low rating will knock it down a bit, it won’t ruin your overall one too much. Being able to create your own tests is another nice added feature to the game, and allows you to be as kind of as mean as you like to your fellow players.
While the game only has twelve achievements and is a short but varied list. A couple of them should come naturally, by saving a clone and probably accidentally killing yourself with a particular gadget, as that is more than easy to do. You’ll be challenged to utilise your skills to complete a level without jumping, as well as explore every area of the facility. The real challenge will come in collecting all the pickups and saving every clone, with the toughest achievement looking like it come when trying to get an S rank in every test chamber, normal and secret. The achievement list adds again to replayability and need to explore the game fully, and is a well chosen and well varied collection of feats to accomplish.
SummaryStealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is a funny little puzzle game, which seems to have a good balance of stealth and puzzle element, whilst at the same time managing to never get too repetitive. The levels are well-thought-out and the simplistic story has you rooting for the clones all the way through. A price tag of £11.99 (or your regional equivalent) seems appropriate, with the potential for well over ten hours of puzzling on offer here for completionists. Sometimes it may seem a little too easy to misplace a jump or kill one of your fellow clones, but this all adds to the fulfillment when you finally succeed. So take a chance on a game of clones, and you’ll be addicted beginning to end, until you manage to save every last one of the little guys.
- Story could have been explored deeper
EthicsThe reviewer spent approximately seven hours making her way through countless tests, saving clones and getting squashed, lasered and blown up, unlocking 5 of the 12 achievements along the way. This Xbox One code for the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
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