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Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones – Wii U (Virtual Console)

Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones – Wii U (Virtual Console)

Platform: Wii U (Virtual Console)2_Art

Developer: Curve Studios

Publisher: Curve Digital

Release Date (NA): October 30, 2014

Genre: Puzzle, Platformer, Stealth

Nerd Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed by Cloud3514

Released exclusively to the Wii U eShop, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is an interesting mix of a puzzle game, a Metroid style 2D exploration platformer and a stealth game. Players take control of a rogue clone at the PTI research facility and must use a plethora of gadgets and platforming skills to get through test chambers to try to rescue the facility’s other clones and escape.

Stealth Inc. 2 is divided into two different types of areas, the test chambers where players must solve puzzles to survive and the PTI facility, where the game becomes a Metroid style exploration platformer. While the PTI facility must be explored to reach each test chamber, it would be very wrong to say that it’s nothing more than a hub for the meat of the game.

I actually had more fun exploring the facility than I did with the test chambers, in fact. Metroid and Castlevania (from Symphony of the Night to Order of Ecclesia, anyway) fans will be right at home with this title. However, heavy combat should not be expected.

The Clone can’t handle enemies up close and must use stealth to avoid them. Even when he does get the means to deal with enemies, it’s usually more reliable to still avoid them because the Inflate-A-Mate, the gadget that will be most often used as a weapon, is just too unwieldy to use as more than a trap in most situations.

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It is a nice change of pace from other games in this style where combat plays just as big a role as exploration. It makes players think outside the box about how they deal with enemies and makes them an element of the platforming as opposed to a roadblock to blow up and move past.

It is actually far more rare when the solution to dealing with an enemy in the way is to destroy them than it is when the solution is to sneak past them or find a way to move them to activate a switch on the ground.

While the majority of the puzzle solving will be in the test chambers, the PTI facility has plenty of puzzles to be solved as well. The game rewards creative puzzle solving in tandem with exploration with customization options for the player’s clone. Unfortunately, that’s about the only reward the player gets for exploring off the beaten path, but at least it’s something.

The Me Too gadget creates a copy of the Clone and is a very fun gadget to use.

However, the PTI facility can be somewhat frustrating to get through at times. The next path doesn’t open until the next test chamber has been beaten, which can result in situations like trying to make a pixel perfect jump over an enemy that you’re not supposed to deal with yet. In one instance, I spent a good 20 minutes trying to get over the same enemy before giving up and looking elsewhere.

Other times, the map will suggest that the player needs to cut through an area they’ve already gone through, leaving the Clone to try to find a roundabout path to the next test chamber, only to wind up on the other side of the facility.

Despite these problems, however, there is a lot to see in the PTI facility and it is good fun for any fan of exploration.

The test chambers drop the exploration aspect in favor of gameplay that greatly reminds me of Portal. Each section of the facility has eight test chambers, designed to show the player how to use the next gadget they’re going to acquire. Most of the tests are challenging and rewarding to get through, but there is the occasional test that will just frustrate the player.

A few of the test chambers that require extremely well timed platforming or gadget activation that have such small windows to work with that it feels like the game is reducing itself down to dumb luck. One test in particular dropped buzz saws in front of the Clone that required such precise timing to get past that the game actually apologizes for it just before the player gets to it. Another one requires the player to drop an item across a large room and activate it with such precise timing that just about every death in that test (28 in total) happened on that one section. It’s not just annoying, but also feels almost out of place with the more methodical tests.

However, far more common are the less frustrating tests. The tests are almost universally very creative, especially most of the ones using the Me Too gadget that creates a copy of the Clone. I say most because one of the aforementioned tests used the Me Too.6

Most of the gadgets are a lot of fun and make for some very interesting platforming and puzzle solving, but two in particular give me a lot of issues. The Jack Boy, which lets the Clone take control of an enemy robot and the Adventure Light… which is a light.

The Jack Boy itself is perfectly OK. It’s pretty fun to take control of robotic guard dogs equipped with loud speakers and use them to distract other enemies or to force enemies to use their laser weapons to open doors. Functionally, the Jack Boy is great. The problem comes from the Jack Boy having an extremely narrow timing window. As failing to take control of the enemy will make them instantly notice the Clone, most of the time missing the Jack Boy’s timing results in death. I shudder to think how many times I died trying to use the Jack Boy. It hurts an otherwise fine game mechanic.

The Adventure Light, however, sucks. It’s tests are far more annoying and less fun than any of the others and the areas of the PTI facility that require it to get through are easily the worst parts of game. On top of that, it lights up the room and makes it far, FAR more difficult to be stealthy.

Most gadgets can be activated remotely, so it would have been far better if it could have distracted enemies, but it can’t. At best, the sections that use the light are tedious from the constant turning on and off it requires just to figure out where you need to go, at worst, it’s frustrating because it will constantly tip off enemies to your position. It’s really not a very fun item to use.

5

Each section has eight test chambers to get through.

On the other hand, the Me Too is awesome. It is the source of some of the most creative puzzle solving in the game and can be a life saver, leaving a second clone to take over if the first one is killed. In fact, some puzzles require the first clone to be killed in favor of the copy. It’s fittingly gruesome for this game.

Despite the cutesy art style, the game is surprisingly grim. It’s still meant to be light-hearted and often veers into black comedy, but the villain’s sociopathic tendencies (all just to prove that he’s a better employee than his rival Colin) and communications with the Clone range from condescending to outright psychotic. It’s particularly bizarre during the Adventure Light tests where he switches from trying to kill the Clone to suddenly trying to help the Clone get through the tests. And I love it.

The duality of the game’s tone is fantastic. It presents the PTI corporation as a cold and emotionless machine creating and killed hundreds of clones just to test their products, but the various posters suggest that the public face of the company shows an upbeat image to the point where it implies that the company tells the people that the Clones testing the products are happy to do their jobs. And considering the scenery, including blood splatters all over the test chamber walls, it’s easy to see PTI’s true colors.

The story is mostly told through words on the wall. It isn’t completely clear what the words are supposed to be, outside of being the villain usually trying to convince the Clone that his death is inevitable and he should stop trying to avoid dieing so much.

I really like the way the story is told. It makes use of some cutscenes between sections of the facility, but most of the time the story will unfold through the villain’s dialogue on the walls. It’s a very creative and subtle way to handle it and I’ve never seen anything like it in a game before.

On the technical side of things, the visuals aren’t bad. It can sometimes be a touch difficult to see what’s going on when playing on the Wii U gamepad, but on the primary screen it is generally very easy to see what you’re doing, except during the areas that require that damn Adventure Light. It’s nice to look at, but isn’t going to win any awards on technical prowess.

8

The last test chamber in each section has the Clone dealing with a “Sentinel.” The Sentinel does not like you.

The music on the other hand is great. The soundtrack is pretty varied, despite the vast majority of tracks being electronic. Some areas have quiet ambient music, while others have music that fits along with the Clone sneaking around his enemies. A few areas have music that is downright imposing and hammers in how desperate the Clone’s plight is.

I could see this soundtrack winning awards. Every piece fits exactly where it needs to and does the job it’s supposed to do and then some. While it’s mostly low key tracks to fit the stealth nature of the gameplay, it’s a soundtrack I can only hope to get the recognition it deserves.

Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is not a perfect game, but it is a fine mix of platforming and puzzle gameplay. Showing obvious inspiration from other titles like Metroid and Portal, it’s a creative game with solid execution and some fun ideas. While the timing on it’s release may not be ideal, being surrounded by big name Wii U releases, it’s a game that’s more than worth it’s price tag.

Written by Nerd Bacon

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