In Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones, you control a little, goggle-wearing clone as you try to escape from the facility that’s turning you, and your (less intelligent) clone brethren, into the contents of a Happy Meal. Sound familiar? From narrative and tonal perspectives, the game is incredibly reminiscent of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee; swap clone for Mudokon and you get the gist. This isn’t to say that Stealth Inc. 2 is merely a plagiarist, it’s simply unashamed of broadcasting its inspirations. Lurking in the shadows, seeing only the green glow of the clone’s goggles channels memories of Splinter Cell. An omnipresent antagonist sarcastically comments on your every move in a fashion not too dissimilar to Portal’s GlaDOS. Like a band playing cover songs, Stealth Inc. 2 feels both familiar and new at the same time.
You take your little, blobby Sam Fisher through the ‘Metroidvania’ hub-world of a sinister cloning facility filled with dastardly things (like sentry turrets and not-so-friendly robot dogs) that want to see ol’ cloney turned into a pile of blood and meat. Indeed, death is never more than a moment away and you’ll be forced to watch your poor, clone friend squashed, zapped and blown up time after time after time. And the sick puppies at Curve Digital haven’t held back; you see everything in its gruesome glory, pulsing aorta and all. Thankfully, though, Stealth Inc. 2 does the ‘one more try’ mentality a favour with no load times, instant respawns and regular checkpoints that mean coming back to life (and subsequently death, most likely) is a painless process.
The hub-world itself, though, is a fairly bland environment, so littered with shadows (for stealth purposes, of course) that it’s terribly dark, dull and monotonous to the senses.
The real crowing jewels of Stealth Inc. 2 come in the form of test chambers which can be found scattered around the facility and provide the most fun, challenge and direction. These linear, puzzle-platform levels time you and your clone as you hack terminal after terminal until you reach the exit. Along the way, however, you must find ways of sneaking past whatever it is that wants to murder you by lurking the shadows, distorting their vision with steam or by using the gadgets at your clone’s disposal.
At the end of each test chamber, you’ll either be welcomed or tormented with a grade and a leaderboard against which you can judge your performance. These simple tools absolutely egg you on into replaying each level until you achieve that top-ranking ‘S’ grade or crawl up the leaderboard just a few places. Sometimes, though, as the game’s difficulty ramps up to borderline sadistic, the inability to beat a level in record time was enough to make me switch off my console in a tantrum. Unless you can afford a new TV, Stealth Inc. 2’s difficulty may mean that this isn’t one for controller throwers.
With each set of test chambers, you’re introduced to and taught how to use a new gadget that will help you complete those particular levels, as well as subsequent ones. Take the Inflate-A-Mate, for example. This portably pal can be thrown to places that your clone can’t quite reach in order to trip a switch or create a much-needed shadow. Inflate your mate while standing on him and you’re able to launch your clone into the air, greatly increasing jump height. The Inflate-A-Mate can even be weaponised in order to dispose of pesky sentry turrets. At the end of the level set, you’re awarded with the ability to take your new gadget out into the hub-world so you can reach new areas and grab that previously out of touch collectible (which is often a snazzy hat for your clone). I was so impressed with how the game cleverly taught me everything I needed to know about a gadget before unleashing me upon the facility with it.
Though the world isn’t much to look at and the game can be devilishly difficult, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones pays tribute to a number of iconic franchises whilst also paving its own clever and rewarding path. Well designed test chambers that just cry out to be replayed are the cream of the crop here, just don’t do anything rash when you die… again… and again… and again…