My penchant for puzzle-platformers has been known to keep me up at night. Long after I’ve turned off the electronics to get a few winks of sleep, I would continue thinking about the level I stopped at, mentally going through it ad infinitum until I came across the winning sequence. Portal and Portal 2 may be the most famous example, but Stealth Inc. 2 brings the cranial pain in ways I haven’t experienced before. With dashes of Metroid-style exploration thrown in for good measure, Curve Digital’s sequel is a mentally frustrating, albeit charming, experience with a high learning curve.
As one of a countless number of clones trying to escape from dozens of test rooms linked together, there isn’t too much story to go on other than the drive to survive what lies in store. In all honesty, it is easy to overlook as the gameplay itself occupies all of your concentration—right down to the minutely harsh mechanics. You will grimace more than once when trying to line up your spacing and timing down to the millisecond. As new tools and abilities are acquired, more areas open up and the difficulty of each room escalates.
On the visual end, I was equally impressed and miffed at the use of black space in exploration and progression. As new areas of test rooms unfolded from the darkness almost organically, it was always crisp and smooth without interrupting my own internal process or getting in the way of my clone’s movements. This was a welcome sight to see, considering how much strain I had to put on my eyes discerning everything amidst the game’s dark-shaded pallet. Even with my display’s brightness at maximum, I still had to take precious time to look around and see exactly what was killing me from the darkness.
Much like its predecessor, Stealth 2 demands a lot of death, and you will comply generously. There is little forgiveness in the facility, as even one toe exposed from cover will toggle alarms, lasers, and a mess of other defense mechanisms ready to reset your progress. Thankfully, the automatic save/reset system means you are brought back to life within seconds, just about removing any load times.
More twitch-based platformer than puzzler, Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones iterates on the philosophy of its original game with excellence, delivering a wonderfully addictive experience that will have you cursing and cheering in equal measure.