This game has had quite the identity crisis over the years. It began life as Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole
in a free to download form from Curve Studios
in 2011 (which you can still find in the wilds of the net)
before making its debut on Steam in late 2012
as merely Stealth Bastard Deluxe
It’s also since appeared on OS X and Linux, with an Android
version released in June 2013 as part of the delightful Humble Bundle
. And now the game of many names and platforms is making its way to PSVita
via cross buy.
But first, that slightly un-PC title had to go and Curve
took the unusual route of asking the readers of the PlayStation
blog to help them choose the new name. The result, after 3500+ entries
, was to combine two of their favourites into Stealth Inc. - A Clone in the Dark!
Regardless of the name, Stealth Inc.
is a title that is all about the combination of stealthiness and sneakiness. You’ll play as a little fragile clone loose in the workings of the massive factory which birthed you, going through trial after trial to please (or amuse) an unseen overlord.
The shadows are your friend, allowing you to avoid the mortal gaze of sentry guns, surveillance cameras and robots who want nothing more than to shoot you til you are dead. But unlike many stealth titles, you’re also tasked with completing the levels as quick as possible.
The result is a unique take on the genre, including more than a touch of SuperMeat Boy
in the fact that death is an inevitable element of progression. Sometimes traps will be unavoidable and springing them a necessity in order to figure out how to beat the puzzle. And other times the timing and precision needed will ensure failure.
A generous checkpointing system means, like in Meat Boy
, these deaths are rarely frustrating, giving you the chance to immediately go back and reassess the situation. In a neat touch, whoever is watching your progress will often project messages onto the levels themselves. It looks great and has a self-aware and subversive element - early examples are usually helpful while the tone later in the game coaxes you towards death and mocks your failure.
The gameplay is remarkably simple, minimal controls are essential for this kind of stripped down gameplay and you’ll find nothing extraneous here. Jumping, crouching and interacting will see you through all manner of scrapes, increasingly using your robot enemies to help you push inaccessible buttons while keeping out of their range of fire. The eight worlds each have seven regular levels plus a challenging boss which tests all the skills you’ve learned.
The translation to Sony’s
systems is utterly slick, complete with touchscreen menus and arguably the most attractive version of the game to date. The 2D visuals were always striking, particularly the real time lighting and the sinister typography. Little details like watching for the colour of your characters goggles (red means dead) shine on Vita
and everything is presented in a way that’s clear and easy to understand in a split second.
I’ve played the game in all of its previous incarnations, including the disappointing Android
version - let’s just say these kind of precise movements aren’t that easy on a 4 inch touch screen. And this latest version is the best yet in terms of the responsiveness of the controls. Stealth Inc.
was made for a gamepad and feels particularly suited to the Vita.
There’s more content here too - including the ability to unlock new suits with extra abilities that make your life just a tiny bit easier and a fully featured level editor for creating your own challenges.
Frustration is part of Stealth Inc.’s
DNA and some levels will test your patience - though Curve
has given you the option to skip three levels during your playthrough. Sometimes you’ll know precisely what to do but the pixel-perfect movements might defeat your stubby fingers time and again, while some checkpoints are a little more punitive than they might be.
But, once you’ve passed these moments, it’s easy to forgive for the game’s unique aspect - a mixture of careful creeping and sometimes recklessly throwing yourself across a level and hoping for the best. These elements make me miss the utterly appropriate original title - Stealth Bastard
combines your major action in game with the least explicit expletive you’re likely to utter when another break for freedom ends in ludicrous gibs.Stealth Inc.
platforms in another cross-buy/cross-save win for gamers. That means whether you buy the game on Vita
, you’ll also be able to play it on the other platform and even sync your save games. It’s a generous service and one which helps to make this new version all the more worthy of a recommendation.Available on PSN everywhere from July 24th.