Stealth Inc 2 could use more stealth.
I was instantly hooked on ninja-style stealth games after playing through the first Tenchu. Until then I had been a big fan of action games, but something about methodically waiting until the perfect moment to strike really gets my blood pumping. Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones eschews the dark and bloody world of the ninja in favor of a more whimsical approach that stresses puzzle-solving and platforming. This gives the game a completely different feel than traditional stealth games.
Players take on the role of a nameless clone whose job is to test toys in a factory that's more dangerous than any sweatshop on Earth. Apparently, dodging a wide variety of lasers while also escaping killer robots, hacking terminals, and avoiding deadly bombs is all in a day's work for these blue-collar employees. Where's a union when you need one? Soon the clueless clone escapes from captivity and tries to uncover the truth behind the testing while also rescuing fellow captives.
This sequel expands upon the original by giving players a challenging hub world to explore while they're looking for test chambers. Most test chambers force players to experiment with a gadget, and passing enough test chambers unlocks that gadget for the rest of the game. One of my favorite gadgets is the stealth goggles that change colors when the clone becomes visible. It's a useful effect that's easy to see, quick to recognize, and doesn't force players to look away from their character during tricky navigation. Another cool gadget is the inflatable platform that can also be intuitively used for both offensive and defensive. Conversely, using the Jack Boy to control a security robot while also controlling my own character seemed unnecessarily challenging and lead to many untimely deaths.
Also annoying is the fact that many puzzles will suddenly turn into a life-or-death situation that requires quick reflexes to escape. At any time players can expect something like a simple switch activation to make some deadly device pop up out of nowhere and scream towards their clone. It reminds me of how enemies are triggered in Doom 3. I can appreciate how it breaks up the slow pace of stealth, but I think this feature is used too often and, to be honest, I don't require action elements in my stealthy adventure. It would really help if the controls could be customized, but currently any keyboard and mouse controls changed at the beginning of the PC version revert back to the default setting once the game is started.
To make up for a lack of co-operative play on the PC version, the developers have created a robust level editor so players can create their own test chambers. With the ability to create levels in many sizes that feature numerous objects and multiple layers, this provides virtually unlimited replay value. There's already a good selection of custom levels to download, so why not see what there is to play and then make a few levels yourself?
Despite a couple of minor bugs and a few questionable game elements, Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones is a fun and well-made game that will please most players. It definitely requires patience to enjoy, but I prefer more traditional stealth games that reward players with stealth kills and combat additions instead of new platforming gadgets.