Well, yet again, Wii U has received a superb indie game for the eShop. This one, though, stands out; Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is a Wii U exclusive. Publisher Curve Digital has committed to Nintendo’s home console for their latest release, and I have to say it is a valuable game that Nintendo can shout about.
As a Wii U exclusive, you might expect it to play off the specific abilities of the console. While Stealth Inc. 2 definitely benefits from the GamePad and Miiverse integration, however, it isn’t essential to the 2D puzzle-platforming. Off-TV play is as useful as normal for a platformer which can be played in small sessions, and you can have your gameplay achievements automatically displayed on Miiverse for all to see. Your second screen normally displays the map, which sounds generic but is genuinely helpful in this game. A sleek mix of a Super Mario 64-style hub world and a Metroidvania layout, you traverse through the labs and home of a person you may call a “scientist”.
Through doing this, you find “tests”, essentially levels for you to play. These cleverly introduce new tools – called Gadgets – which eventually get given to you in the hub world, subsequently opening up new paths. This balance of bite-sized play and a main world is balanced well and keeps the game from getting stale.
For a game called Stealth Inc., you may ask where the Stealth comes in. The game is mysterious, yet quirky, in how it presents the story. It is based off a competitive feud the scientist (as we will call him) is engaged in, and you are one of the many minions he experiments on. You have broken free, and are on a quest to – well, you won’t really know. You pass dormant fellow minions, and as you pass through the game a typographic commentary follows you. This text, which is displayed in the background, is Portal-like in its dark humour and helps to set Stealth Inc. 2 apart from the countless other Wii U eShop offerings. I often found myself chuckling to myself as I was mocked for failure or congratulated at unexpected success. There are a handful of set-piece cutscenes scattered through the game – generally found after clearing one of the several parts of the map – which are well done and also have that offbeat humour to them.
But Stealth isn’t restricted to the story. Much of the platforming gameplay is focused around avoiding sigh of enemies and cameras, and manipulating shadows – which provide you with cover – is a complex and well-used mechanic; especially when the Gadgets come in. You get to use a throw-able item amusingly called the “Inflate-a-Mate”, which can provide shadow cover as well as grating access to far away switches and more. These gadgets bring in more and more clever puzzles as you progress, with abilities like enemy hacking coming into the fray.
Despite the variety in gameplay, the visuals don’t match that. This is largely down to the setting of the game – rather generic-looking labs and mechanical areas take up much of the game – and it starts to feel bland after a while. There isn’t much excitement in the general graphic style, which is a shame compared to the typographic running commentary and suitably quirky characters. Your main minion is adorable in his Splinter Cell-like gear, and can be made to look different with the collectible outfit options (which are well-hidden, for those collectors). At a few points of the game Stealth Inc. 2 plays with having colourful produce posters alongside the blank background, and while the juxtaposition works brilliantly it just doesn’t happen enough.
Much more pleasing is the sound design. It builds up and has real tension to it, making it feel like an action movie at times! As you progress to new and different areas, it steps up a notch, too, which helps the sense of progression the gameplay delivers. Aside from some visual repetitiveness, the presentation of this game is top-notch.
To sum up, Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones isn’t just another puzzle platformer. The quirky humour and deep stealth-based gameplay mechanics make this stand out from the crowd; it deserves to be picked up by Wii U owners, so don’t let this pass you buy. Nintendo has a great little exclusive here, so shout it to all you know; just not too loudly, you might break our cover (yes, that was a bad stealth joke).
Disclosures: The copy of “Stealth Inc. 2” was supplied to us by Curve Studios for the purposes of the review.