Stealth Inc.: A Clone in the Dark is a 2D stealth platformer released on PlayStation consoles in 2013 (PS4 in Feb 2014). The original version was released as Stealth Bastard Deluxe: Tactical Espionage Arsehole on PC, but due to regulations on Sony’s online store, a name change was in order. Stealth Inc. puts you in charge of a little goggle-wearing clone as he’s enlisted to navigate a series of rooms and reach the exit.
Simple in concept, Stealth Inc. is deceptively difficult. As the little clone, you’re thrown into what is essentially a series of challenge rooms, in which you have to navigate in the shadows through to the exit. What appears easy proves challenging, as you have to time progression in shadows to avoid detection from robot enemies. Throw in the added pressure of trying to gain the all important S-Rank at the end of each level, and things really start to boil over.
At its core, it’s a great little platformer with nice bite-sized levels, which makes it a perfect game to play in short bursts. Each level lasts for a couple of minutes, and navigation is easy with your clone being able to move quite quickly. At the end of each level, you’re given a rank from F to S. These are decided based on how many times you were seen by enemies, how fast you completed the level, and whether or not you managed to find the hidden collectible item.
Gaining S-Rank is difficult enough, especially when you consider that certain levels are locked off if you don’t S-Rank all the levels in a chapter. I understand that this is a way to encourage players to perfect the game, but given how short Stealth Inc. is, it makes these locked-away levels frustrating — it kind of feels like S-Ranking is just a way to lengthen the game.
The little clone you’re given has no name, he’s just a little man who wants to reach the end. Comparisons can easily be made to Chell in Portal – you’re thrown into a world with only the goal of reaching the end. Just like Portal, however, there is an unseen force that goads you along the way. Words appear on walls as slink your way through levels, almost making fun of you. When your little clone meets a messy demise — and that will happen a lot — words will appear on screen, usually suggesting for some improvement or even throwing out a ‘told you that would happen’.
Death is a common occurence in Stealth Inc. and fortunately resetting is not a painful process. Death is fortunately something that is usually your fault and each one is a learning experience, except in some of the later levels where you have to use distraction to divert the attention of the robot enemies. Another level that sees you jumping on a piano to distract a robot from killing another clone had me resetting many times, and frustratingly this was not my fault.
Overall though, Stealth Inc. is a lot of fun and is an enjoyably smart puzzle platformer, albeit with some frustrating later levels. For those who like a real challenge, attempting to S-Rank all levels will keep you occupied for hours on end. The ending is bittersweet, but also darkly comic.