Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones Sneaks onto Wii U
Curve Studios is one of my favorite providers of entertainment at the moment. Offering delicious bites of gaming bliss seems second nature for them. After Stealth, Inc (so there was a bit of a name change in there somewhere) found popularity on PC, home consoles, smartphones, etc. its sequel lands squarely on the Wii U. Some may feel disheartened: after all, the console wars are strong, and many have already written off the Wii U as a kiddy device unable to deliver a hardcore gaming experience. Nintendo is pushing against that image, offering hardcore gamers new experiences in games such as Bayonetta 2 and branching out with their niche market by letting another team tackle an adventure in Hyrule Warriors. Stealth Inc. 2 shows a meeting in the middle; Nintendo reaching out to a more mature market, while the developers themselves are embracing the spirit that is Nintendo.
Stealth Inc. originally was a brutal puzzle game. The add-on content, The Lost Clones, took it even higher on the challenge scale. It was a modern retro game reminiscent of Super Meat Boy, taking "classic hardcore" to the next level. And while this is a valid design choice, I found myself fading away from it as time went on and the difficulty ramped up. This is in no way saying it was a bad game, it simply pushed the limits further than I appreciated. I remember having controller-throwing tantrums at classic games, but as my life has evolved and children have entered the picture, my time to invest in "do it again" gameplay is nil. This frustration is spread out more with the MetroidVania attitude: offering the simple addition of someTHING in between all the chaotic puzzle rooms gives that breathing room to not feel stuck when the menu offers "room X" and everything else is beaten: I feel like I can go explore and find more to do.
The sequel allows there to be more storyline from the get-go as well. The mysterious "Tester" who taunted our hero through the first game now has cutscenes to his name, and a more pronounced motive from the get-go than the previous game. His personality shows more as you head off into places he has less control over, suddenly turning soft and friendly, inviting and welcoming you back to his little fun house.
Overall, Stealth Inc. 2 succeeds much like the Arkham series of games: take what works, DON'T MESS IT UP, and add more to the experience, fleshing out the idea and giving the player more to come back to. If you enjoyed the first, this is obviously a no-brainer. Wii U owners wondering if they are jumping in at an odd time with the sequel need not fear, you get the gist of what's going on rather quickly. Allowing you to explore, rather than just chase down the rooms in a menu, adds more life to the world. Sure, the puzzles get more demanding as the game goes on, but I wouldn't have it any other way. Stealth Inc's series also succeeds a la Arkham in the fact that the universe has a ruleset, and you have to figure out how to work it to your advantage. Enemies have limited sight, you can be seen in certain levels of light. Lasers move at a certain speed. If anything ever causes your death, it's you, not the fault of some unfair AI.
A copy of Stealth Inc 2: A Game of Clones was provided by Curve Studios for review. You can purchase it on the Nintendo eShop for $14.99