I imagine the folks at Curve Studios as real risk takers; bungee jumping on weekends, sky diving after work, claiming Twilight Princess to be the best Zelda game. You know, adrenaline junkie kind of stuff.
That daredevil attitude certainly carries over to their games as well. Stealth Inc. , available for the Vita and PS3, is hardly a safe, bankable game. Doesn’t everyone hate stealth in games? While it has been done properly, stealth’s surge of popularity in the early 2000’s led to poor implementation across the board. ‘Stealth’ quickly became a dirty word, but complaints fell on deaf ears as it continued to show up in the unlikeliest of places.
Curve Studios may be ballsy in their approach, but they’ve certainly got the product to back them up. Stealth Inc. is an informed take on the genre, one that rights the mistakes others have made and iterate on.
Stealth Inc. casts the player as a clone, an expendable commodity in the game’s fiction. Placed in a room laced with booby traps, it’s the players job to steer their agent of espionage to the exit. Lasers, turrets, and wandering drones complicate matters, but every obstacle has its solution. Each of Stealth Inc.‘s stages is better described as a puzzle room. The exit edges ever closer as the player solves its various components.
Lurkingin the shadows is best, and the game provides excellent feedback as to whether you’re visible or not. The goggles your clone adorns glow green when hidden, and red when visible. It’s simple, and allows the stealth portion of the game to behave as it should. Failure is frequent, and it’s clear your presence isn’t wanted. However, checkpoints are abundant, making the frustration of being spotted a thing of the past. It’s no cakewalk either, you’re always on your toes and waiting for the right moment to strike. The instant restarts after death aren’t to make things easier, but to promote the player to continue. It’s a very modern sensibility thrown into a world of nostalgic difficulty.
The variety present in Stealth Inc. is especially worth commending. Each group of stages adds a new wrinkle to the mix, keeping things fresh. These are hardly minor additions, and Curve’s talent really shines through in how well they are each fleshed out. Mobile security bots add their own menace, but later worlds task you with using them to your advantage. Throw teleporters into the mix to ratchet the craziness up once more. With each new mechanic, a previous one gains a twist in how it works in a new set of stages.
One thing that really stood was how much Stealth Inc. reminded me of Fluidity: Spin Cycle. Level progression is very similar between the two; large rooms that contain several puzzles which unlock the exit as they’re solved. It was a pleasant surprise, one I should have seen coming considering the two share a director in Jonathan Biddle. But there is a large difference between the two. In Spin Cycle, there is a way to fail; if you run out of health, you are forced to restart, losing your progress. Stealth Inc. never punishes the player, level restarts aren’t ever forced upon the player. It’s a preferable method, personally, and it’s very much appreciated.
Stealth Inc. is terrific, made even better by the fact it has managed to correct the repeated mistakes of those that came before it. It’s a unique blend of stealth and puzzler, and I’d suggest you check it out.