Fresh from a successful period on the PC – with a name too crude to be published here – Curve Studios has transposed its undercover espionage excursion to the PlayStation 3 and Vita. However, while its title may be slightly less colourful, Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark retains the assets that made its computer counterpart great: tense stealth action at a much prompter pace.
The game's unique take on covert operations makes for a refreshing experience that's perfectly geared towards slender play sessions. Stages are short and can be completed in a span of 30 seconds to a minute, a trait which leapfrogs the laborious nature of traditional stealth games. However, the release is not a simple strut in the shadows, as traps, surveillance equipment, and more will be keeping a furtive eye on your underhand activities. Fortunately, the title maintains its pick-up-and-go sensibilities, with frequent checkpoints instantaneously deploying replacement clones should you get caught. It's essentially Super Meat Boy meets Splinter Cell – and that's awesome.
Donning a set of spy goggles and a stealth suit, you're tasked with opening and passing through exits in a series of science facility test rooms, trying your best to complete each trial in the swiftest time possible and with the fewest deaths. Computer terminals need to be hacked in order to open the aforementioned escapes, while switches can be interacted with to alter the environments. Puzzles involve toggling lights, activating mobile platforms, and more. The conundrums are accompanied by some precision platforming elements, as you leap across gaps, traverse ledges, and dodge deadly robotic menaces such as security cameras, sentry turrets, laser beams, and more.
The stages are snappy and neatly designed, challenging your speedy stealth skills and actively encouraging experimentation as you overcome traps. Dying is a common occurrence, as you figure out the flow of the level. However, much like in Hotline Miami, the instant respawn system and generous checkpoints make death trivial, and prompt you to keep playing. You're expected to fail and make mistakes, and the game actively acknowledges that. Messages can be spotted on walls, ranging from patronising encouragement to taunts. It's wonderfully self-aware.
Levels grow in complexity as you progress, incorporating teleporters and more. It's these stages that demand the most from you, but feel exceptionally rewarding as a result. At the end of each block of objectives is a boss, testing everything that you've encountered previously in a devious mass of security circuitry. Prompting your humanoid to make a mockery out of these adversaries, your hands a blur as you operate on instinct, is quite a thrill. And this is furthered by the online leaderboards, which offer an excellent incentive to replay levels and cut down your times.
Scoreboards aren't your only option for sticking with the game, though, as there are collectible helixes, bonus levels, and additional spy suits to unlock. These extra costumes augment you with additional gadgetry to shave seconds off your best times, so it's worth experimenting with them all. One outfit, for example, equips you with temporary invisibility, allowing you to step out of the shadows without fear of instant death. There's even a level editor, comprising an intuitive set of tools that allow you to easily create your own devilish challenges. However, it's a shame that there's no way to currently share and download new stages composed by the community.
Regardless, you can power through the campaign and construct your own trials on the move, as the title is playable on both the PS3 and Vita. The release supports full cross-buy, and even a cloud save option for swiftly switching between the platforms. However, the game looks best on Sony's handheld, with the small screen enhancing the title's sharp sprites. Irrespective of platform, though, it can be a dull affair, partly due to the covert theme. There are some nice touches – your clone's goggles change colour to denote whether you're visible, for example – but on the whole, it's a little drab. Given the dystopian science facility setting, there was an opportunity to rival Portal here, but that potential largely goes unfulfilled from a graphical perspective.
Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark sneaks past the usual tactical espionage action tropes, serving up a fast-paced adventure that's enjoyable in short bursts. While the release could have used a little more visual impact, the leaderboard loop is moreish, and there's plenty to do. Keep your viewfinder focused on this one, and don't let it slip you by.