Stealth Inc. review: Fiendishly fun retro 2D gaming action for iOS
Stealth Inc. is a puzzle-platform game for iPhone and iPad that, as its name implies, involves a lot of sneaking around. You control a series of disposable clones that tackle the game’s seemingly impossible lethal levels, leaping over whirring saw blades, dodging laser beams, and hiding out of sight of murderous robot sentries.
The game has a lovely blend of fast-twitch hand speed and thoughtful pre-planning. It’s essential in each level to first work out which door, elevator, or trapdoor each button or computer console activates, and then determine the best route to the exit. But the execution of even the most meticulously thought-through plan is likely to require considerable hand-eye co-ordination, not to mention patience—often the key is forgetting the clock and waiting in the shadows for the right moment to strike.
Stealth Inc.’s gameplay is built on sound foundations, and the cosmetic edifice on top is good too; the pleasing variety of levels has a natural progression in the difficulty (platform addicts will be happy to learn that it gets tough, properly tough). And the look of Stealth Inc. is great, all dark greys and futuristic greens, making the occasional hot-pink laser beam or burst of crimson blood all the more alarming.
The game also has a sense of humor. You get to read “company memos” between levels that expand on the (minimal) backstory and crack little jokes. And certain actions trigger pointed criticism—”Do you need me to draw you a diagram?”—to appear, lit up in giant capitals on the walls.
The clones themselves are very slightly reminiscent of the minions in the film Despicable Me, with the addition of adorable night-vision goggles that glow green when they’re successfully hidden, and yellow or red the rest of the time. (Keeping an eye on your visibility status, also labeled at the bottom of the screen, is often a crucial part of cracking a level.)
Stealth Inc. made its name as a mouse-controlled PC game called Stealth Bastard, but the game works surprisingly smoothly with a touchscreen. There are buttons for jumping and crouching (and an extra Activate button that appears when relevant), and pressing and pushing left or right with your other thumb covers directional controls, like in Limbo.
Stealth Inc. is a quiet little masterpiece: tricky, funny, great-looking (in a 2D, retro sort of way) and very much its own game. It’s a lot of fun, but expect a fair but of frustration too, this being a classic platformer. Casual gamers may find the difficulty level a bit frustrating—you may get stuck on a level for a while, although this is alleviated by being offered a limited number of skips. Nevertheless Stealth Inc. is highly recommended.