Making a sequel can be tricky business. You want to appeal to fans while also going above and beyond your past efforts, a dilemma that can often lead a series into uncharted territory. Sequels are good about as often as they are bad, and it can be hard to convince the public to give a series a second chance after a poor debut. Stomaching all of that pressure, Curve Digital has taken great care in assuring Stealth Inc. 2 is everything the first game wasn’t.
The first Stealth Inc., originally called Stealth Bastard, boasted an array of well-designed platforming puzzles. However, many players became exhausted by the relentless onslaught of difficult contraptions and scarce plot fragments. Developers Curve Digital were quite candid as they spoke the title at PAX Prime, conceding that most players didn’t even finish the game. They also explained and demonstrated just how much they had altered the experience for the series’ newest entry, and things are looking good.
In fact, Stealth Inc. 2 is full of improvements over its predecessor. Curve used its experience from making the first game as well as player feedback to help craft an entirely superior experience, and it really shows. Every puzzle design is clever and unique, and thanks to the steady introduction of intriguing multi-purpose gadgets the level designs remain consistently fresh. There’s nothing to suggest any corners were cut in the construction of Stealth Inc. 2.
As a clone destined to test a company’s equipment prototypes, death is only a step away at any given moment. But when a bug in the system delivers an opportunity to escape, you’re suddenly sneaking through the building in search of freedom. Just as in the first game, players will have to navigate their way out all sorts of maniacal test chambers full of a variety of death-dealing hazards. It doesn’t take much to kill you, but with shrewd decision making and an eye for danger you’ll be golden.
It’s not quite that easy though. Steal Inc. 2 is brutal, and it never holds your hand. Instead it lets you learn from experience, and frequent checkpoints mean you’re never punished too harshly for your mistakes. Players have to take in their surroundings to solve puzzles; when you see blood splattered across a wall near a switch, it probably means death isn’t far away. The game teaches you by letting you teach yourself, and eventually makes you feel like a bona fide stealth master.
One significant addition to Stealth Inc. 2 is its Metroid-esque overworld. Players will guide their clone through traps and hazards between each actual test chamber, and can even return to areas they’ve already visited with their new gadgets to explore previously unreachable areas. It’s a genius move by Curve, as it not only fleshes out the experience and gives players some much-needed downtime between stages, but also allows the plot to be explored much more creatively. Stealth Inc. 2 is very much a visual game, as the sinister product tester projects all sorts of messages on the wall during your journey. The game never stops for plot development or tedious tutorials, giving the player a wonderful feeling of control. Yet again Curve shows off its design chops here, but like the best developers the team didn’t stop there.
They actually went above and beyond and accomplished what many thought to be impossible: clever use of the Wii U gamepad. Stealth Inc. 2 utilizes the console’s misunderstood controller in a unique co-op mode, allowing one player to control the clone and another to move objects, cameras, and switches to aid their companion. It’s a spin on the Stealth Inc. formula that would only be possible on the Wii U, and I commend the studio for embracing the hardware to its fullest.
The gamepad comes in handy yet again in the game’s brand new level editor, where players can design their own stages and share them with the world on Miiverse. Using either buttons or the stylus, the editor gives you access to every piece of equipment the game’s designers used to create the game, and it’s all extremely intuitive. Curve Digital is a firm believer in tailoring a game to the hardware, and it really shows.
Many gamers seem to have written off Stealth Inc. 2 assuming it will make the same mistakes the first game did, but I’ll bet many will be singing a different tune when they see all the additions and refinements Curve has included this time around. The developers really seemed to have tapped the game’s full potential, and if the final product is as thoughtful and polished as what I’ve played, Wii U owners will be in for a real treat when it launches exclusively on the console later this year.