Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones is slinking its way from the Wii U to almost every other major platform you can think of, Curve have officially announced today. It’s not just the trio of PlayStation consoles – PS4, PS3 and PS Vita – but the game is also coming to Xbox One and PC, set to step out of the shadows some time in April.
That puts it almost exactly six months after the original release on Wii U, which came back in October of last year, and goes some way to explaining Curve’s caginess when it came to answering questions about other platforms in the run up to that original release.
Compared to the first game, Stealth Inc. 2 was a quite major step up in terms of gameplay. Rather than focussing purely on test chambers and puzzles built into the environment, it added a big new Metroidvania-style overworld in which the test chambers were hidden, as well as introducing several new gadgets like the Inflate-A-Mate inflatable block and the Jack Boy robot hijacking tool.
However, the Wii U will keep an exclusive hold on one major feature, the asymmetrical co-operative play. This saw one person taking control of the clone on the TV screen, while the other provided support from the touchpad, with some slightly rejigged puzzles to fit.
In response to the knee jerk reaction that such a system would work between PS4 and PS Vita, Jonathan “Bidds” Biddle, Design Director at Curve, said quite definitively that, “The co-op version was definitely specifically for [the Wii U] hardware. I guess some people might be saying it would work with Vita and PS4, but that is quite an ambitious way to go about doing that and the submissions things there are quite difficult and very tricky to do. It’s not something we really looked at doing; we knew straight away it would just be too expensive for us to do that.”
Speaking about how this co-op play was developed though, he added, “So I made it on PC, the co-op system, and I had a Surface for the Gamepad and a proper PC with the controller. I did most of it on that and then the guys converted it and I didn’t really play it that much on Wii U. I didn’t have time, I was too busy writing the script, doing the cameras and things like that, so I’ve played it so few times that when it launched I was like, ‘Please, please, please!’ But everyone liked it, and I was like, ‘Thank *&^% for that!'”
While certainly not an afterthought in development, the co-op gameplay is definitely more of an added experience, rather than integral to the game, and this is still an expansive sequel compared to the relatively straightforward original. In particular, the open world exploration that let you take those various gadgets that you acquired during test chamber sequences and apply them both new areas and open areas that you had previously visited further – one of the core ideas of a Metroidvania world.
Yet, while you could use any gadget that you wanted to at any time when exploring the PTI Industries facility, you were always restricted to just one gadget at a time within the test chambers.
As Bidds explained, “Too many options can sometimes be a bad thing. People have always asked, ‘How come you can’t throw an Inflate-A-Mate, hack an enemy and then put it on the Inflate-A-Mate?’ But then the tree of possibilities becomes hard for us to design for and hard for people to understand what would be expected of them to solve a puzzle. It becomes less fun then.
“Constraints are actually good when it comes to puzzle design – the way that we do it, anyway. Removing options makes it clearer for the player and clarity is important in puzzle design.”
It’s a nice and clear decision, which certainly helps to ensure you’re never really overwhelmed by the tools at your disposal in the heat of the moment. Yet it’s also a point holds true for the level creation tools which allow you to create and, most importantly, you can now share levels of your own devising.
“We wanted to do it for Stealth Inc.,” Bidds revealed, “but at the time it just proved too much for us, for the time we had and the money we had. When Stealth Inc. 2 kicked off, we were like, ‘OK, we can either go and put it in Stealth Inc. or we can put that all into Stealth Inc. 2 and make that better.’
“We’re only small and we’ve only got a limited budget, so we have to make decisions based on what we can afford. The decision was made to focus the community and the editor all on the sequel.”
Another area that Stealth Inc. 2 improved upon was the inclusion of an actual story. It was great to see the malevolent actions of a jobsworth like Malcolm Alderman, Snr. Quality Assurance at PTI Industries, reveal the true horrors that lie behind the company in a mixture of cutscenes and the snippy comments projected on walls. Yet, I occasionally found myself feeling lost within the facility and unsure of where to go next.
When I asked Bidds about this, he replied, “A lot of Metroidvania games you play, they are very rudderless. In Super Metroid, it’s one of the ones which leaves you to your own devices and suggests where you want to go but doesn’t say much more. So you kind of have to think, ‘I’ll use a Power Bomb here,’ or you go through places which do not look immediately traversable.
“We didn’t do that, and we would quite often put down a beacon so you knew where you were going. So you knew you had to get there, and because our world’s a lot smaller than theirs, typically that should be enough. We didn’t want to hold hands too much, because then it becomes a more linear experience, and the whole point really was that you’re not supposed to be driven, you’re supposed to be exploring.”
As I wrote at the time of its Wii U release, Stealth Inc. 2 is a really smart sequel. It takes what the original game was and then wraps that essence up in a large new world and with lots of new and interesting toys to play with. If you enjoyed the first game, but were disappointed to see its sequel end up as a Wii U exclusive, then there’s not long to wait for that to change.