Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it — or, you know, die in the process.
It seems Curve Studios caught wind of my battle cry. You see, after completing the studio’s excellent 2D platformer, Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark earlier this year, I immediately wanted more. It wasn’t so much about the continuation of the story as it was the desire to take on more excruciating challenges — solving puzzles and fooling AI, Solid Snake-style. Alas, the developers have answered the proverbial encore with Stealth Inc: The Lost Clones; the second and final batch of downloadable content for the intense and inspired genre piece.
If Stealth Inc: A Clone In The Dark introduced us to the ruthless milieu of PTi Industries — think Aperture Laboratories on a power trip — then The Lost Clones explores the factory’s underlying history. As such, the titular, world-wearing replicas serve as the in-game collectibles, which in turn encourages you to stray from the highly surveilled path to locate their whereabouts. Granted, your success doesn’t hinge on these wayward members of the workforce. It does, however, add an extra layer to the game’s replay value, which itself is as enticing and rewarding as ever.
In truth, the additional content retains much of the form factor from the prime release; stages are divided into seven individual levels that culminate with a climactic boss fight. And though the expansion may appear to be a carbon copy upon first glance, there has been a notable spike in difficulty since A Clone In The Dark. As if Curve Studios’ title wasn’t brutal enough, it seems PTi Industries is under new, no-nonsense management. Environments are compact, claustrophobic and frustratingly dynamic. So much so, that the excruciating laser traps and additional drones will have you retreating into the shadows more often that not.
Of course, this is the crux of the Stealth Inc.’s inherent charm. It’s a bona fide puzzle title that injects the stealth genre with a blinding sense of pace. As an example, the Crunch Time level (or, technically speaking, 1-6) is a tactile thrill ride that’ll have you squeezing between shifting walls and evading airborne buzzsaws left, right and center. Moreover, while boss fights are overly familiar too, they’re are also much more complex; in fact, the numerous layers and mind-bending portals often lead to a Scooby Doo-styled chase as you flit between light and shadow.
Although the added content is limited to twenty stages, Curve Studios have moulded an incredible amount of personality into the industrial universe. The atmospheric lighting coupled with the music — composed to perfection by Sam Robinson and Ricky Honmong — lends PTi Industries a tangible sense of place. Once again, gameplay is smooth, tactile and overly rewarding, and the unlockable items — including the camouflage suit and deceitful holograms — reprise their role among your in-game arsenal in order to make that second run-through slightly more bearable.
Ultimately, The Lost Clones is DLC done right; an adjacent chapter in the story that neither dilutes nor overshadows the initial product. In fact, the add-on boasts its own set of trophies and dedicated leaderboards, too, so you can share your success (or lack thereof) with the rest of the world. Much like the original game, Curve Studios’ latest expansion is also cross-buy and cross-save, meaning you can upload your serendipitous adventures to the cloud to continue on the go.
With Stealth Inc., the proof was already in the pixels. Curve Studios’ highly addictive platformer won the hearts and minds of PlayStation gamers back in July. In the case of The Lost Clones DLC, though, the expansion iterates on much of the game’s core legacy — such as the demanding challenges and signature sense of humour — that smuggles the game back into the industry limelight with style.
This review is based on the PlayStation Vita version of the game, which we were provided with.
Stealth Inc: The Lost Clones is a welcomed return for Curve Studios’ indie gem; a concise, well-paced curtain call that’ll put your reflexes to the test as you delve into the murky history of PTi Industries.