Ever since Solid Snake hid under his first box, or Garret slunk into his first shadow, gamers have hungered for the cognitive challenges that come from a good stealth game. Curve Digital Game's Stealth Inc. hopes to bring some of that clandestine goodness to iOS, offering pint-sized sneaking for an equally pint-sized price.
In Stealth Inc. you play as one of many cloned sneaky guys (girls? It's hard to know gender with those little dudes), as you traverse deadly corridors on a perpetual quest to reach the exit. There's a morbid sense of humor here, with sharp bits of writing helping accent the action. Messages pop up in the background, both instructing you on how to progress and occasionally taunting you. If you step on the wrong switch and squash yourself, the game tells you, "Heads up." Another switch seems the obvious choice for progress but actually activates a deadly laser, killing you. "Everyone does that," says Stealth Inc., with a sly smile and a snarky nod.
Good writing is good, but without good gameplay to go along with it all is for naught; fortunately, Stealth Inc., delivers. Though most gamers think of stealth games as action/platformers, most are actually puzzlers, and this one asks similar levels of cranial power from its players. Each area holds an untold slew of bloodthirsty traps and obstacles, and only through quick thinking and careful observation will players persevere. You'll push blocks, time your jumps, and hide from the ever-present eye of the many cameras, using darkness as your ally. At the bottom of the screen is an indicator telling you how well the darkness obscures you at any moment; the color of the message corresponds with the color of your character's goggles, letting you know how hidden you are even in those moments where you can't spare a second to look down.
At the end of each level you can see where your time stands compared to other players around the globe, reminding you of just how much you suck compared to everyone else and, at the same time, giving some extra replay value for those hungry to climb the leaderboards. The controls, though solid for a touch screen, will make you long for the ease of a controller. Not everything translates well to touch-based gameplay, and Stealth Inc.'s precision-based platforming/stealth action would be better served allowing players to use physical controllers.
Stealth Inc.'s tiny graphics aren't for the faint-of-eyes, and its playfully punishing gameplay isn't for the impatient. But if you don't mind taking your time and working your way through problems as they're presented to you, what you'll find is a charming, but devilishly clever, stealth title more than worthy of your time.