In response to a few recent games that appear to be lacking in the criteria. This is a short list and thoughts on some stand out game mechanics that developers seem to be ignoring and need to build upon.
Stealth Bastard Deluxe
I don’t generally enjoy stealth in games. I’m much more of a rush at the enemy and mow ‘em all down kind of player. So when Stealth Bastard (Tactical Espionage Arsehole) Deluxe promised me a fast-paced stealth experience, I had to try it out, and I wasn’t disappointed.
You play as a chubby little clone trapped in a facility loaded with lasers, blocks and killer robots, who all want to dismember you into a thousand little pieces. Your only weapon against them is the shadows around you and your ability to hide in them. Light is your enemy, if the searching eyes of the cameras or the robots find you, then lasers cut you down.
To escape the facility, you must sneak ever so carefully through the corridors, always remaining hyper-aware of how well you are hiding. This information can be found as a status at the bottom of the screen. Stealth Bastard Deluxe is good about teaching players how to move through the world and also how to control your clone. The beginning of the first level is a tutorial that I couldn’t imagine trying the game without it.
The controls are good, for the most part, though sometimes I found that jumping and grabbing a ledge was kind of awkward, as you have to hit jump and then the direction key, and there were occasions where I just didn’t grab the ledge and then died. I also had a bit of an issue with dropping down from one ledge to another. It probably would have been better to make the ledge grabbing automatic after the jump, though that would’ve stolen a bit of the challenge of the game. I didn’t have any other control issues, though I wish that crouch was separate from the arrow down key. I kept hitting ‘C’ and then dying because that wasn’t the right key for crouch.
The levels have a lot of detail in them, and all the killer traps look glorious when they take you out or are running and keeping you from progressing.
There’s something or someone watching you as you progress through the levels, and it leaves sarcastic messages on the walls when you either do really well or you fail miserably. While the writing is often good for a laugh, it makes me wonder exactly who’s watching what I’m doing and why are they letting me escape in the first place.
Individual levels are fairly short, but that’s to be expected in a game with a lot of different puzzles for players to solve. It also means that players have all they need to solve the level on the screen itself, though there were a few instances where I
needed to go somewhere and found it accidently when I was looking around for hidden spaces. Once I knew to look for spaces in the darkened areas, I was fine, but fumbling around that first time was slightly frustrating.
In stealth games, getting caught gets you killed, and Stealth Bastard has some really evil ways for your clone to bite it. You must get over the fact that you’re not going to solve every level on the first try and that sometimes knowing what you have to do and achieving it are two different things. This can make the game frustrating, especially when you’re pressing the right keys and it’s still not working. Once you decide that death doesn’t matter as long as you learn something from it, then the game is less infuriating, though I still cursed those damn killer robots every time they blew me to pieces.
One other cool thing is that the level editor comes with the game, so you can make your own fiendish levels and share them with the community of Stealth Bastard players. The ones I played were incredibly clever and very devious. Definitely a smart move on the part of Curve Studios.
Stealth Bastard Deluxe is available on PC through Steam.
Note: Stealth Bastard Deluxe was reviewed after six hours of gameplay on normal levels and one hour of play on community built levels.