A little encouragement goes a long way. Like when you were 3, and you proudly presented your mangled monstrosity of a painting to your mother, and she likely beamed and gushed with such boundless enthusiasm for your grotesque inability that you decided you should probably be an artist. Stealth Bastard Deluxe is instead like the drunken father, who glanced at your painting, then shouted at you for being worthless, tore the painting up into tiny little bits, flogged you with a cactus, and then sent you off to your bed of nails.
Expect no mercy. Not even a tiny little bit. Stealth Bastard Deluxe is absolutely relentless. It gives you barely more than a whisper of how the game operates, before tossing you straight in at the deep end. And the deep end has sharks. And killy stuff. By the time most games have finished giving you a tutorial, SBD already expects you to be a master spy.
Imagine the Thief series as a 2D platformer, set to treble speed, and you might get a rough idea of how things work. Light is your enemy and darkness is your friend. Staying in the dark will enable you to avoid probably imminent death for just a little longer. And various mechanical bad things are out looking for you, and are very efficient in their task of showing no mercy. Essentially it is a puzzle game, which also requires precision timing and nimble acrobatics.
Predictably, you will die a lot. Sometimes from an uber death laser, which is admittedly a funky way to go, or sometimes it is just getting caught in a closing door, which is considerably more embarrassing. But the whole time you play, the game is brazenly mocking you. Every time you die it jibes your inadequacy, questions your intelligence, and impugns your abilities. Since you will die a lot, you better get used to it.
As a game, SBD works well. The concept is not brand new, but it feels fresh and different enough. Possibly the only minor failing I would level at it, is that it tends to reward trial and error a little higher than genuine skill. So perhaps after trying and failing 5 times, you are forced to explore every dark crevice, and might find some hidden room which will enable you to progress. Locating essential areas which lie in the darkness is a common theme, so will require a lot of screen squinting to figure out exactly what to do at times.
The base game itself shouldn’t take too many hours to complete, but SBD has some rather sneaky ways of extending lifespan. Firstly, there is the inclusion of global leaderboards. So gamers can take part in a worldwide joystick waggling competition to see who is the most awesome. Not content with being placed in position 3,401? Shave an extra second off your level time, and you could reach the heady height of position 2,845. It is actually annoyingly addictive, since you always know you could do just that little bit better if you really tried.
The second way of extending lifespan is a bit more dubious. Your first play through each level is enforced as just a basic character with no special abilities. But then after you complete each level, you will then have the ability to go back and replay that level with the new ability you just unlocked. So there are a few tricks and tools, such as camo gear, a decoy, or even a teleporter. These can assist the level quite a bit, but the problem is, you don’t get to access each tool until you have completed the level with every previous tool. So for example, if you wanted to use the teleporter on a level, you’d have to play that exact level 5 times previously to earn all the other tools, before the teleporter would be unlocked. It is a really lazy way of extending lifespan, even if some of the tools are quite fun to use. There are just very few people who would be devoted enough to play each level 6 times over.
And the third method of extending gameplay is the splendid addition of community-created levels. These are not something you will need to download separately and install, but rather you can access them directly using the in-game menu. The results can be sorted by ratings if required, so you can be sure of finding all the very best levels that the community has to offer. Potentially limitless gametime overall then, so nobody could argue that SBD is not good value for money.
Blow your mind, Stealth Bastard Deluxe will not. But an entertaining indie experience it will delight in providing. As polished as my shuriken collection, and as deadly as my cooking, there is whole world of fun, and fast-paced stealth awaiting you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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