Friday 3 February 2012

Top Indie Stealth Games

Stealth has been an under-served genre for some time now - ever since the heady heights of the early noughties that established the franchises that to this day are left waving the flag: Thief, Hitman, Splinter Cell. For each of those there's a Metal Gear that's lost its way in another firefight, or a Project IGI that's silently slipped away.

This is why we love indies.

Games That You Can Play Now

What Deity establishes that most of the games here also display is almost puzzle-like gameplay. Here you play a demon thing who can possess light sources in order to move undetected, and who must strike his foes from behind, stringing together leaps from enemy to enemy before shooting back into the shadows. The omniscient perspective and simplified mechanics work together to make each room a combination lock that only needs the right timing, the right angle and the right plan to pull off. It's slick and it's fun, but it doesn't stop me yearning for something meatier.

Trilby: The Art of Theft
An oldy but a goodie. Ben 'Yahtzee' Crosshaw's back catalogue is a gold mine, but this is the jewel. It's a 2D side on noir following master thief Trilby as he's stitched up, double crossed and generally harangued. It is, really, everything you'd hope that game would be. Varying levels of shadow, AI guards to avoid or blacjack (well, electric umbrella-ify), lock picking, stealing shit, exploring people's bathrooms... All that's missing is more. There must be around an hour of play here, but it's to the credit of the framework that that feels like short change.

Merry Gear Solid 2
Arthur Lee
Another 2D, this time top down in the vein of the Metal Gears of the Gameboy generation. It loves its subject material, and the lengthy dialogues strike a familiar balance between drama, tedium and variable voice acting. It's the most fleshed out of the offerings here, and features some entertaining lines. Still, Thief this is not.

Some honourable mentions include Stealth Bastard: Tactical Espionage Arsehole (Trilby-esque, sharp visuals and heavy on the puzzle aspect; made by a couple of the chaps at London's Curve) and Splinter Source, a 2D reimagining of Fisher et al.

Great as they are, none of these games quite captures the magic of Thief or Hitman for me. I'm drawn to the stealth genre for what I assume are some of its necessary (AAA) features: plausible locations and AI, large, detailed environments and a phobia of combat that leaves room for a more thoughtful narrative. These aren't features that an indie game cannot incorporate. It's all there for the picking, and that's exactly what these games aim for.

Games You can't Play Yet
Andy Schatz
Obvious, I know, so I won't take too long over it. Monaco is looking like a fast game, and as such I don't know ho
w well I'll get on with it. Something else I love about stealth is the thoughtful pace that rewards strategy over twitch; this being said, I'm still onboard with this co-op heist' em up.

Tom Francis
Gunpoint, on the other hand, is looking very much like my kettle of fish. I'd be shocked if its creator wasn't comfortable throwing a nod Trilby's way, but there's plenty at work here that goes beyond that formula. The USP is a hacking system in which every building's wiring can be monkeyed with behind the scenes to create dastardly machines of death/ghosting. Wires the elevator to the light and wire the light switch to the door: when the elevator arrives the light goes out; the guard goes to switch it back on and locks himself in. It looks smart, engaging and pretty; perhaps most importantly we ought hope Francis' time as a journo has taught him how to deliver a full experience.


  1. Sold you on any of these? I have a soft spot for Trilby.

  2. Let's see...

    Deity - haven't tried it yet, will do!
    Trilby - I've found it in the past, adorable!
    Merry gear solid - will try as well.
    Stealth bastard - addictive as crack cocaine. Got me hooked 10 seconds into playing it. You should have given it more credit imo :)
    Splinter source - will check.

    Monaco - very sceptical about it, seeing a couple of youtube vids I think I'm not going to like it too much...
    Gunpoint - from the screenshot it looks like a HD version of Trilby. If he nails the gameplay as well, I'm sold!

  3. Sold me on all 'cept the ones I already played (Deity and Stealth Bastared). I look forward to Gunpoint, though I don't know what to think of Monaco. It's been in development for too long.

  4. In the near future, there will be one more "indie stealth game you can't play (quite) yet" to add to the list.