Invent

The Stealthiest Bastard


Stick to the shadows, avoid the security cameras, and remember… robots don’t like you.

Download the game for free at
www.stealthbastard.com


A funny thing happened whilst we were working on the Sneaky Bastards scaffolding last year. A colleague of mine, whom I’d shown the site-in-progress to, came up to me and asked, “Dude, have you seen this new Stealth Bastard thing?”

You called the game WHAT?!

The piercing gaze I returned, one part incredulity and two parts horror, told him someone was about to get shanked. You mean somebody has started a stealth gaming site? And they called it Stealth Bastard? But that’s pretty much our name! This can’t be happening!

“No, no,” he replied with an earnestness brought about by sudden sense of self-preservation. “It’s a game. A free game. You should check it out.”

The conversation bore something of a parallel with the experience of Stealth Bastard’s creator, Curve Studios Design Director, Jonathan Biddle. Having just revealed Explodemon – a platformer whose character propelled himself by exploding – to the world, he was shocked to see, a few hours later, another studio’s reveal of ‘Splosion Man – a platformer whose character propelled himself by exploding.

It was sheer coincidence, but no less of a bastard for Curve to deal with. Thankfully, we’re not in the same situation – Sneaky Bastards is still the sole home of stealth gaming, and Stealth Bastard is very much a part of it.

Those flying robots at the bottom follow a cyclical patrol pattern, occasionally blocking the lasers and allowing The Bastard to jump past.

Bearing the tagline “Tactical Espionage Arsehole”, thoughts of Stealth Bastard immediately turn to the idea of a Merry Gear Solid-esque stealth parody. Stealth Bastard, however, is not this at all. Surprisingly, the game it evokes more than any other is Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee. Both are sidescrolling platformers with a simple stealth element whereby shadows conceal the character. Both Abe and The Bastard (as I’m calling him, for lack of an actual name) are completely defenceless as they creep through incredibly hostile environments where blood coats the walls and skeletons litter the floors. And, in both games, the spontaneous and instantaneous nature of death does little to curb its graphic violence.

Both Oddysee and Exoddus often required Abe to creep past enemies, or hide from them in static sections of shadow, whilst avoiding other environmental hazards.

Like Oddworld, Stealth Bastard contains minimal actual stealth gameplay, but requires the same peripheral qualities of a full-fledged stealth game: planning, observation and patience. The game’s platforming nature throws in precise timing to this skillset – but it’s timing that is only required after observing the next set of obstacles from the safety of the shadows.

Whilst the shadows in Oddworld were static and binary, there is an elegant dynamic lighting system in Stealth Bastard that gives its otherwise low-fidelity graphics depth and colour. Floor switches will sometimes turn lights on and off, whilst some levels turn continually-roaming light sources into tricky obstacles. Later enemies will even project beams of light in front of them, forcing The Bastard to adapt to the dynamic lighting in a manner not unlike Garrett’s encounters with the torch-carrying guards patrolling the manors and mansions of Thief: Deadly Shadows.

Playing into this is a simple, three-level detection system: The Bastard is either completely concealed in shadow, partially visible or fully visible. This is smartly communicated by having his goggles change colour like a traffic light to convey his current state: green, amber or red. It’s an incredibly intelligent visualisation as it keeps eyes on The Bastard, rather than a light gem or visibility meter. And, with some of the split-second timing that Stealth Bastard requires, you really can’t afford to be looking anywhere else.

The way this shadow dynamically revolves around the room, blocking the view of the cameras, makes for a tense sequence of precision timing.

The game’s robotic enemies are dumb, but lethal. Like the environmental hazards, they exist as another obstacle for The Bastard to overcome on his way to the exit, but they can be toyed with to a certain degree. Purposefully appearing in their luminous vision cones when partially visible will cause them to investigate the sighting. From there, they can be led around and locked into other areas of the map, or just temporarily diverted as some puzzles require. Let them get too close, however, and The Bastard faces a hot laser death, whether he’s hiding in the shadows or not.

Early gameplay projects the possibility of some more complex stealth encounters to come. But that’s really not the case. After completing a good chunk of the bite-sized levels, it’s clear that Stealth Bastard is, above all, a puzzle-platformer with a slight stealth flavour. This is disappointing, because the brilliant dynamic lighting and fluid controls could easily form the basis of a thrilling stealth sidescroller. Unfortunately, stealth gameplay is gradually overshadowed by more complex platforming and timing puzzles, many of which throw sneaky curveballs at The Bastard for him to deal with once he quickly respawns. The walls might suddenly crush him, or a hidden laser will ignite, all whilst Oddworld-esque projections of frowny-faces light up the walls, along with omniscient textual taunts like “I’m just trying to help you”.

"Clever thing", taunts the game, as The Bastard jumps over a robot's field of vision and grabs the safety of a ledge, right at the last second.

All of this gives way to the revelation that the player character is not the titular bastard at all; rather, the game itself is the bastard. There is a sinister entity underpinning the proceedings, whose guile and tenacity grapples with that of the player. Both attempt to constantly one-up each other in a Super Meat Boy-like dichotomy of frustration and elation. And behind it all, Curve Studios can be heard cackling maniacally.

Daniel Hindes

Further Investigation
Sneak Or Die: One-On-One With The Bastard Himself
The man behind Stealth Bastard takes a break from sizzling hapless bald men with lasers to talk with us about the genesis and future of his sneaky stealth platformer.
READ MORE
The Sensei of Stealth – Mark of the Ninja Post-Release Interview
We pull Mark of the Ninja's Lead Designer, Nels Anderson, out of the shadows for round of post-release questioning.
READ MORE
The Darkest Project: Tangiers Stealth Preview
We speak to Alex Harvey, one half of Andalusian and developer of dark avant-garde stealth game, Tangiers.
READ MORE
Fifty Shades of Black: Splinter Cell Blacklist Hands-On Preview
With a little over a month before the release of Splinter Cell Blacklist, Sneaky Bastards goes hands-on and speaks with Game Director Patrick Redding about his systemic approach to stealth.
READ MORE
Play: Purge – Parkour Stealth Platforming
Mirror's Edge meets stealth gaming in this indie parkour stealth platformer, Purge.
READ MORE
Video: Gunpoint – Gadgets Trailer
Tom Francis' stealth-puzzle-platformer Gunpoint is coming to Steam - and it has a new trailer showcasing its gadgets to celebrate.
READ MORE
Video: Sneak Sneak Co-op Stealth Gameplay
In case the title didn't give it a way, this one's a stealth platformer. The twist? It's co-op only! Check it out in motion, here!
READ MORE
Video: Project Stealth Gameplay Trailers
All-new gameplay footage from Project Stealth - the standalone multiplayer title inspired by Splinter Cell's Spies versus Mercenaries mode.
READ MORE
The Man With The Dragon Tattoo
The definitive verdict on Klei Entertainment's sidescrolling stealth game, Mark of the Ninja.
READ MORE
Smoke And Mirrors – Mark Of The Ninja Interview
With sneaky sidescroller Mark of the Ninja releasing this week on XBLA, we chat to Klei Entertainment's Nels Anderson about the game's devotion to hardcore stealth gameplay.
READ MORE
Sneak Or Die: One-On-One With The Bastard Himself
The Sensei of Stealth – Mark of the
The Darkest Project: Tangiers Stealth Preview
Fifty Shades of Black: Splinter Cell Blacklist Hands-On
Play: Purge – Parkour Stealth Platforming
Video: Gunpoint – Gadgets Trailer
Video: Sneak Sneak Co-op Stealth Gameplay
Video: Project Stealth Gameplay Trailers
The Man With The Dragon Tattoo
Smoke And Mirrors – Mark Of The Ninja

3 Responses to The Stealthiest Bastard

  1. By YoYo, January 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Link at top sends me to http://sneakybastards.net/stealthreview/the-stealthiest-bastard/www.stealthbastard.com

    • By Daniel Hindes, January 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Whoops – fixed!

  2. By Linkage, January 23, 2012 at 5:53 am

    I’m curious- when you talk about “the possibility of more complex stealth encounters”, is there anything in particular you had in mind?
    I’ve played Stealth Bastard myself and although I would have liked a more stealth-centric game, I think the puzzle-platforming was after all its main intention and I can’t immediately think of how (without changing the mechanics) more stealth-centric situations could be created.

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