At the core of their appeal, video games are closed feedback loops shepherding players through a narrative while scaling the difficulty curve to always sit at the sweet spot between challenging and infuriating. The ability to subvert those systems, of playing the game in ways that were unintended by its creators, is rarely encouraged—except in stealth games.
Duplicity, subterfuge, and lateral problem-solving are the tools of the trade for any would-be apprentice assassin or rookie Splinter Cell. In the wake of the release of the first chapter of the latest Hitman game, here are five exemplary stealth titles you might have missed—they’re pretty sneaky, after all.
5. ’MASTER SPY’
As the titular balaclava-clad corporate saboteur, you’ll have to be crafty and exacting to penetrate the tripwire-laden depths of the game’s five story stages, each more precarious than the last. Use your stealth cloak to avert line of sight detection and leap over dogs in a single bound.
Top this all off with a killer soundtrack courtesy of RAC. If you’re looking for a game that delivers that almost primal satisfaction of maneuvering through a space undetected, then Master Spy absolutely merits your attention.
4. ‘CALVINO NOIR’
If you like your blinds venetian, your whiskey neat, and your dialogue as terse and bitter as a jilted novelist, then Calvino Noir might just be your ticket to ride. Players assume the role of three characters as they plunge into the seedy underbelly of the European criminal circuit of the 1930s.
In the genre of noir, style has a habit of trumping substance and straining plausibility. Calvino Noir is no different, an action-stealth game that draws not only from the visual strengths but the thematic footfalls of its namesake inspiration. The voice acting varies between hit and miss, and the dialogue can at times resemble a pastiche of hard-boiled detective tropes hastily glued together into a word salad of contrivances, all hoarse barks and no caustic bite. That isn’t to say it’s not fun though. If you’re looking for an entertaining challenge that can tide you over with a decent plot and environments that react to your place in the story, Calvino Noir would like a word with you.
3. ‘THE MARVELLOUS MISS TAKE’
Imagine a Carmen Sandiego game with a more jagged art style and sneaky mechanics and you’re not far off from describing The Marvellous Miss Take. You are Sophia Take, a thespian turned vigilante who must steal back the robust art collection of her late great aunt from the nefarious Ralph Blackstock and return it to the eyes of the public.
Players will navigate levels from a top-down isometric perspective. Think The Sims meets Pac-Man, as you skulk between the criss-crossing patrols of the museum guards and deploy an arsenal of bizarre inventions designed to bring you that much closer to mastery over all things thievery. If you’re looking for something that’s both light-hearted and a challenge, you’ll soon realize upon playing The Marvellous Miss Take why it couldn’t be any farther from a flub.
2. ‘MONACO: WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE’
The question of whether there is any honor among thieves is all a matter of the company you keep, and what’s the fun in striking alone at the heart of affluent corruption when you could do it with a friend? In Monaco, you and up to three other players must choose from a rogues gallery of up to eight ne'er-do-wells as you escape prison and cut a swath through the coffers and pockets of the city’s most exemplary pillars of white collar deviance.
Much like its main characters, Monaco doesn’t play by the rules: it’s a stealth game where detection doesn’t equal automatic mission failure. There are a variety of approaches which one could employ to get the job done, whether ghosting through an area with not a single witness to say otherwise, or channeling the heist scene from Heat with all the absence of discretion and tact that that entails. It’s all up to you in how you want to ascend the ignoble ranks of the criminal underworld: in infamy, or anonymity?
1. ‘THIRTY FLIGHTS OF LOVING’
The term “cinematic” is so popularly used in the critical appraisal of video games that it borders on being a disingenuous fluff word. Too often is it used in to describe the substance of actions that the player commits and not in how the game is constructed to position their understanding of how those actions impact the world in way other than destructibility. Whereas too many other games see fit to rest on the laurel of cinematic pretension, Thirty Flights of Loving and its accompanying thematic predecessor Gravity Bone earn their distinction by way of their deliberate method of withholding, misdirecting and sequencing expository details so as to keep the player constantly on their toes. Smash cuts, dutch angle transitions, pan out sequences; the physical language of cinema is soaked into the game through not only its presentation but visual humor.
Though yes, it is not a stealth game in the traditional sense, the game explores how subterfuge and espionage can warp and contract the perspectives of its proponents; their reality now as malleable as their scruples. Thirty Flights of Loving thrusts players into a heightened world of bizarre occurrences and vague alliances that feels right at home between the celluloid panels of a zany Connery-era Bond flick or the paperbound folds of a John le Carré thriller. Why are everyone’s heads shaped like boxes, why are crows exploding, how does a wedding party levitate off the dancefloor and into the air? The meaning is all a matter of perception; yours and yours alone.
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