Stealth sections in games. The counter-intuitive bane of action RPGs and the destroyer of multiplayer teamwork. They’re somewhat controversial – Warframe rescue missions inevitably result in the prison wardens spotting one of your less-invisible comrades, triggering a rush to save the captive before termination. At the same time, though, entire games have been built with stealth in mind, such as the lauded Thief series, where the goal is to avoid enemies rather than stomp on everything in sight and mow down the patrolling guards. Some, though, just want to run in and avoid the challenge of avoiding scrutiny.
Personally, I like stealth mechanics in games, when they’re done right. I don’t have an overwhelming need to rush in and brute-force everything, and I rather enjoy the challenge of sneaking around. Deus Ex was quite enjoyable to me. However, making stealth fun is more difficult than simply making action fun because you have to carefully design.
The Marvellous Miss Take is a stealth game by Wonderstruck and published by Rising Star Games, through and through. I had a chance to check out the first bits of it, prior to release, and I’m having fun with it so far. I haven’t found a bug in the system yet, always a good sign for a preview.
The museums seem cleverly designed, with plenty of hiding spots and structural points you can use to your advantage in order to sneak around and lure guards. The game actually incentivizes being seen as a means to lure enemies away at long distances. Guards do not have fixed patrols, and will wander randomly and so erratically that simply waiting will only cost you your speed ‘painting’ (the reward for quick victory). So far, being proactive benefits as much as patience and observation, and planning. Security cameras and windows that allow enemies to peer through into other rooms are some of the challenges you can circumvent – and exploit (the windows allow you to lure guards into other rooms, and prevent from quickly returning if you trigger an alarm). Gadgets are fixed per level and you only get one, though they’re all useful so far; the teleporter allows you to instantly escape an enemy chasing you down, saving a playthrough.
Graphically, the characters and buildings are fantastic. Miss Take is charming beyond measure, and the other exaggerated designs are quite endearing, from the hulking brutish guards to the rotund patrons. Everything is colourful, distinct, and stylish, and I’ve never had to squint to notice something of interest or danger. The jazzy music enhances this upbeat, daring tone, and so far, I approve. The humour is somewhat expected, but it doesn’t detract from the gameplay so far.
I’ve noticed, as I go along, an increase in level complexity as well as new hazards to overcome, but also a certain free-form nature that lets you approach problems your way. Rarely are you required to use a gadget found in a level or a particular tactic, and I’ve seen at least two ways to capture all of the paintings.
I also quickly noticed that there are three characters you can play, though Sophia Take, the title character, must beat every level to unlock it for her allies. Each ally plays differently; the missions have entirely different objectives for them, to better make use of their unique skills (and weaknesses). They’re actually rather clever alterations to the stealth mechanics and require fresh thinking on the old levels.
So far, I’m quite happy with what I’ve seen. We’ll have to see how the complexity mounts.