Stealth games are somewhat of an anomaly in the video game world. A game about hiding in shadows shouldn't be nearly as exciting as a game about dispatching hordes of enemies with high explosives, or cool-looking blade weapons. Somehow, though, when done well, stealth games can be every bit as intense and satisfying as a good shoot-'em-up. However, due to the nature of the genre, when done poorly, stealth games quickly become a lesson in tedium and frustration. Stolen, the first and last game from developer Blue 52, falls into the latter category, with an undeveloped plot, derivative gameplay, idiotic enemies, and boring presentation.
When she isn't stealing stuff, Anya trains for the World Limbo Championships.
In Stolen, you play as Anya Romanov, a female thief with no discernable personality and some goofy, glowing glasses. She's supposedly the best thief in the crime-ridden Forge City, and she's in it for the thrill of the heist rather than the financial reward. Anya is backed up by an ex-security officer and tech geek, Louie, who designs all her stealth gear and coaches her during her missions. The game opens with a cutscene of a newscast detailing the upcoming mayoral election in Forge City. You aren't given much more of a backstory, and as you progress through the game you'll briefly meet a few characters and discover the dirty motivations of the one overtly sinister mayoral candidate. None of it matters though, because the story and characters aren't interesting enough to engage you in any way.
Despite the lack of any plot development, you won't have a problem knowing where to go, because the levels are linear and when you come to a new area Louie will chime in to tell you exactly what to do. Usually the objectives consist of simple tasks like stealing a key from a safe in one room to open a door in another room, or hacking a computer to shut down a security grid. There are four levels, but they look so similar they might as well be one. You'll see the same room, hallway, or air duct throughout the entire seven or eight hours it'll take you to complete the game.
The bland environments are made even worse by an abundance of dull textures and unsightly aliasing. Hard edges are horribly jagged, and some of the lighting effects are misplaced. For instance, you'll spend a lot of time hiding in shadows, but the shadows are exaggerated and conveniently placed throughout the levels, whether a light source is present or not. You'll crawl through a brightly lit ventilation duct, only later to be hidden completely in a shadow cast by a small bookshelf in an otherwise bright-as-day room. There is no gradient to the lighting in Stolen; it's either completely dark or completely light. There is even a gauge onscreen to show you just how concealed you are, but it's pointless, because it's either off or on and there's rarely any middle ground.