Let's rip this bandaid off quickly... Yuri Shapkin and Vladislav Kim's puzzle platformer Stealth Bound is not a stealth-themed Earthbound, which isn't even a thing I knew I wanted until I found out I wasn't getting it. Instead, you play a scruffy looking fellow who's been imprisoned in a jail that seems at once both insanely overboard in its securities and also painfully lax since they're happy to leave all the things you need to scramble around each level to freedom just lying around. Using either [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move and jump, with [Z] or [L] to interact, your goal each stage is to avoid detection by the guards while making it to the exit as quickly as you can, which usually involves a lot of sneaking, switches, key cards, and so forth. While you can sneak by some guards unawares, others you'll need to deal with in a more hands-on way, by which I mean pummeling the snot out of them when their back is turned with [Z]. Just be careful, since it's game over if you're spotted! While it looks simple, Stealth Bound winds up getting surprisingly complicated in its sneaky mechanics. Once you knock an unarmed guard out, for example, you have to stow his snoozing body somewhere his coworkers won't spot it, and you'll need to use cover to hide from enemies who aren't susceptible to a knucklin'.
Though the controls feel a little kludgy, what makes Stealth Bound shine is its fantastic, quirky presentation and tongue-in-cheek humour. From stealing a uniform while a blissfully unaware guard takes a shower (and then discovers the theft!) to the silly animations our hero runs through while idle, the game has a distinctive, fun visual style that makes you want to keep playing to see what's next. Which is, as it turns out, quite a lot over the course of things, with a bunch of different surprises and elements thrown into the mix that makes stages feel fresh and interesting throughout. Since there is, as you might expect, a fair amount of sneakery, being forced to start a stage over when you're spotted can be intensely frustrating if you wind up having to sit and wait for guards to slowly trudge around their routes. Still, Stealth Bound earns high marks for its inventive level design and charm, making this well worth checking out and snapping on the ol' stealth bodysuit I know you have lying around.