I was on Twitter when someone tweeted an image of a robot on a subway car. The design of the bot grabbed me, but the slick U.I. is what pulled me into the underworld that is Subsurface Circular.
Subsurface Circular (SC going forward) is a narrative driven short story game by Mike Bithell, the guy who made Thomas Was Alone. In this game you play a Tek Detective who rides the Subsurface Circular and solves Tek related crimes committed by or against Tek’s in the human world. Upon taking a case from a manufacturing Tek, Theta (The name I chose) is then drawn into a mystery that is both very unique and very robotic.
I really enjoyed the three to four hours this game ran. Frankly, as a father with a 14 month-old baby, the run time was perfect for me because I got to experience a game from beginning to end without having to invest weeks of time. I love big games with elaborate mechanics and worlds, but having a self-contained taut narrative that I could finish in two nap sessions (Not my naps, those don’t exist anymore) was a breath of fresh air.
As a writer I do enjoy narrative style games because the video game medium is such a unique space to work. Usually narratives are the frame work around gameplay mechanics, so having a game where the narrative is the mechanic was a lot of fun. The conversation puzzles and tests of logic in SC made my brain itch more than I’d like to admit, but getting to meet the different Tek personalities on the train never made them feel like a trudge. The art direction, UI, music, and sound in the game really helped to sell the world that I was in and that is usually something most AAA titles have problems nailing still to this day.
The fact that a small team could make such a polished product that lasted only a few hours, but still left me feeling with a great sense of accomplishment and joy, speaks to the advantage (I think) that a small, coordinated team has over the usual massive dev army.
Buy the ticket, take the ride.
P.S. You will have to break out a pen and paper for some of these puzzles. This is not a complaint,but if you do complain about it then we can’t be friends. I got standards.