Copy purchased by reviewer
Video review is spoiler free beyond the introductory chapter
Remember that movie called I-Robot? This game might remind one of it, just without any present humans, just some subtext involving them. Either way, Subsurface Circular has it’s own interesting take on an human-android society.
In a world where androids known as Teks and humans co-exist as part of daily life, all seems normal in the life of a Tek detective confined to the Subsurface, a circular subway track going around an unspecified city. Things change when he is asked to investigate a missing Tek case, going down a rabbit hole of unexpected events that might hide an even bigger case than what’s shown at first glance. Due to the style of the game, a good story is important to its success, and Subsurface Circular has a great, if simple story. Definitely go in unspoiled.
Subsurface Circular is a text based adventure game. Your main, unchanging objective is to get to the bottom of the case that makes up the game’s plot, achieved by initiating conversation with other Teks who board the subway system alongside you. Each Tek has a distinct personality for you to unravel, and most influence how you proceed with the task at hand via their conversations as well as the questions you ask them, driven via the so called focal points. These are topics that surface after conversations go a certain way, usually after doing an additional task with a different Tek, which in turn can influence a previously spoken to character.
This is the game’s structure for its six chapters, all featuring a unique puzzle with the Teks that board the subway alongside you. A critical mind is required to analyze the subtle hints thrown your way to solve whatever the puzzle is with a specific character, be it giving directions with the in-game subway map, knowing who and when to deploy a focal point with, or memory reliant dialogue segments. As such, the game can grab your attention quite well with how it plays out in tandem with the interesting story.
Of course, that’s where the game’s single biggest fault comes into play; this text based adventure is short; hell, it advertises itself as a short, but even then, this is the type of game that has a story good enough to merit being longer. But make no mistake; Subsurface Circular has very enjoyable gameplay; what little of it there is, anyway.
For a text based adventure with 3D models, Subsurface Circular looks better than you’d think. The singular room of the subway interior you sit in has everything it needs to look good and convey the idea of a futuristic society. The various Teks you encounter, despite having no facial features, still have a wide variety of designs, which you can look at in the art gallery unlocked after completing the game, which goes to show the amount of thought that was put into the visual style. Interestingly, the game has no music (beyond chapter transition jingles) but excellent sound design, further capturing the feel of a subway tram. In short, the game looks as good as it plays.
Subsurface Circular is a competently made game of its kind. It’s important to remember that the game is explicitly advertised as a short; you’re not getting more than three hours from it. But what you get is well worth the small asking price for a short. The universe this game creates could have easily justified a longer game for sure, but what we got is still good on its own.