Thursday, March 1

Review: Subsurface Circular [Nintendo Switch eShop]

It appears that the more bite-sized story-driven game genre has really gotten rolling in the indie space and the Switch has recently had a few strong examples to show why. Playing out a bit more like interactive novels, and usually involving some degree of puzzle solving along the way, these don’t typically take more than a few hours to complete but generally have a satisfying story to tell. The latest entrant to the Switch library of this kind is Subsurface Circular, with the entire story taking place within a subway car but that manages to quickly flesh out an interesting story that will test you to solve some creative puzzles and make some tough ethical decisions along the way.

You’ll play an investigator of sorts and through your determination to solve a mystery that arises the dialogue all revolves around your trying to find clues as you interview anyone you make contact with as they come on and off the train. As you uncover a new lead an option will be added to the bottom of your screen, allowing you to guide conversation to those points as your conversations progress. What’s refreshing is that you’ll have a variety of options for your tone as you work through the dialogue, allowing you some room to have a personality, though I’m not sure how much that may affect the outcome of conversations, if at all.

Did I mention that all of the characters, including yourself, are robots? While, for the most part, the dialogue and motivations of all characters involved have familiarly human elements this does set the stage for some of the inventive puzzles and “moral” dilemmas in the game. Since you only can act through dialogue the solutions to some of your problems take unexpected turns and require some experimentation in some cases. This was interesting and the good news is that most puzzles can be solved if you simply stick it out and work through your dialogue options with all available robots that are around.

In terms of flaws, aside from the length and format there’s not very much you can fault overall. It’s possible that some elements of some of the puzzles could be a bit more clear, in particular a logic puzzle has some question variants that could leave room for interpretation or confusion, but with some trial and error you can work out the answer. One benefit the game has is that its core elements are relatively limited so there’s actually pretty minimal room for issues to creep in.

The time I spent working through the story of Subsurface Circular feels well-spent. I’d say it is just about the right length, neither being frustratingly short or passing a point where it felt like a chore to see through to the end. The story, its eventual choices at its conclusion, and the characters you talk to along the way were all well fleshed out and refreshingly different. If you don’t mind doing some reading while you play it is worth checking out.

Score: 8

  • Polished and well-presented
  • Some inventive puzzles
  • A worthwhile story to experience

  • More interactive novel than game for the most part
  • Unlikely you'll choose to play more than once unless you really want to hear the developer commentary

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