Arriving at station “Switch,” Subsurface Circular has arrived on the eShop at a very affordable $5.99. It’s a puzzle game that revolves entirely around the text and nothing else and is set in a non-disclosed future version of the world we know. “Teks,” which are robots, now take on a number of job roles humans used to occupy. Taking control of a Detective Tek who is riding the robo trains, you come across a Tek with an issue. His friend has gone missing and needs help. Despite it being against your directive you decide to help out as best as you can and so the adventure begins.
The player doesn’t jump or push blocks in Subsurface Circular; the entirety of the game is played out through interactions with other Teks. These open up as you talk with Teks that get on board the train. It’s through these conversation that you’ll glean information that is important for you current objective and acquire new “focus points” that will allow you to ask specific questions to the Teks that get on board. Focus points vary from basic questions that you will want to ask everyone you come across to more specific commands that can be used to disrupt a current Teks functionality and have them stop trying to sell you a product.
The puzzles in Subsurface Circular vary to say the least. Using the term puzzle feels like a bit of a stretch. Normally it boils down to just asking the correct question or speaking to someone before speaking to another; however, with such a limited amount of options it is impressive what they pull off. I found one part later on in the game to be interesting as you question two Teks it turns out that the emotion of the one affects the other, so you must change the mood of one to get the other to talk.
Robots on a Train
The story is what Subsurface Circular is all about. This is a game designed to be played in one sitting and to immerse the player in the world. After playing all the way through I can safely say that Subsurface delivers a story that is interesting. It unfolds at an excellent pace, delivers laughs, drama, and a reference to Les Miserables. What I found to be so amazing was how well the world in which Subsurface Circular is set was built and the information regarding it was fed to the player at a speed that makes it all feel organic despite being for the most part about robots.
The writing is remarkable and never feels too expositional. Each Tek that you encounter feels unique and with the short amount of time you spend with each despite being faceless have a lot of character.
Whilst the story is what this game is all about and is most certainly the meat of the experience, one part that I found to be so impressive was the presentation. For a game that is made by such a small team, visually it is impressive. The designs of the Teks are great, but more than that it just looked technically impressive. Nothing groundbreaking of course, but not too shabby. The soundrack is lovely and fit nicely with the tone of the game. Neither too imposing to distract nor too subtle to go unnoticed.
Another aspect of the presentation that really left an impression on me was just the small things that the team didn’t really have to bother with. For example when playing in handheld mode it takes use of the gyro controls to move the camera around. On top of that what I found to bee really great was them taking use of HD rumble. Sometimes it’s the little things that leave an impression and for me this certainly did. When even major developers skip over the idea for an indie dev to make use of it for nothing more than to add just that little bit more of immersion it’s something to acknowledge and respect.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Subsurface Circular was provided by fortyseven communications.