A Mike Bithell Short
Developer: Bithell Games
Publisher: Ant Workshop
Category: Adventure, Puzzle
Release Date: 03.01.2018
DeTektive Driven Story Telling
Subsuface Circular is a game that doesn’t require you to do a whole lot of gaming, its a text adventure or visual novella if you will. Developed by Mike Bithell of Thomas was alone and volume fame, this is the first of a new series of shorts by Bithell. You play as a Tek (Robot) detective who works for “Management”, trying to solve a mystery aboard an underground transit system for robotic workers on the circular route in the subsurface beneath a future metropolitan city. My name was James One One but you can pick from a couple different name options.
You interact with other Tek passengers that come and go while sitting in your seat trying to decode the mystery before you. Through navigating conversational puzzles you have to dig deeper and find the answers to an ever escalating threat. Fellow commuters will share with you potentially valuable clues about the case but also talk about their personal lives, ask for help and advice and provide all the context about the world. The more Teks you help however the more complicated things get. Eventually things fall into place and your role turns out to be something much greater then you ever thought it would be. There are many layers to this game and each one brigs you closer to the answers your looking for.
Your journey starts out simply enough, interacting with the first Tek you meet you learn of a missing friend and are asked to investigate their disappearance. Choosing to accept this case means breaking protocol as you are only supposed to do as management orders you, but management only gets updates when you return to the surface to up-link. That is not the kind of Tek you are, you know right from wrong and are willing to go the extra mile to get to the bottom of any case. This however is just the first step in an ever evolving robot murder mystery that gets deeper and more dangerous the more you investigate.
This is a game that relies completely on the story and characters whom all feel very unique, even though they are are simple enough robot designs their personalities are so well done that they all feel very like very unique individuals and even though you may never leave your seat, you are constantly engaged thanks to some brilliant writing. In fact reading and selecting answers is the only thing you will be doing but the story is so good that you wont care this is all that you are doing, you will be just as eager as the protagonist to find the answers he seeks . This will most likely be a single sitting game for most players. Depending on your detective skills in conversation. Subsurface Circular will take you around two to four hours to complete. Puzzles are never at a very high difficulty level but if you do get stuck there is an assist mode that will help you deduct the proper solution. After game completion you can enter a commentary mode where you play through the game again normally with the added benefit of having the “bithell bot” in the train car with you. You can talk to him as you would any of the other passengers and he will answer a myriad of questions about the game. Its a unique take on commentary and i found it exceptionally informative.
I enjoyed every minute of my time with Subsurface Circular and its works very well as a short story but at the same time i wish it was deeper with more to explore and more to learn about its intriguing world . The simple yet clean style of the visuals were pleasant to look. Even though you only really see the inside of the train car the lighting from outside and camera angles are very good at making you feel like you are zipping through a tunnel. Industrial tech music by Dan Le Sac was very nice to have in the background, tying everything together. A very well fitting soundtrack to the game. Suburface Circular is a lovely text adventure that is priced right and should not be missed. It really leaves me wanting more experiences like this i cant wait to see what the next Bithell short is.
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