Subsurface Circular – Robotic Zork

Full Disclosure: I bought this game like a pleb. I’m just going to get a shirt that says “I’m with Pleb.” and wear it from now on.

It’s finally 2018. A fresh-ish new year. Why not start the year off with a review of something fresh? …from 2017… because I didn’t check the date on Steam when I bought the game…? Okay. Sounds good. Glad we’re cool with that.


Subsurface Circular – Intro Graphics


Subsurface Circular is a visually-gripping text-based adventure about going about their business in a futuristic metro system. Okay, realistically, all dating-sims and a good number of JRPGs fall into this category, but something here pushes each end a bit further down the spectrum than normal, but it works well, at least through the first three chapters.*

You play a “Tek,” a member of the android subclass that’s de-facto owned by the government. You’re a security guard?-cum-detective assigned to the subway system that’s gone rogue, now looking into the recent disappearances of Teks in the city. The entire story (so far) takes place in one subway car as you ride around the ring line, letting off and taking on Teks along the way, but that’s enough to piece together what’s happening.

At times, the Teks that pass through you subway car are seemingly self-aware, having dialogue that seems influenced more by individual and diverse personality traits than rigid programming structures. With the exception of Listeners, who, up until where I am in the game, just ignore you while listening to techno, every Tek has a somewhat unique personality that makes conversation interesting. Pretty important for a text-based adventure, hey.


Subsurface Circular – Conversation


Not speaking of, I should point out that I really like the graphics. Though mostly static, the screen shimmies slightly but fluidly with the mouse giving a believable feeling of depth, and the Tek design is brightly coloured and full of detail, and they have fluid movement. It really sets the mood for me. I feel like I’m on the subway when playing.

But not in a bad way, because fuck that place in real life. Line 9, you know what you did.

The only real downfall is that the game itself is not much of a challenge. Of course, being text based, it’s more about the journey than the gameplay, but knowing that, at least as far as I’ve played, that all information can be gathered by simply going through all the available options, removes some of the motivation to go through all of said options. In fact, I’ve only seen one part in the game so far that I could actually get wrong. Though the Teks can link to each others for conversation, most can’t get a signal to reach the surface, which is designed to be limiting to the current environment for emersion, but it has the side effect of needing to have everything you need to continue to be right in front of you at all times.

Honestly, though it’s a small gripe compared to the positive points of the game, that the story is interesting and believable, and that the graphics are so well done. I estimate the whole game could probably be completed in 2-3 hours, but I feel that’s worth the $5.99 price, and if the game’s longer or you actually get off the train at some point, then bonus.

Despite the slight potential for mild inceptiony-like situations, I think the iPad version would make a pretty good commute time killer. It’s pretty pick uppable/put downable.

I’m gonna go play it.


*The author requests that people do not stream past the first three chapters, or at the very least put spoiler warnings if they stream past that. Super respectful and practical. I’d like to see more of this from game devs. I didn’t end up streaming it, but three chapters is good enough to get a good idea of what’s going on.