Subject 13

Developer: Paul Cuisset | Released: 2015 | Genre: Adventure, Point & Click

Next up in my (barely diminishing) backlog was this adventure game by the creator of the classic platformer Flashback, which is probably why I bought it cheap on sale some years ago.

It turned out to be unremarkable, with a just touch of 3D viewing and ungraceful controls.

The game started with the attempted suicide of the protagonist, Franklin, who then awakens in a pod on an island where a robotic voice wants him to solve puzzles. There were four chapters lasting about 6 hours for me, starting in a laboratory and then continuing outside on the island itself.

Each of the chapters had typically 2-3 screens. Both the screens and most zoomed-in locations had a subtle touch of 3D viewing around an object, or at least a little bit to the sides. This was actually confusing in the beginning of the game and had me overlook some points of interest because they were hidden behind an object. Interacting with an object was also weird by having me open a few icons with a mouse button and then dragging the mouse in the direction of the chosen icon.

This reminded me of Fahrenheit that I tried recently, where something like this was also required.

The puzzles themselves were for the most part entertaining, mostly not too hard, and sometimes even had me use a notebook for figuring out the solution. For example, in the fourth and final chapter I had to use math to unlock a puzzle. Unfortunately the very last puzzle in the game was a large version of the classic desktop game Minesweeper. I despise that puzzle and thus I’ve detracted one from the final score.

It did have a few slider puzzles, but I actually don’t mind those. I’m weird that way.

The graphics, music and the voice acting were all serviceable. There were subtle bugs, like being able to get a description of a thing inside a container you haven’t unlocked yet. At one point I also managed to walk inside a bunk bed, after which I couldn’t move anymore. However, none of them were showstoppers. There were also audio logs to be found (here called testimonies) but they were for the most part humdrum.

Spoiler: Details

  • Weird and very basic sort of character selector in the pod – choose a boring or a cool male individual.
  • Opening lids in the carnivorous plants had a bit too much forced restarting for my liking.
  • Creating fire by shining the sun on a piece of fungus was one of those puzzles where I didn’t fathom the point until I actually saw the fire. Ah, now I see what it is you want me to do.
  • The colors of a rainbow indirectly dictated the code for a case. That one was actually kind of clever.
  • A pepper bomb in the face of a bear – I wonder how a real one would have reacted to that. I’m not so sure it would just have run off. Maybe it would just get way more pissed?
  • I tried to translate the alien text on the side of the cola can, but alas I failed. Luckily it wasn’t needed.
  • I’m not sure I understood the need for creating a magnet in a bucket of water.
  • Throwing an anchor across a ravine automatically spawned a rope on it too! Why not give me a puzzle to acquire this rope? I know something was lying around, but then at least let me pick that up.
  • The math puzzle about adding alien numbers together was one of those change of heart situations. I disliked it at first and found it too much work, but while doing it I still found it enjoyable.
  • For raising the blocks inside the temple, I had to look up the answer on the internet. Turned out I overlooked a button at the base. The button was very hard to see – almost invisible.
  • And then a Minesweeper puzzle popped up as sort of a force field around the blocks. It was large and unforgiving. Every click on a bomb turned off the force field and I then had to grab a sphere and put it back again. I understand the need for some sort of punishment, but it felt more like a chore. I had to brute force the entire playing field and it took quite a while. I have two kinds of nemesis puzzles I just can’t do – Tower of Hanoi and then this one.

Pros

  • Serviceable graphics, music and voice acting – but it won’t knock anyone’s socks off.
  • Most puzzles are reasonable as long as you make sure to look everywhere closely.
  • The inventory is immediately clickable and its items can be clicked for close inspection.

Cons

  • The story and the audio logs are for the most part pretty uninteresting.
  • You can get used to the controls and the 3D movement but they’re not exactly graceful.
  • A few subtle bugs, although mostly just for a shake of the head. No showstoppers.
  • It didn’t bother me, but there are slider puzzles in this game. Just thought I’d mention it.
  • There’s a big Minesweeper puzzle waiting at the end. You better like Minesweeper. A lot.

6/10

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