Space Prison!

Enter Douglas Quaid…….

Oh, nope, no Douglas Quaid here. I think his eyeballs exploded or something. (Look it up you millennials)

You are Doctor Albert West, but your cellmates just call you West now. You see, after a “lab accident”, you are to serve a murder sentence in Mars Jail.

You start the game in your cell. You haven’t had food rations or have seen a guard for a week. Then all of a sudden a creepy looking guard dude peeks in your cell and basically says, we are moving you out of here. They are moving everyone out of here. As they start unloading the cell blocks, surprisingly the power cuts out just as your door starts to open. But miraculously the power come back on and your door unlocks.

Sounds intriguing, right? Well, this is where the game loses me…. right at the beginning.

Let me be clear though, there is an audience for this type of game, a huge audience. So bear with me while I do my best to give you a good idea about what this game is.
For starters, it’s a survival/resource game. So right away you are bombarded with a crazy big tutorial screen full of A LOT of text! Frankly, it was super overwhelming, however this game does not hold your hand, so read up! I mean, I get it, and I’m sure it’s super helpful. Had I known that eventually all of these individual threads in the tutorial would pop up again once you encountered each in the game world, I would have had a smoother start to the game. But I read it all, and probably only retained about 10% of it.

Moving on……

Once you get through the text, your exploration begins. The game plays top down, think Smash TV for you older gamers, Hotline Miami for you youngin’s. The graphics aren’t much to look at, but it works for the game. It certainly has a retro style graphically, but not pixelated. As you exit your cell you start to see lots of bloody bodies lying around. You can explore unlocked cells and air ducts.

Here is another part of the game that frustrates me. You can now loot through desks, lockers, etc…. you can pick up anything inside of said objects. What frustrates me is you have limited space and you aren’t given any info on what’s important to grab. So, when I open up a convicts drawer and see “stylus”, is that junk or am I going to need that in the future?

Well, eventually I am carrying a full load (more on that in a bit) and I don’t know what to do with it. So now there is the issue of what to keep and what to drop. Ugh, very frustrating.

Remember when I said this is a survival game? And when I said you had been in your cell for a week without rations? Well now you are also faced with finding food and water. The good news is that there is plenty of water in each cell. Sinks to be specific. The bad news is that they carry a chance of contamination. Most likely what has happened to everyone else in this space prison. This plays into how my first attempt at this game went.

Remember when I was talking about carrying a full load? Well, my first playthrough was a constant rush between bathrooms. No joke, West kept reminding me that “I need to take a whiz” and “I gotta take a dump”. The longer you go without a bathroom break, the more it hurts your character. Rest assured, my second playthrough did not contain so many stops at sinks for drinking.

As you continue to explore, you start to run into what I would call zombies. At this point you should have found a baton or shotgun or some type of weapon to use. Combat is simple, but also hectic. If you get hit you also take contamination damage which adds a little bit of chaos to each encounter. Not to mention, it’s not very easy to clear your contamination.

I want to cover controls real quick before we move on. It’s very clear to me that this control scheme is best suited for the PC, which this game first came out on. The menu’s are tough to navigate and my biggest biggest complaint is something that happens very early in the game. As you explore your abandoned prison, you use the “X” button to interact with objects. You then find a bag of some sort in the middle of a hallway that gives you a quick access to your gathered items. Guess what button opens up your inventory whenever you press it……. yup, THE “X” BUTTON! Oh man is this ever frustrating. I can’t tell you how many times I tried escaping an attack only to open my inventory instead of opening the door in front of me.

But I digress.

As you move through the area, you will eventually get to a space train. This train can travel all throughout the MPO (first colony on mars). When you first get to the train you can only go to one area. But once there you encounter puzzles and computers galore. As you continue your journey, the story begins to unfold. You will have to start opening up new sections of the colony in an effort to escape whatever is plaguing the facility.

This includes collecting keycards to open specific doors. Carrying Oxygen canisters for portions of the facility without oxygen due to broken/malfunctioning machines. Finding new gear and weapons, which are fully customizable. I mean, there is a lot here, and if you are into these types of games, this may just be your new time killer. This game is not short, and does not lack substance.

This game just isn’t for me. I want to give you my reasons why. There is no clear direction to the game. I like linear games, but I can still get into an exploration game. This one is just a bit too vague. Secondly, the item management. To be fair to the game, I also hated the item management system in the Fallout series. I hate passing up an important item just to realize I have to backtrack because a fork is needed to craft a weapon or whatever. (I hope you get my point). Last but not least, as you continue through the game, it starts to rely on its developing “mystery” story. It kind of has to because the gameplay gets very repetitive. For me, I never got into the story. It just wasn’t that interesting to me.

Overall Score

Subterrain is an ambitious title that just missed the mark for me, but missed it in a big way. Unfortunately this is a pass for me. But check it out if you enjoy this genre of game.

Subterrain was reviewed using a Steam code provided by the developer. You can read additional information about PSVG’s  review policy on our disclaimer page here.