Game: SUBNET – Escape Room Adventure
Genre: Escape Room, Puzzle, Adventure
System: Steam (Windows & macOS)(also available on Nintendo Switch & Apple Store )
Developer|Publisher: M9 Games
Age Rating: UK 12+ | US T
Price: UK £7.49 | EU € 8,79 | USD $8.99
Release Date: February 9th, 2023
Review code used, with many thanks to M9 Games.
SUBNET – Escape Room Adventure is a puzzle game that simulates the feeling of being trapped in an escape room world. Everything is locked under a puzzle or two, including leaving your hotel room to get into the subway.
The Gameplay and Story of SUBNET – Escape Room Adventure
SUBNET – Escape Room Adventure is a puzzle game where players have to interact with items nearby to get out of locked locations. Most of the puzzles are visual; there is something in the room or area that will give the answer to a puzzle nearby. I’m trying not to spoil any of the puzzles so that I won’t go into specifics. But one of the first puzzles is one where there is a photo on the wall. When players recreate the look of that photo in one of the interactable objects in the room, it solves one of the puzzles.
The interactable are all point-and-click puzzles. Players won’t have to type things in or use anything other than movement and left mouse clicks to complete every puzzle in SUBNET.
In spite of the fact that you are locked in your hotel room in the beginning, you have puzzles to solve. Because why wouldn’t you have puzzles with solutions all over your space to want to get out of your own room? Having to solve a number puzzle in the middle of the night when you have to use the restroom sounds completely normal.
Jokes aside, there were surprisingly few puzzles in each area; the starting area only had three that needed to be solved before you could leave the room and move on to the next area. Some areas even had fewer puzzles. It seems like an awful lot of development work, making each of these locations only put a puzzle or two in each. I think it would have behoved the developers to make the puzzles more dense.
Having ten puzzles in the starter room would have made the game significantly longer without adding as much development time as, say, adding more areas. There are several machines in the hotel room that players can’t even interact with; they are merely there as decorations. A shame they weren’t more puzzles, in my opinion.
Onto the Puzzles in SUBNET
The puzzles themselves are a mixed bag. While there are a handful of interesting, well-planned puzzles, there are several I just had to use brute force to complete. There are two in the ticket-ordering subway level where players must type in a code. I actually had to look up a walkthrough of the game to figure out the answers to these puzzles, and in all honesty, I never in my life would have figured them out without help.
There are no indications of what the player needs to do to get one of them, and the other doesn’t make much sense, in my opinion. I have done real-life escape rooms, board game versions, and video game versions, and I think I could have stared at the puzzle for days and never gotten it.
Lacking a Hint System
I ended up having to check the reviews on Steam for this SUBNET to make sure I wasn’t an idiot; there were several people that agreed with me. There was one review which said exactly what I was thinking but didn’t quite have the words for: “Even the ones I got first time were just obscure, and I got a feeling of Wow, this was stupid! rather than I’m a genius!” That was exactly it. That was the problem with some of the puzzles.
This could have easily been solved with a hint system, something that gives you a direction to look in. Several people said it was impossible without a walkthrough, and they were correct. A handful of the puzzles were so poorly set up that I’m unsure how anyone got through it without help.
There is a language of puzzle games for a reason; if you want players to look to the left to find the solution, you need an indicator that the hint is to the left. If you need to wander kind of far from the puzzle for the solution, there needs to be an indicator of it.
If this language is going to be interrupted or changed for your game, that’s fine, but there should be a hint system in place to ensure that the answer is reachable if people get lost.
One Big Old Bug
SUBNET‘s biggest issue is its one game-breaking bug. If you save your game and it is not at the very start of a new area, SUBNET completely falls apart at the seams. You can no longer open the old game or save a new one; you have to basically delete everything and start from scratch.
While I try to give indie games the benefit of the doubt, there are some bugs that are so egregious that I just have to mention them. I can’t even begin to tell you how frustrating it is to bungle through the puzzles the first time, only to have everything erased and have to start over. Especially when I had to brute force the puzzles in the first place and didn’t really know how I’d solved them in the first place.
I like the look of SUBNET. It’s complex and interesting. Some of the puzzles are great. Some are very, very not great. There is no hint system, which I dislike. My save file was nuked from space, which I dislike a lot. Despite it being interesting, I can’t fully recommend this game.
Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure