Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

Subsurface Circular (Switch) artwork

Subsurface Circular (Switch) review

"Who knew an A.I. mystery could be so riveting?"

So. Freaking. Good. Oh, Iím sorry, that wasnít very clinical or analytical of me to say, but Mike Bithell has once again formulated and executed a fascinating discussion revolving around morality, agency and responsibility. Minimalist gaming does appear to be his forte, and Subsurface Circle excels in every facet. Enough gushing, I need to take a moment to tell you just why, without spoiling anything.

Bithell seems to have the capability to cut just the right corners and assemble a talented team that results in a highly polished experience. Just envision a simplified yet nearly photorealistic world consisting of robots built to serve different roles, such as Priest, Worker, Soldier, and so on. You assume the role of a Detective between cases who is presented a problem, and then you are tasked to pursue it.

Subsurface Circular (Switch) image

You see, this is a branching text adventure with style and atmosphere outside of your own head. The faceless characters allow you to project yourself into the protagonist, and then choose your communication style. You can be grumpy and fed up or upbeat and casual, and though youíll explore the same Ďfocus pointsí as every other player, you will still feel satisfied with the confrontation of the story arc and its final gateway.

The brilliance of this game is its subtleties, and I look forward to more in the future, hopefully coming soon to the Switch. Be aware this is a short, to the tune of less than two hours. For someone as interested in Artificial Intelligence and robots as myself, this was valuable enough to play it through it three times, once before plunking down to tap out my perspective on the subject matter.

Subsurface Circular (Switch) image

The graphics and music arenít fluff as much as they are a side dish. The meat of this content is easily the conversations youíll be having with the Teks that board and leave the train at particular, and curious, intervals. What begins as a small matter of worry mounts up to ... something very large, and while I saw it coming, boy am I interested in what else Bithell will have to write on this subject.

In essence this is a teaser, and a narratively strong one. At first, getting used to the context of Bithellís fictional reality took some adjustments, but your mistakes as a player are easily forgiven by how the game was designed. Much like the subway train rounding the underground rail, dialog trees cycle naturally back to the next step, regardless of how confused you might be.

Subsurface Circular (Switch) image

Admittedly, though, I did need the Hint function at least once during my first playthrough, and I did appreciate the Deductive Reasoning Assistance function for one logic puzzle in particular. At some point the names, colours and heights all become math and become difficult for me to track, even on paper. But donít take your word for it. If you play the game, come back and reread this review. Iím sure youíll agree.

If not, whatís it like to be that smart?

Interestingly enough, that too is part of the matters at hand, though the subtext is really - if you canít handle it, then who can? Apparently Teks have embraced religion, after a fashion, and that is another point of fascination. After establishing how deep a discussion this is, what else can I say?

Subsurface Circular (Switch) image

I mentioned that visually, Subsurface Circular has a lot of style. Thatís a misnomer. What I mean is flare for details. Robots that do nothing but listen to music provide a break in the never ending stream of dialog, but the way Bithell breaks up conversations does feel natural, if somewhat more logical than you may be accustomed to. It is thematically appropriate, though, considering theyíre robots.

Speaking of details, in stories you have chapters that are represented here as Stations which employ technical play on words. It's a useful way to hone the seriousness of the situation. How does one apply enough gravitas to a story about death without showing you a single body? In a way you donít. By allowing me to play my attitude, even as a "voiced" protagonist, the story becomes personal to me, and thatís what sells it.

Subsurface Circular (Switch) image

If youíve ever wondered how an A.I. feels about pitching sales ads to everyone they meet, among other things, this game amusingly broaches that subject. Bithellís writing is sharp, exact in tone to the extent of having just the right amount of levity not to unbalance the narrative. The included concept artwork is a bonus that merely compliments this edifying examination of what A.I. could mean to us and our culture.

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (November 02, 2018)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

More Reviews by hastypixels [+]
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch) artwork
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Switch)

If there was going to be an RTS for all ages, this is most certainly it, thanks to Ubisoft. And Nintendo.
Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch) artwork
Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch)

Starlink not only launches without a hitch into the stratosphere, it also sticks the landing.
Forgotton Anne (Switch) artwork
Forgotton Anne (Switch)

A reskin of familiar mechanics aimed at all ages that largely succeeds in its appeal.


If you enjoyed this Subsurface Circular review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
honestgamer posted November 02, 2018:

I know who you mean by "Bithell," but since you refer to him numerous times, you want to use his whole name the first time and reference one of his previous games. There are a lot of people who might read your review but not know who you mean. Also, in your final paragraph you say "this came amusingly broaches" but I think you mean "this game amusingly broaches" instead. Anyway, this review did a good job of looking into a game that I hadn't paid much attention to... though I did add the game listing, so I suppose that's something! ;-)
board icon
hastypixels posted November 02, 2018:

Thanks again Jason. Whilst rereading my review, I "detected" an number of incongruities and fixed them. Quarantine Circular looks every bit as enthralling to me as this was. I'll be hunting down more narrative driven games in the future for my reviews ... 'cause this is totally my jam.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2022 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Subsurface Circular is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Subsurface Circular, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.