Before I talk about all these games, I’d like to give you a link to your soon-to-be favorite prison. Please press here.
I played the first of Mateusz Skutnik’s games through Jay is Games, as is the wont for my casual gaming experience. And even though I’ve promised myself to stay away from casual games – because usually, after an hour or so of playing, I feel like I’ve wasted time and had an unfulfilling experience – the truth is that when I’m doing something like writing a blog or editing something I’ve written, I often want a quick break. And quick breaks are not provided by the “actual” computer games I have.
Then again, casual games, for me, often turn into marathon sessions, so no quick breaks there, either.
So how did I get locked up in the Submachine games then?
I would say that these games are like Myst, except that I’ve never really played Myst. I’ve putzed around a screen or two, attempted to solve a puzzle, grew annoyed, and gave up on the game. What I mean about Submachine = Myst is that they both deal with what could be termed as dimensional travel in strange and intriguing environments that are empty of people.
Except for yourself.
Whoever you are.
The Submachine games (there are nine of them) belong to that sub-genre of casual games called Escape games. The premise is that you are trapped in a specific place and you are trying to get out. The most basic of these games involve you being in a single room and leave out any sense of story or plot. Your only object is to get through that locked door and, by gum, that’s what you’re going to do!
Other games stick you in a house, or a maze, or a futuristic complex. They might leave notes around – a la Bioshock – to give you a sense of why you’re there and what’s going on around you. They might play with the point-and-click conventions, warping the genre against your expectations.
What drives these escape the room games are puzzles. Back in the days of Doom we were given puzzles that were as simple as You find a door that requires a Red Key. Find the Red Key and bring it back to this door. They weren’t so much puzzles as they were exercises in exploration and survival. Though exploration still holds with this newer sub-genre, most of the time survival is not an issue (and I do make room here for exceptions that bring the survival horror aspect into play, where your clicks are timed and choices do matter) and the focus is simply on the puzzle, and the frustration inherent in being stymied.
And while I do enjoy the puzzles in Skutnik’s Submachine games, I have to say that what addicted me to them was the world that he was – and still is – creating. It’s true that some of these games (I’m looking at you, Submachine 2!) are simply collections of puzzles, but even they have artistic touches that create the sense of a (once) living world you’re moving through, rather than a thinly-strung-together IQ test.
Really, though I’ll continue to enjoy the Submachine games as they come out (Skutnik has said he’ll go up to number 10) I would love to see a longer game based in the world he’s created. These games are casual, which generally translates to short because there isn’t a lot of money for development and, in fact, many of these games are created (or start out being created) by people who are doing game design as a hobby. I’d love to see a full-length game created by Skutnik that explores the world he’s created as far as his imagination will take him.
So, big-time money people who like games, pony up. Skutnik’s waiting. And, for the record, so am I.