That little prickle on the back of your neck... it's a combination of wonder and apprehension, and nobody mixes a feeling of awe and the ominous better than Mateusz Skutnik, especially when it comes to his beloved Submachine games. The series has a deep mythology and positively rabid fanbase rife with theories as to the meaning of it all, but now that Submachine 9: The Temple has finally arrived, will we get more answers than questions? This time, you awaken in what looks like the ruins of a strange civilization, only some seemingly busted electronics and a hammer to your name.
As usual, click to interact. Items you can use will appear in your inventory at the bottom of the screen, where you can click once to pick them up, and then again in the game wherever you'd like to try to use them. The cursor will change to highlight interactive zones or area transitions, but that's all the help you're going to get. You're on your own. For many fans, that lack of direction is exactly what they crave. It adds to the air of mystery and the feeling of genuine discovery as you explore. Every bit of progress feels like solving a piece of that mystery, and it's not the sort of atmosphere many other games have even come close to achieving. Of course, that also means when you're stuck, you're stuck, since the game isn't going to offer you a whole lot help. It's up to you to pay close attention to your surroundings and learn how to both spot clues as well as interpret them.
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Analysis: Come on, guys. It's a Submachine game. Of course you should play it. The Temple, like its predecessors, marries the otherworldly with the mechanical in its design, encouraging you to poke and prod at everything you see. What often looks baffling in its construction always reveals its own logical use when you start putting the pieces together and learning the way your new realm works. The Temple's construction feels a lot more linear in terms of the way its laid out compared to locations in other games, which makes finding your way around a lot easier. Solving the puzzles? Not so much, but not in any fashion that makes them obstinate or unreasonable. You may not be given a whole lot of clear direction or obvious hints, sure, but the "ah-ha!" moments are always there if you look hard enough, drawing you onward. Each time I thought I was stuck I would notice something new to try, and as a result, I never felt frustrated. Just, y'know. A little dumb.
Though it starts out comparatively easy, the deeper you go into The Temple, the more complex it gets, and mercifully this installment is lighter on backtracking than others have been. You'll still have to do a fair amount of wandering, since it won't always be apparent that something you've interacted with has changed something elsewhere. The visual design makes it fairly easy to pick out items of interest from the backgrounds, but you might still have to use the ol' hot-spot-cursor-wiggle-waggle to find a thing or two. It's also a big game, with a substantial amount of areas to explore that seem to just sprawl out more and more, especially later on. There are hidden doors, secret mechanisms, and, yes, some plot payoff as well. It really is one of those rare games that will have you going "WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME" one moment, and feeling like a magnificent clever pants the next when you finally figure it out. Beautiful, creative, and sneaky in the best possible way, Submachine 9: The Temple isn't just a great Submachine game... it's a great game, period.
Play Submachine 9