Puzzle games these days are a dime a dozen it seems as many independent developers fallback on this genre because it has the potential to immediately hook those gamers that love a good mental challenge. Canadian developer iLLOGIKA is hoping that this will be the case for their new roguelike action puzzle game, Subaeria.
You take on the role of Styx, a mischievous teen girl who makes the mistake of getting caught after deciding to break the law in the high-tech dystopian world that she lives in. As a result, Styx and her family must pay the ultimate price with their lives as punishment. After discovering that the “cleaners” have already disposed of her family, Styx sets out to avenge them and to finally put an end to the cruel treatment of the town’s citizens by Don Dorf, Subaeria’s evil overlord.
Gameplay in Subaeria has the player using the enemy robots against each other and the environment in order to secure routes through the levels. These enemy robots are known in the game world as cleaners: janitorial robots and security enforcers that are charged with cleaning out the filth whether organic or inorganic.
They come in two different colors, blue and yellow, which represents the particular company that manufactures them. Market-share is hard to come by so when rival cleaners encounter each other, it’s “on sight” and one unit won’t hesitate to destroy a Cleaner belonging to another firm. Cleaners also hate garbage and they especially hate lawbreakers.
As far as environmental hazards are concerned, there are numerous obstacles that will hinder your path and need to be neutralized before you can continue forward. Blue and yellow security beams will block paths or power-ups and often times figuring out how to shut them down will also involve the destruction of the cleaners.
Obviously, blue beams will destroy yellow cleaners and yellow beams will destroy blue cleaners. In addition, there are other obstacles such as crates that can be destroyed or used to reach platforms as well as fences, machinery or laser cannons that will hurt you if you get in their sights. All of the above listed environmental items will need to be used to your ultimate benefit in order to solve the puzzle for the room which will then grant you access to the next puzzle room.
One very cool feature of this game is that the rooms to the different levels are all procedurally generated so each time you die, the game presents to you a new and differently arranged level. While having a fresh level to play each and every time you play keeps the game feeling fresh, the fact that you have to start all over from the beginning of the level got to feeling old pretty quick. I mean, that’s how games used to be designed back in the day of the original NES and Sega Master System and I hated it then too.
Having all of your progress wiped away because you grabbed the wrong weapon upgrade or just happened to run out of ammunition has a way of crushing your gaming spirit like nothing else. It would have been nice if they were able to program in a midpoint save (ala many of the later Mario Bros games) so that you don’t have to start completely from the beginning it you happen to die close to or at the level boss fight.
Being that Styx is just a regular teenager, she doesn’t use guns, or rocket launchers, or any ranged or melee weapons of any sort. All she can do is jump. Just jump. That’s it. However, what she lacks in firepower she more than makes up for with her remote-controlled drone friend that she can use to turn the odds into her favor whenever she runs into trouble. This drone can also be upgraded with tech skills that makes it a very useful tool when dealing with the hordes of cleaners that you are bound to encounter.
These skills are appropriately referred to as Apps and include an app called “Dizzy Tipsy” that causes cleaners to careen out of control and bounce around the room, an app called “Decoy” that projects a clone of Styx that the cleaners will attack instead of the real Styx, as well as an app called “Master” that allows Styx to take control of targeted cleaners. Each of these apps and a few more can be found somewhere in the labyrinths and each have only a certain number of uses before you need to find more.
Having the ability to pick up apps from the different rooms adds a certain amount of variety to how you can approach dealing with the cleaners but it fell short for me on several occasions. One issue that I kept running into was running out of app uses right when I really needed them. In fact, I even had one such occurrence while fighting a level boss and being that Styx can’t directly fight an enemy, my only recourse was to let the boss defeat me and start all over from the beginning.
I had to continue to try to save my app uses for the final boss while dealing with everything else by either avoiding the danger or using the environment where the opportunity was available. In order to open some doors blocking your path, for example, it is necessary to defeat the cleaners in that room in order to open the door(s). You see, there are times in the game when just avoiding the danger isn’t an option if you want to be able to advance.
Subaeria is a beautifully realized cyberpunk inspired action puzzle game that has potential but as it stands just feels all too much like something that has been done many, many times before. The visuals are very pleasing and fun and really helps to set the theme of the game. Where this game falls short, however, leaves the game along side so many other uninspired puzzle games that fail to leave a lasting impression.
The story as well leaves much to be desired and is a thin veil over a game that could have been something special had its designers spent just a little more time thinking about the best way to design the core tenets of the game. While it’s not a complete disaster, I can only recommend this game to those gamers who are just looking for something to jump into while they are waiting for Spiderman or Forza Horizon 4 to launch in the fall.
This review is based on a copy of the game provided by the publisher.