Subject 13 is a puzzle adventure game developed by Paul Cuisset (Flashback) in collaboration with Microids (Syberia). A Kickstarter project that was successfully funded in July 2014.
Played from both a first person & third person perspective, Subject 13 puts you in the shoes of Franklin Fargo, a physics professor who wakes up in an abandoned underground lab. The last thing he remembers is being in a car accident that saw him plunge into a lake. How he ended up inside the lab is unclear & the disembodied voice that begins to speaks to him is light on details. Franklin is simply referred to as ‘subject 13’.
It’s up to the player to work out the mystery & find a way out of captivity.
A range of tests & puzzles are placed in front of the player as the locations are explored. Environments can be interacted with, objects picked up & combined with others with each solved puzzle opening up new areas taking Franklin one step closer to the truth.
Subject 13 is all about observation. Paying attention to each area, reading documentation & applying what you’ve learnt to the multitude of puzzles. There is a progressive difficulty curve regarding the puzzles in Subject 13. Later, end-game ones, being fiendishly difficult to the point of frustration.
Unfortunately most of the puzzles lack an important element, they’re not much fun. In fact some are poor re-threads of puzzles that exist elsewhere. For example the final ‘minesweeper’ puzzle is a joke, an incredibly frustrating puzzle that comes across very lazy.
Add the poorly designed puzzles to a boring & weak sci-fi story & you see that the two main components of the game are lacking. Franklin is not an interesting character at all. By the end of the short game I had no feelings towards him at all. I didn’t care, not about him or the situation. A lot of this is brought on by the lacklustre voice acting.
Attempts to flesh out the ‘story’ by picking up voice recorders don’t really help because most are optional & hidden out of sight. Often when looking at an object in first person perspective the camera needs to be moved around the object. Trying to get awkward angles just to get a glimpse of the corner of a specific recorder.
The end is anti-climatic, answering some questions while leaving others wide open.
The inventory system is simple. Very few clicks of a button are needed to look at items or use them. The controls while in third-person perspective can be very frustrating. Franklin does not move naturally & attempting to turn him at speed is not handled well. This is made worse by the environment where you’re often blocked by something unseen. Often something that you wouldn’t expect to impede your progress.
Overall Subject 13 just isn’t that good of a game, it’s lacking in many departments & while it’s great to see these types of games still being made, Subject 13 doesn’t exactly sell them to you.