Subject 13 is a 3d sci-fi adventure and puzzle game created by veteran developer Paul Cuisset, known for his 1992 cinematic sci-fi platformer Flashback, with support from the team at Microids. The game begins with a cinematic as a man floats toward the bottom of a body of water along with a car (presumably his), and a locket containing the picture of a woman. The scene then cuts to a first person perspective, with the player now having control of the man who is locked inside of a hatch and is being guided by a disembodied voice that insists on calling the player Subject 13.
Subject 13, or Franklin Fargo as he is also known, is a physics professor who (as we saw in the opening cinematic) has made the decision to end his life following the tragic loss of his fiancee. Upon his reawakening in a strange new world, Franklin is mostly left to his own devices when it comes to exploring the mystery island. Subject 13 implores an ‘escape room’ approach to level design, requiring the player to scour over all of the nooks and crannies of each room in order to locate puzzles and their solutions which then must also be explored and examined in detail.
As the player explores each area and completes the puzzles, more and more details about the island and its previous inhabitants are uncovered. Subject 13 takes the route of introducing the story via collectibles scattered throughout the world. While this is normally an acceptable way for games to include additional information into a game to flesh out a story, using it as the primary method to provide pivotal plot revelations means that missing collectibles results in lost plot points that would otherwise be valuable. The puzzles in Subject 13, which range between variations of tic tac toe and minesweeper, are at not excessively difficult at any point but they do feel a unimaginative.
The controls for Subject 13 also leave something to be desired, with Franklin’s movement speed rivaling that of a snail’s. The inability to adjust the camera means that Franklin routine gets hung up on objects or railings that are actually out of the player’s field of vision. Maneuvering Franklin through the world to explore as intended is actually one of the most difficult aspects of the game.
The voice acting in Subject 13 also suffers. There are 5 different characters with speaking roles in the game, but unfortunately only two voice actors to fill those roles. When listening to the testimonies to try to piece out the events of the story the male voices are indistinguishable from the protagonist. The female voice actor does a slightly better job at giving the characters some variety, but ultimately its still pretty obvious that there were not enough voice actors to go around.
Subject 13 is an ambitious project that allows the potential of the premise to fall into the trap of overusing traditional sci-fi tropes that relies too heavily on exposition via collectibles than actual progressive storytelling. Coupled with the mundane puzzle mechanics, poor controller support, and bad voice acting and we have a solid recipe for disappointment.