Submachine 8 review – -ak-

It seems like Mateusz Skutnik was taking a break from his usual Submachine development after not being able to meet his predicted 2011 release of Submachine 8: the Plan. Or not. Whatever the case, one can never know until one play this game because what happened during the hiatus didn’t really matters in the end. For the fans who suffered two painstaking years of waiting, they must be feeling rather joyous to hear that Submachine 8 was finally made available for their insatiable needs of PNC gaming experience. After two years of scourging through any hints, developing theories, and predicting events of the cherished PNC series after experiencing one of finest installments yet in Submachine 7: the Core, one cannot doubts that the fans would happily tear Submachine 8: the Plan apart for any more hints to find. The only question can be asked is that is the game any good? Why yes, my dear readers. Submachine 8: the Plan is most definitely good.

————————— GRAPHIC

Repeating myself from Sub_4, 5, 6, and 7 reviews, it is starting to become extremely obvious that the masterful art style is still as radiant as ever, perhaps even a little bit more than eerily gorgeous Sub_7 that rocked the PNC world. Once again, Mateusz Skutnik shows off his style that is tantalizing and mysterious, as demonstrated throughout the series. This time instead of having a near-consistent style that is the hallmark of every game in the series, he took a different direction by butchering the game into seven different Layers. Perhaps butcher is too strong a word to use, but it is certainly fitting given the intention of the game’s plot. The graphical style, showing various locales in their state of decay, is a strong reminisce of epic Submachine Network Exploration Experience and that alone is worth the price of admission (free?) to experience the expanse of Submachine 8. Each Layer is certainly colorful and are close to feeling playful, yet they’re held back by smudges, grimes, and rusts and all are immersed in infectious bleakness that is the Network’s darkness. What astound me the most is that the graphical styles in each Layers actually defeat the constrained sense of space, making each location feels extremely different from other even within the same map size. That requires huge art profession to pull this off and Mateusz proven once again that he’s the master of current PNC generation. The only very minor drawback is that while all art style of the seven Layers are equally impressive as whole, some Layers are more jaw-dropping gorgeous as individual than other depending on your personal tastes (my favorites: Layers 1, 2, and 3. Layers 5 and 7 looks good too). Reveling in the immersive styles of each seven Layer is impressive and memorable, highlighting the fractured nature of the entire Submachine Network and emphasizing the mysterious nature of the Plan. Not surprisingly, still beautiful as always. Score: 10 / 10

————————— SOUND

Seven masterful soundtracks. That’s all you need to know. All of them are brilliantly made to fit with not only the Layers, but the locations within the Layers. Again, some ambients are better than other depending on your taste (Layer 1 is my theme of the game). Many of them are memorable, but not quite near the lofty standard established in Sub_2 and continued in Sub_3, 4, 5, and 7. Still, you really can’t go wrong with this soundtrack as the ambients will blissfully make your ears bleed. Also contributing to the game is well-made sound effects of various objects and events, further immersing you in the fractured Layers of Submachine 8. Sounds good, right? Score: 9.5 / 10

————————— PLOT

Interesting intro and outro of Murtaugh and Liz (the first in series), the mystique of the Seven Layers of Submachine, the collection of notes with strange conversations and expositions. To many, this would considered to be a mixed-bag of plot messiness. A huge misstep in plot development not seen since Submachine 5: the Root. All I have to say is: NOT SO. Yes, Submachine 5 is the biggest misstep in the series in term of storytelling potentials, but Submachine 8 refuses to follow in its footsteps for good reasons. What made Sub_8 captivating to read is that the game expands on the plot that Submachine 7 established, especially where the Plan and the Layers are concerned. Even so, Submachine 8 has proven itself to be one big tease. We may not get all of the answers, but do we not honestly expect to considering where we are at this point in the main series. Heck, few answers are made about the Plan, the captivating relationship between Murtaugh and Liz, and even the mysterious nature of the Layers that would drive the rabid theorists to near insanity. The main criticism is that the dynamics of plot morphing before our eyes that Sub_7 deftly demonstrated is sorely missing in this game. Not to say that it is required for this game, but the players would feel the game to be lacking in regard, especially since we’re chasing after Murtaugh. I am sure Mateusz can argues that the game is at the point where we are thrown off path either by accident or intention, especially by Murtaugh as he clearly explained in the intro. If you have been following what Liz hinted in the end of Sub_7 up to the ending of Sub_8, this is definitely a storyteller’s intention all along and one can’t mark against the game for it. Even if you’re still disappointed by the plot, please consider this game to be a very good penultimate chapter to experience as we wait for the last two installments where big plot expositions are sure to be (possibly?) revealed. Score: 9.5 / 10

————————— GAMEPLAY

The meat and bone of PNC genre where the series can live and die by how fun and absorbing they are to play. Fortunately for everyone who are concerned about following up the legendary Submachine 7, rest assured that Submachine 8 more than lived up to lofty expectations. By gameplay standard, Submachine 8 is by far the most fun I ever played since Sub_4 and Sub_7 bewildered us with its brain-teasing puzzles, beautiful locales to explore, and tantalizing secrets to find. What Sub_8 brings to table is sheer innovation with Layer Switching system that is best compared to the Dark World system from Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Although that was with only two different dimensions. We’re talking about SEVEN different Layers to switch between. And by god, switching between different Layers is helluva lot of fun and mind-bending hard as well. Make no mistakes, this is one of (if not) the hardest Submachine games I ever played. You will have to arm yourself with good sense of space and empty your memory bank because you would need it to navigate the gnarled environments that are the seven Layers. It helps to know that all Layers have the same map size and shape, even if the beautiful environment can effectively warped your senses of space and direction off. The puzzles are no slouch either where one have to constantly switch between Layers to find solutions. Solving the puzzles is still satisfying, the hallmark of fun gameplay in any PNC games where Mateusz can still flex his game-making skills. The main criticisms are that firstly, the puzzles can be tad too difficult on people who didn’t have refined sense of space and direction like any harden PNC gamers does (though it would helps if they play the previous installments first!). Secondly, the secrets are mind-boggling hard to find, even more so than Sub_6 and 7. Thirdly, only a tad few items are difficult to find as they hide bit too neatly with the background. Finally, the secret rewards are curiously NOT in the gameplay where Sub_4, 5, 6, and 7 incorporated as they’re instead accessed via menu. It is understandable that we can finally access the secrets easily right from the start (I like it, too), but I felt that the additional plot development in the Secret Menu would have been better served by being accessed via Seventh Layer by gameplay means. Not having them straight in the game takes a bit of immersion out. But, hey. I still have fun getting my ass kicked by the puzzles. Solved it even without walkthrough (YAY!). Score: 9.5 / 10


As I laid out all the goods and the bads, it is easy to make claims that Submachine 8 is by far one of the best in series and the game can even asserts itself as the absolute best. In my opinions, it didn’t quite stands up as the best, but it still established itself as one of legendary games that ranks up high with Submachine 2, 4, and 7. No small feat for a game to make. Final Score: 9.6 / 10

author: -ak-.