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eytanz
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icon Subterra mini-review (+2)  
Well, I've been playing subterra for a few days (well, two, actually), and I'm pretty much addicted. But at the same time I feel there's a lot of room for improvement. So, I thought I'd post a mini-review now so I can look at it later and see if I still agree.

As is my nature, I'm going to be very brief on the things I like and lengthy on the things I dislike. That's not proportional to how I feel about the game - it's a great game, and I love it. I just wish... Well, you'll see.

The good:
- The puzzles, at least those in the main level set (I haven't seen the rest yet), are really excellent.
- The easy/hard mode duality adds a ton of replay value.
- As do all the secrets. Together, there two features are what really sold me on the game.

The bad:
- Too much emphasis on timing in a lot of the puzzles, in my opinion. Even early on, there are a lot of puzzles that are far more taxing on the reflexes than they are on the brain. That's not necessarily bad, but it's not where my taste lies.
- Apparently, no thought was applied at all to a learning curve regarding introducing game elements. Yes, I know this is part of the genre, and the tutorial is much appreciated, but already by the sixth or seventh level you need to remember a lot of different game elements with rather idiosyncratic behavior. Which brings me to:
- A lot of totally arbitrary, non-intuitive relations between objects. Why do eggs not break when they fall? Why do safes contain eggs, for that matter? Why do skulls fire at rubies but not at emeralds? I realize that this is a huge part of the game, but like in other places, it looks like there was no design plan. More on this later.
- The interface is irritating - it's not bad, it's just not good. Having to pause to scroll is annoying, the scrolling itself is hard to control, the key configuration is pretty bizzare (to be honest, I forget if it's reconfigurable, but even if it is this is an odd default).

The Ugly:
- The graphics. Oh my god, the graphics. Now, I'm not talking graphic quality. I think each individual tile is fine. Some of them really look cool in isolation. But they don't fit together. There's a mix of different styles, there's no thought for being able to easily identify objects, and even less thought to aesthetics, especially color combinations. Some objects are far too similar (water and ice). Nearly every object is drawn from a different perspective (compare, for example, fire, the hero, crates, ice, and skulls).

Overall:

If Subterra was a beta version, I'd be hugely excited at its potential. For a game that's been around for a while, I'm mostly disappointed at how it squandered said potential. This could have been one of the top puzzles games out there, but a lot of barriers have been erected for no good reason just to prevent players from enjoying it. Steamlining the interface would be nice, but what would be really good would be if someone went, took the list of object behaviors for given, and went around figuring out new names and personalities for the objects that would make their behavior more intuitive, and make it look like they belong together instead of being thrown together haphazzardly. Similarly, the graphics need a major overhaul - again, not in terms of quality, but in terms of cohesiveness.

A few more words: rereading this it does seem like I was very negative. Despite my disclaimer in the beginning, that's not entirely what I want. So let me just say explicitly - what Subterra does right, it does very very right. It's just that it doesn't do everything right.


[Edited by eytanz at Local Time:05-18-2005 at 12:09 PM]

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05-18-2005 at 04:52 AM
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Mattcrampy
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icon Re: Subterra mini-review (+2)  
If anyone still thinks Eytan is being harsh: he does this all the time. The amount of words and the strength of words expended to make a point does not always accurately reflect Eytan's feelings about the topic.

Take a look at any fan review of the Hitchhiker's movie, or indeed anything that people feel strongly about. They'll point out its flaws much more readily than its strengths, because the strengths are self-evident. It's more common than you'd think.

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05-18-2005 at 08:00 AM
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eytanz
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icon Re: Subterra mini-review (0)  
Heh, thanks, Matt. Anyone who was on the dev team for JtRH knows how harsh I can get when I think something is nearly perfect but not quite. When I actually don't like something I don't bother spending the energy to criticize it.


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05-18-2005 at 12:07 PM
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MeckMeck GRE
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icon Re: Subterra mini-review (+1)  
I may also do a small review :

==== Gameplay (Controlls) ====

The basic controlls (ArrowKeys/WASD) are the common ones. The keys for doing something without moveing (shift) and that for laying bombs (strg + arrowKey) are Ok if you got familiar with them. The real problem is if you want to quit playing you have sometimes to use ESC ; sometimes to use F10. This is a little crappy. All in all (7/10)

==== Gameplay (Fun) ==========

The game is a mix of puzzle and action based platform game. Its very funny to play once you manage to know all elements. Sometimes the game turns a little bit "hectic" which I dont like really but thats my opinion. There is a high variarity of puzzles due to the fact that there are many components. The common levels play well. (42/50)

=== Graphics ===

Oh dear. This is not the strength of SubTerra. However the old 2D engine makes explosions look unrealistc and lasers look like bars. However most of the elements (player/diamonds....) are drawn good. The resolution is very low... All in all (12/20)

=== Sound ===

The background musics have a good varianty and sound Ok. The noises are good. All in all (9/10)

=== Special ===

A fairly powerful editor lets you make your own levels but however not levelsets. (+8)

It has a Online Community (+3)

Demo mode starts too fast (-2)

==== TOTAL ====

(79/100)
05-18-2005 at 12:33 PM
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eytanz
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Oh, MeckMeck's review reminds me:

I didn't even look at the editor yet and I play at work with the sound off. So I couldn't comment on those aspects of the game.

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05-18-2005 at 12:38 PM
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goldenlion
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For a game that has somewhat of a juxtaposition of the strengths and weaknesses of SubTerra (as noted by Eytanz) check out RoX. (The link goes to The Underdogs, which has the game.) The game is a fairly textbook BoulderDash clone, but has excellent graphics not only in terms of technical wizardry, but artistry as well. The visual style (aided by the music) gives the game a feel that is unique from any game I've ever played. This (as Eytanz noted) is something SubTerra could use.

On the other hand, the gameplay is fairly undistinguished as compared to SubTerra, which has some of the best levels I've played in a game of this sort.

Of course, only gameplay makes a good game. Artistic graphics and good music/sound can't make a weak game good, only a good game great. Given a choice between one and the other, I'll always take the gameplay.

[Edited by goldenlion at Local Time:05-19-2005 at 04:39 PM: Bad punctuation. Bad! No biscuit!]

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05-19-2005 at 04:38 PM
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Radiant
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The graphics were the best money could buy, considering I didn't actually have any money to spend on it. I agree they're inconsistent in style, and it would be really cool to update them some time, but that's just wishful thinking.


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05-19-2005 at 09:07 PM
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eytanz
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Well, I would personally have preferred lower quality but more conssitent graphics. But the graphic issue in itself only really bothered me because of the arbitrary nature of object interactions. If I had a feeling that objects made sense, then the graphics wouldn't be nearly as important. At the moment, it feels like two big aspects of the game were put together as random patchwork.

Which still isn't to say that I'm not totally addicted to this game, of course.

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05-20-2005 at 04:58 AM
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Radiant
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Okay, I admit the skull + ruby is a stretch (still, rubies are what scientists use to generate LASER beams). But otherwise, I've tried to have it make sense...

explosive + fire = boom (well duh)
explosive + water = sink (most things sink, no?)

pillow + water = float (pillow = inflatable and air-filled)
pillow + fire = burn up (most things burn)

ice + water = float (everybody knows ice floats)
ice block + ice floor = freeze into wall
ice + fire = put the fire out

Makes sense, no?


[Edited by Radiant at Local Time:05-20-2005 at 11:39 AM]

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05-20-2005 at 10:45 AM
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Squeeky_Dragon
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My review:

I generally don't like puzzle games. In a puzzle game, it's you versus the developer. They're usually unfair, sometimes nearly impossible, because the developer has the ability to program anything into the game, and you only have the options that the developer himself put into it. This, in my opinion, makes puzzle games enormously frustrating and often pointless.

SubTerra, however is different.

First, and most important: The level designers play by the same rules as the players; rocks sink, safes can be destroyed, ice keeps moving until it hits something, etc.

Second: The variety of objects and the ways they interact.

Third: It's free (or it is now, anyway).

SubTerra is the only puzzle game I find worth playing.
-----

Other Comments:

It'd be nice to have a real theme though. What sort of setting is the mine in? It's got things like a little gnome/small medieval peasant as your main character, yet you manipulate laser beams, expanding tube-lanes, and strange teleportation devices (could be magical). SubTerra II, from what I played of the beta version, seemed a little better themed (more fantasy than science fiction) but it still had some slightly weird stuff. Perhaps make the life saver's and such into rings of water walking, or something?

A great game would be a combo of NetHack/Slash'EM (Super Lotsa Stuff Hack ' Extended Magic) and SubTerra; a mix of the best puzzle game ever created, with one of the very best roguelikes. A theme and story combined with what's already a great game would be excellent.

[Edited by Squeeky_Dragon at Local Time:05-20-2005 at 05:22 PM]

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05-20-2005 at 05:20 PM
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Sim
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I think my only gripe that hasn't been brought up already is that the backgrounds seem a bit annoying. They just don't seem to fit into the game at all and add more confusion to the levels. Myself, I would've used plain colours or simple patterns, or maybe a 'busy' background that only uses several colours and takes up no more than 4x4 squares. For example, a darkish grey for distant ground, then maybe a lattice texture on top in a lighter grey. I don't want to be too nitpickish though, it is still a great game.
05-21-2005 at 04:10 PM
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SKWERLL
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quote:
Radiant wrote:
The graphics were the best money could buy, considering I didn't actually have any money to spend on it. I agree they're inconsistent in style, and it would be really cool to update them some time, but that's just wishful thinking.



On Spiderweb Software's site, the other games didn't make it look bad, Subterra didn't make Vogel's games look bad. Same here (No offense… but I find these graphics to be fine, since I don't judge a game by its graphics.)

quote:
Squeeky_Dragon wrote:
SubTerra is the only puzzle game I find worth playing.



Oh, come on. You don't like DROD?

EDIT: There's a bug in this forum. If I forget to close the Bold tag, it makes everything after my post bolded (like my signature).

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07-27-2005 at 04:25 AM
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The Stew Boy
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quote:
SKWERLL wrote:
There's a bug in this forum. If I forget to close the Bold tag, it makes everything after my post bolded (like my signature).

That's not a bug, it's just logical. If you don't close the bold tag, the forum automatically assumes you don't want it closed. It's the same way with most forums. It's also impossible to fix.

[Last edited by The Stew Boy at 07-27-2005 10:20 PM]
07-27-2005 at 10:19 PM
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Banjooie
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quote:
EDIT: There's a bug in this forum. If I forget to close the Bold tag, it makes everything after my post bolded (like my signature).


What, exactly, do you /expect/ to have happen if you don't close a bold tag?
07-30-2005 at 05:44 PM
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agaricus5
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quote:
Banjooie wrote:
quote:
EDIT: There's a bug in this forum. If I forget to close the Bold tag, it makes everything after my post bolded (like my signature).


What, exactly, do you /expect/ to have happen if you don't close a bold tag?

Maybe that only the post gets bolded, not the signature, perhaps? (The signature is technically separate from the post, after all).

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08-02-2005 at 06:38 PM
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gamer_extreme_101
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Well, if you really want to prevent yourself from looking silly, you can always add the following line to the beginning of your signature:

[/b][/b][/u][/u][/i][/i][/color][/color][/size][/size]

And that will prevent any text-formatting to hit your signature. It's not much, but it's at least a good defense for looking like a tool.

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[Last edited by gamer_extreme_101 at 08-02-2005 07:21 PM]
08-02-2005 at 06:59 PM
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Doom
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Well, that's not attack proof. I could always write [b][b]* at the end of my post. :P

*Always 1 [b] more than [/b]'s in the signature

[Last edited by Doom at 08-02-2005 07:29 PM]
08-02-2005 at 07:04 PM
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Banjooie
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I dunno, he said 'like' his signature. This implies other things.

Also, the 'edit' button.
08-02-2005 at 10:56 PM
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ela_de
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To tell you the truth, although I've finished most of the puzzles (apart from that section where the 1st one is bugged) I really don't like it. It's ,of course, mostly because of personal preferences (an action game is good; a puzzle game is good; a puzzle game that has you running like crazy is not)

The pause-scroll thing is a killer but what really gets me is that I have forgotten maths and there's one puzzle I sort of muddled through after taking a quick tutorial via certain sites and another I cannot beat no matter what.

That is not logic, nor action really is it?

Overall however, I'd say that, for people who don't mind a bit of trouble remembering what the whole dungeon looks like and are not averse to running around, it's a great game. Sure the graphics are a bit surealistic but I actually liked that since they are, well, strange. The music is really nice (esp the most up-beat piece). Plot-wise it's pathetic but, if you read the "plot" at the beginning you'll see why :D
08-13-2005 at 11:02 PM
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Nikolas
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Well, my mini Review:

I love puzzle games. I also love RPGs and Adventure games. I love everything that makes you think. Everything that is open miinded. Everything that let's you create. And this game has all these ellements!

Graphics

Ok! everybody thinks it's the week point. I agree, but then again I know that Radiant is really awfull at graphics and also graphics is not what matters to this game.

Music

I love it! A lot of midis. A lot of different styles of music! I love it. A budy while playing.

Gameplay

Now, here I do have one problem. Scrolling. Ok, two problems. The second is that although I have been playing all day I still don't remember what everything does. I mean ok, you use logic for most things, but then again you get 3 different kinds of rubbies, eggs, dynamites, explosives, mines, bombs, skulls and anyway 5-6 pages of help file to explain these things. Ok, this means that the game can do anything anyone wants but really if someone is to study a couple of days before being able to play then... Also the timing sometimes is right on the edge, and you really have to hurry. At least I think that the character reacts very well to my commands.

Overall

Well I think that this game will provide me with weeks of fun! And why not? It's got everything. And if I ever get bored of it, I'll just design a new level to play. :thumbsup
12-05-2005 at 11:44 PM
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The Stew Boy
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quote:
Nikolas wrote:
If I ever get bored of it, I'll just design a new level to play.

Well said.
12-08-2005 at 04:32 AM
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Nilex
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Old SubTerra player here, hi everyone.
Found new wind to re-install and finally finish the game, more than 10 years after first starting it. Completed 69 levels in September of 2006; 78 in August-October 2010. And hopefully the last ~17 will be done in following months (finished first level in 7 years just yesterday - "Replicating").

It's basically a 10/10 game for me (at least in puzzle genre). For comparison Half-Live 2 is a 0/10, so I don't get impressed easily. It dropped to 9/10 after I've read the authors took a lot of ideas from other, older games. But it still sits alone in the top as being the best puzzle one.

What I like about ST is the quality of the puzzles and the gradual and careful buildup in complexity. Without the cheap gimmicks of artificially creating one (overcomplexity, unpleasant and sudden hidden surprises, too much trial and error, pixel precision or perfect timings).
Every object is unequivocally explained as it purpose introduced throughout the natural level progression. And there sure are many such objects later on so you'll hardly ever feel in dominant position when a new level loads for the first time. Luckily there is a quick in-game guide for those situations.
There are tools to help a player out in a way of a level checkpoints or very handy pause button in a time crunch (with ability to examine whole level to your heart's content).
There are many secrets in here. Mayor plus in the way they are handled. I don't want to say too much about those as it's best to discover them on your own. I'll just say the feeling of reward and accomplishment more than makes up for time lost in finding them. Highest one I can think of right now, in terms of games.
The scoring system still looks legit even after all those years. This is almost unique case. Makes me really want to get into that elite club.

Unlike the OT my stance on graphic is quite the opposite. Every square is very distinguishable on first glance, as it should be in game like this. Everything has a distinct color and shape. If you try to make them look more "real" they'll bland in make the whole experience worse.
Similar thing happens is grand-scale wargames. There thousands of units are represented by simple symbols. And the reason for this is to be easily distinguishable form one another as fast as possible. Where there are many objects interaction among themselves this is of high importance.

I have a couple of quarrels too. The absence of music volume slider and reconfigurability of keys for: turbo, pause. Turbo could be used on TAB and pause could be toggled by spacebar (while inside of level). This makes the key group closer (tab, space, shift, ctrl).

I have several suggestions for "quality of life" improvements for this game but I have just regged an hour ago. Let me make myself more comfortable first and discover where is best place for that, maybe there is a topic about that already. It's nothing major in terms of new code but I believe the impact would be positive enough to warrant interest.

That's all for my first post. See you around people. :1disguise
01-15-2017 at 08:54 PM
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