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Subject 13 Review

Subject 13 Review

Subject 13 has the look and character of a classic adventure game, but fails in the same way many of those old games did.


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Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure 
Release date: May 26, 2015

Subject 13 is the latest effort from veteran French game designer Paul Cuisset, the man responsible for 1992’s Flashback (the best-selling French video game of all time). Thematic continuity between Subject 13 and the original Flashback is readily apparent; in terms of fun however, Subject 13 more closely resembles 2013’s mediocre Flashback remake.

Subject 13 begins with a dead hero. Or at least a guy with a death wish who’s overcome by personal tragedy. This would-be suicide is scientist Franklin Fargo, a former researcher whose suicidal agenda is interrupted when he’s spirited off to an isolated laboratory. There, a disembodied voice gives him a new identity –”Subject 13”– and throws him into a mysterious experiment.

After the strangeness of your situation, the first thing you’ll notice is the game’s basic approach to aesthetics. From the bland gray lab interiors to the dully realistic island exteriors, there’s nothing here, graphically-speaking, that’ll knock your socks off. The sound fares better, with good vocal performances and a score that alternates between weird electronic loops during exploration and poignant piano/violin cues that punctuate your discoveries.

This solid audio work supports an intriguing story concept that develops in a unique way. Not only does the story propel you forward by repeatedly sparking your curiosity, it provides the perfect excuse for vaguely scientific locations, numerous IQ-testing puzzles, and plenty of free-form exploration. Unfortunately, all this is diminished by unlikely puzzle contrivances and inexact controls.

Progression through Subject 13 relies almost entirely on the careful observation of cause-and-effect. You’re repeatedly presented with arcane mechanisms and making these work often requires making implausible connections. It’s not that you’re asked to devise new and clever ways to combine items; it’s that you’re asked to do things no Earth person would ever think to do (see a certain mushroom puzzle).

Far worse though, are the controls. A good number of puzzles require click-dragging items and machine parts, and unresponsive controls make this a frustrating chore. Add to that the teeth-grinding tedium of the final puzzle (which has no easy reset and forces you to remove and replace an item again and again) and you might never finish the game.

If you do make it through the final challenge, be ready for a narrative letdown. Though Subject 13‘s narrative starts and progresses well, its ending is abrupt, confusing, and unsatisfying. The hero is ultimately forced to do something that only makes marginal sense, and the disjointed epilogue following this action is likely to leave you befuddled.


Subject 13 has the look and character of a classic adventure game, but fails in the same way many of those old games did. It doesn’t look all that good, and unfair leaps of logic combined with unrefined controls make getting through it more a test of endurance than fun. All things considered (such as the experience of its creator and the evolution of game design over the last twenty years), it really should be a better game.

Grade: C
Intriguing story concept
Believable “regular guy” hero
Good sound: vocal performances and music
– Clunky, inexact controls
– Contrived, obscure puzzle design
– Inconsistent interactivity
– Confusing, disappointing ending

System Requirements
OS: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8
Processor: Intel dual core 2 duo 2.2 GHz or AMD equivalent
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: 3D Graphic card with 256 Mo (NVIDIA geForce 8800GT or higher)
DirectX: Version 9.0c
OS: OS X 10.7.5 or later
Processor: Intel quad-core processor running at 3.1 GHz or equivalent
Memory: 4096 MB RAM
Graphics: Intel integrated or mobile graphic card, with at least 768 MB of dedicated or share VRAM / Intel HD40000
Additional Notes: Shader Model 5.0 support

Neilie Johnson

Neilie Johnson

My love of video games began back in the 80s with my parents' arcade business and took a professional turn when I went to work for LucasArts in 2002. After working on more Star Wars titles than you could shake a stick at, I became a freelance video game critic, a job that more fully enabled my full-on video game obsession.My favorite games are Grim Fandango, The Longest Journey and Deus Ex, which goes to show I love good stories, strong heroines and black leather trenchcoats.

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