capsule review

Submachine: 32 Chambers

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Submachine: 32 Chambers

Casual game Submachine: 32 Chambers takes you on a journey within stone walls, past ancient ruins, and through drifts of sand. With nothing but your wits and a few clickable objects, you navigate the chambers and solve puzzles to win this browser-based game. Its hand-drawn look and absorbing gameplay absorbed me so thoroughly, finishing the game made me blink as if leaving a cave.

Submachine: 32 Chambers begins in a stone-brick room with a Mesoamerican-looking glyph and a futuristic machine. If you've played any of the other Submachine games, you'll recognize the apparatus as the teleporter that brought you there. Even if 32 Chambers is your first introduction to the Submachine games, you'll immediately learn how it works: You mouse over objects and chamber edges, looking for items to pick up and directions to go. A veteran of these games would have little trouble finding out where to click to collect items, move switches, and travel from room to room. My strategy was to mouse over every pixel looking for clues (and to get a little disconcerted when I ran across the statue of Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide).

Luckily, the creepy statue was window dressing and not a clue about my progress. Despite the spikes that shoot out of the walls at the boundaries, there's no way to lose at Submachine: 32 Chambers. You can leave the game and resume at auto-save points. The ThumpMonks' eerie music adds to the mood, but sounds aren't crucial for gameplay, so you can also play it muted to avoid disturbing your neighbors. If you decide to be more of a tourist than an explorer, you can avail yourself of the walkthrough link handily placed in the game itself.

The tenth installment in Submachine series, 32 Chambers has its own history. Despite the Mesoamerican look, 32 Chambers is not part of our world, but of Mateusz Skutnik's vast "subnet" (submachine network) world. Polish architect-turned-graphic novelist Skutnik has been producing Submachine games since 2005, building up quite a following.

If you need a break--or a series of breaks--to challenge your mind, Submachine: 32 Chambers might be just the right little trip to plug into your day's itinerary.

Note: To play this game, you must follow the link and open it in a Flash-enabled browser. After two brief ad videos, you can play the game online. This game won all three major awards in the Casual Gameplay Design Competition. Read PCWorld's reviews of winning and notable casual games from this contest.

--Laura Blackwell

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Submachine: 32 Chambers

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