“How can I go, meeting and exorcising my own ghosts here! I’ve made some new ones now.” – Sylvia Plath
Subway Midnight is a surreal new horror game and premiere solo project from developer Bubby Darkstar. It sees players make their way through a haunted subway train of seemingly infinite carriages whilst being chased by a mysterious stalker. There are spooky ghosts to meet along the way and a variety of puzzles to make the journey more challenging!
Developer: Bubby Darkstar
Released: 28th October 2021
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Narrative and Gameplay
The narrative follows the protagonist as they traverse a multitude of subway train carriages whilst being pursued by a fearsome stalker, there are posters of missing children everywhere and a host of ghosts to encounter along the way. The focus is on the ever-present sense of being followed or hunted and gives the game a genuinely spooky vibe.
Subway Midnight’s gameplay is closely linked to the narrative and consists of progressing through the train, engaging with the spectres and often having to complete puzzles or challenges in order to reach the next carriage. These include memory-based and logic puzzles alongside speed or stealth challenges to name a few. The ever-changing carriages are a constant surprise with the tasks and overall feel, for example, one carriage fills up with oil and the protagonist moved through it and another had reverse gravity and inverted controls.
An interesting aspect of Subway Midnight is the way it handles the player movement. The characters walking speed is pretty slow and feels a bit slidey and awkward to control at times. While this might seem like a negative it does in fact work in the game’s favour. The unsteadiness of the movement really matches the psychedelic styling and sinister narrative and the slow speed enhances the feeling of being chased and yearning to run faster in order to escape the stalker.
Subway Midnight has some heavily stylised visuals that add to the overall creepiness of the game. The aesthetic is generally quite dark but features vibrant, even garish colours and psychedelic effects that create a sense of unease. This is added to by the often unconventional camera angles of the third-person view. The artwork in the different carriages is highly varied and original ranging from clean and colourful cartoons to distorted and pixelated scenes with limited visibility that create genuine discomfort!
There isn’t much on offer in the way of music but Subway Midnight does a fantastic job of implementing its eerie sound effects to add to the atmosphere. The ambient sounds, such as the noise of the train, help increase the level of immersion while the more abstract noises, such as ethereal twinkling or threatening knock, enhance the jump scares, help to build tension and accentuate the trippy vibe.
Overall, Subway Midnight is a cleverly creepy experience that uses good narrative design to instil a sense of being pursued and create tension. This is accentuated by the varied and sometimes challenging puzzles and tasks. It also uses its unique and trippy styling to feed into the sense of unfamiliarity and overall spookiness! If you like horror and are looking for something a bit different, this game is sure to satisfy!