Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Stone Age Multimedia: Sub Mission

Posted by Trixter on July 23, 2010

(What follows is a continuation of an article about audio cassettes included with computer games; if you would like to start at the beginning, start with Homeword.)

Sub Mission

Continuing our exploration into the mind of Tom Snyder, we pull 180 degrees and take a look at Sub Mission, a diabolical game of hide and seek with a warlord. It takes place underwater using submarines and mines; a bit of action, a bit of simulation, and a bit of strategy round out this game with very unique aspects. Sound unique enough for you? If not, consider this: If you play the game “for real” (ie. not with “robots”), you run the risk of permanently killing one of the characters in the game, who has clues vital to escaping. It deletes the character data off of the disk!

Gameplay suffers from seemingly poor planning. One gets the feeling that Tom thought of a couple of neat elements — submarine play, hide-and-seek tactics, permanently killing characters, etc. — and tried to mesh it all into a game. The end result has some holes in the story, and some gameplay elements feel arbitrary and forced. These elements are probably what prompted for the inclusion of a cassette in the game: The first side of the tape has an 8-minute introduction that sets up the premise, and the entire second side of the tape — 22 minutes — is an extremely thorough tutorial.

Highlight: (Cheezy) Computer telling the player that “To save them, you have to play the game — and play to win!

High Points: Tutorial fully explains all aspects of the game such that reading the manual is probably not necessary; first 46 seconds of the tutorial clearly explains gameplay purpose better than the entire introductory story on the first side of the tape.

Low Points: Weak title theme; “computer voice” in introduction is sometimes hard to understand; (seemingly) randomly-generated music constantly playing in the background; tutorial narrator is dry and reads as if he’s high on weed; repeated careful pronounciation of the words “sonar scope” is irritating to some; tutorial is very long; tutorial was recorded in one take, probably improvised, resulting in some long pauses, stumbling over words, and computer noises in the background; your character himself keeps pointing out glaring holes in the plot and gameplay, such as “Wait a minute — I don’t need those two kids to help me beat the warlord. Why should I risk their lives when I can pilot (the sub) through a remote robot?” and “Why play the wargame at all? Why not just put Sigourney or Peter in the sub and go looking for the escape route?”

Audio: Sub Mission Intro, and Sub Mission Tutorial

Trivia: As previously mentioned, Tom Snyder Productions branched away from computer games and into traditional media, like cartoons. If the name wasn’t familiar before now, do the shows “Dr. Katz” (Comedy Central) and “Squigglevision” ring a bell? They’re the brainchild of Tom’s production company. In fact, listen to the beginning title theme in the Sub Mission intro — there is a faint resemblance to the sequeway music played when moving from one scene to another in Dr. Katz.

One Response to “Stone Age Multimedia: Sub Mission”

  1. Wow, thanks again for doing this!

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