Most of us use public transportation for very goal-oriented purposes: we have somewhere we need to go, and we take the shortest path possible to get there. When you're always rushing from one place to the next, it's easy to forget about about everything that lies in between—that every point on a map is tiny world unto itself, a place you could visit. What would it be like if you picked a random station or stop, went there, and walked around?
In Subway Adventure, a new game by Increpare, that's exactly what you do. It starts by assigning you a task: "Pick somewhere that you might like to go, and go there." The station where you begin offers a helpful map of the Dream World of Sadness Metro to help you plan your journey. Each of the individual subway lines—which have names like "Birth," "False Consciousness" and "Abstraction"—also have maps of their own:
This is a game where you might find yourself saying, "wait, I think I need to transfer to the green line in order to get to the moon."
The places you find when you ride the subway are often as strange an dwonderful as their names suggest: a station nestled inside the mouth of a whale, another another overrun covered in colorful bits of plastic that transform it into a climbing wall, another a space station.
Your fellow passengers will sometimes get in your way, even occasionally blocking you from getting on or off a train, though no one is quite rude enough to hold the door. At one stop, Time Zone, everyone you meet is a clock with legs, while at other locales the people you meet are skeletons and forklifts, or blocky figures pushing beds up and down the platform, or they are on fire.
There's something wonderful about wandering in games, though sometimes I find it hard to fully give myself permission. Even when simply meandering about is clearly intended to be part of the experience—as the beautiful, bucolic Everyone's Gone to the Rapture—I still feel a pressure to do, to accomplish something. Even in games that I'm presumably playing for entertainment, strolling around can feel like I'm wasting time, instead than focusing on what I'm "supposed" to be doing.
In Subway Adventure, there's something freeing to me about the idea that the only thing you're supposed to do is explore, absorb what you find, and then get on the next train to another destination, with no idea what awaits you. Those are the kind of trips I'd like to take more, I think. Like Subway Adventure, I think they'd be trips worth taking.
Windows, Mac and Linux users can download the game for free here.