Sublevel Zero Redux Review: Vibrant Soundtrack And Polished Nostalgia


Sublevel Zero Redux takes six degrees of freedom to interesting places in their futuristic sci-fi escape journey.

Developers: SIGTRAP Games

Publisher: Merge Games

Platform: PlayStation 4 (Version reviewed), Xbox One

Release Date: March 7, 2017

SigTrap Games, founded in 2014, entered the indie development scene with SubLevel Zero released last year for PC. In line with their expressed intentions, this game on the way now for consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as SubLevel Zero Redux.

I was a wee lad in the mid-90s when games like Descent were coming onto the scene to critical acclaim. While I played Descent on my Windows 95 Acer computer, I had no ideas of its popularity or how well regarded it was.

Credit: SIGTRAP Games /

Enter SubLevel Zero Redux, a game wearing inspiration from Descent on its chest. The six degrees of freedom which characterized those older games is on display in a wonderfully realized rogue-like experience.

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SubLevel Zero Redux is narratively simple and boasts of a maximum of six levels. However, the hook of the gameplay from crafting to a mesmerizing soundtrack makes it very replayable.

The first experiential hook for me in any game and in particular in this game is the music. SubLevel Zero Redux music coordinator Will Bedford has put together an affecting soundtrack using a blend of inspirations found in the orchestra and electronica music scene. It is a beauty to listen to.

SubLevel Zero Redux leans heavily into exploration and uncertainty. As each level is procedurally generated, your ship sets to explore every nook and cranny with a sense of foreboding doom as you advance through the game with only a slight sense of direction.

Credit: SIGTRAP Games /

Sublevel Zero Redux is difficult, as it consistently reformulates itself when you restart each new run of the game. Even on Easy Mode, I found myself trudging carefully through levels trying to make it out alive.

Each level is not going to overwhelm you in size, but due to branching paths including treasures, transport loops, and, an old school staple, dead ends SubLevel Zero Redux never lets you feel completely comfortable with where you are going.

In the early going, you reach the end of one of those branching paths from the main path relatively soon. As you advance further, the levels get longer, and each branch becomes more complex. This adds a level of intrigue to a game, which as I mentioned above is narratively simple.

Credit: SIGTRAP Games /

Every level includes a variety of enemies attacking you in different ways. There are agile snipers, bull rushing rams, barrier lasers, and more throughout the game. Each level ends in a final encounter with a reactor core, which can prove difficult especially when all of the other enemy types exist in the same area to stop you from taking it down.

As you defeat enemies, you collect Nanites, ammo supplies, and resources to upgrade your ship. Using a combination of nanites, you unlock new crafting options for each item type you can hold: Hull, Engine, Primary and Secondary weapons.

While not every enemy drops materials you can use for crafting, it is very unlikely you will craft everything in the game in a single playthrough. Not everything you craft will be suited towards your playstyle.

Credit: SIGTRAP Games /

This is about where the game transitions to something a bit more frustrating, however. When crafting, you cannot easily compare the current stats of the items you are combining with the items you already have. There are multiple ships you can open up, and each item may not be the best for your ship and what it does.

Additionally, there are occasionally long periods where nothing that drops will actually improve your ships weapons, engine, or hull. There was a run in which for four levels, I never received an actual upgrade to my Plasma weapons of choice.

While the game wants you to unlock new ships and logs by reaching various milestones they have outlined in the main menu screen, once you begin the game you cannot see what those milestones are or view any of the data that exists there.

There are times you may want to complete a playthrough for a specific thing, but you must write it down and record it yourself to keep track of where you are. SigTrap Games adding in these goal markers to the in-game menus would make it easier to accomplish the goals they have set forth.

Credit: SIGTRAP Games /

…Sublevel Zero Redux delivers both as a rogue-like and as the old school six degrees of freedom shooter.

One other complaint is with the controls. There are times where the ship will flip to its side as you try to adjust your viewing angle. This can cause a bit of disorientation in encounters and happens more frequently than I would like. Fixing the threshold for when the ship flips or more easily allowing you to flip back without having to use the D-Pad on the controller would alleviate this complaint.

Still, there is a level of charm to the game. There is a sincerity in the way the music becomes enlivened as you enter encounters with enemies. The way in which the game kindly tugs at you to try one more time as you’ve died for the fifth time without finishing. It is unforgiving, but it never feels unfair.

I am not particularly into rogue-like games as a genre, but, ultimately, Sublevel Zero Redux delivers both as a rogue-like and as the old school six degrees of freedom shooter. This is the kind of game you buy, download to your system, and don’t delete. The soundtrack, the level design, and the sense of discovery all deliver.

8. A vibrant soundtrack, rogue-like gameplay hooks and an old-school sense of exploration elevate Sublevel Zero Redux to a high level of quality. A few tweaks to the crafting, controls, and goal markers will keep you coming back to this game even after you finish the first playthrough.. SIGTRAP Games. . SubLevel Zero Redux

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.