“An experimental submarine, the ISS Sentinel, carrying a revolutionary new energy device and the world’s leading scientific experts has missed several scheduled check-ins. The Enigma Fellowship has been contacted for help. Given the lives and scientific knowledge at stake your mission is to not only find the submarine but also rescue the crew.”
Like many puzzle game enthusiasts, I have an abundance1I won’t say ‘too many’, because you can never have enough of puzzle games sitting on my shelf. While the rate at which I play games has slowed down quite a bit from my heyday in 2021, I’ve been trying to spread my plays lately across the various game series I have sitting on the shelf. I was quite happy to head back towards the eco-friendly series of games released by Enigma Fellowship.
This time around I’d be working towards finding a missing submarine while learning a little bit about marine science along the way. The adventure was a long one, with my playtime clocking in at a little over three hours. Fortunately, the game offers a good pause point about halfway through. The game was their most challenging experience yet, but I had a great time playing through and solving the mystery of The Submerged Sentinel.
Narrative is front and center in The Submerged Sentinel, which uses letters, logs, websites, and narration to tell its story. The writing is light-hearted and adventurous, never letting the stakes of racing to save a trapped submarine crew feel too dour or heavy2It’s worth noting this game out several years before the Titan submersible accident while still maintaining its sense of stakes and urgency.
There’s a few connections to previous Enigma Fellowship experiences, which were a fun bonus. They’re more in the vein of Easter Eggs, so you don’t need to play through their previous games to appreciate playing through this one.
Like the other two mainline Enigma Fellowship games I’ve played, the contents of the main envelope seemed sparse when I opened it up—a map, a letter, two envelopes—but like a magic trick (or a TARDIS) there’s more nested within the envelopes than one would suspect.
One of the neat things that Enigma Fellowship does is provide a little behind-the-scenes blog post at the end of the adventure. It was really cool to find out that a lot of the things in the game were based off of the creators’ experiences and actual maritime science. It’s always a rad bonus to learn things as you play a game!
The game creators talk about in the behind-the-scenes post about how the puzzles were initially too easy and they had to increase the difficulty on the puzzles in the game. That definitely came through in the gameplay, the puzzles here are quite challenging at times. There were a few times that I worried that a puzzle might be verging into esotericism, though after a nudge or two from the hint site, I realized that there was a critical clue I’d overlooked and was able to find the solution. Much like The Scattered Cards, I felt like having another player around to look at things afresh would have been helpful.
The puzzles are fun and varied and never wear out their welcome. A lot of the components get cleverly reused, which dovetails nicely with the eco-conscious nature of Enigma Fellowship. My favorites were the one that blended narrative and puzzle, using different mediums to aid in immersion. (A special shoutout to the very cool diving puzzle!)
Another thing I appreciated was that the puzzles that require a lot of deciphering will perform the decryption for you once you’ve proved that you know what the cipher is. Something I’ve learned from playing a lot of puzzle games over the last few years, it can be tedious at times to decipher a long message! So I am a-ok with a shortcut from time to time.3Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from doing all the deciphering yourself, should you so choose. You do you!
The only real negative note to the experience’s puzzles is that several of them rely on color distinction, particularly between red / green and blue / purple. It felt like an unforced error, there were no thematic reasons to use those particular colors and colorblind-friendly combinations could have been chosen instead.
The hint system in place is a good one. As you move from puzzle to puzzle in the web interface, hints that are relevant to the puzzle you’re on are attached at the bottom of the page, providing progressive hints.
Lastly, a friendly tip for those playing, one of the earliest resources the game provides is a page with a list of ciphers that are used throughout the game, I had forgotten about it when I came back to play part two, but it would have been extra helpful with some of the later puzzles.
The Submerged Sentinel was a lot of fun, though quite challenging at times. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a solo challenge or someone that has a few, experienced friends to play with.