Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.
The time-traveling puzzle game The Suspense II raises a lot of questions. Why is this workaday businessman being hanged in a rural village? The guy looks like he ought to be fixing copiers—not facing the mob justice of disgruntled herdsmen. Why is a farming village equipped with whirring buzzsaws in the middle of the road, in both the pleasant past and the stormy present day? I get that Business McGee can travel through two time periods with a flick of the “S” key, but that doesn’t quite explain the death traps on Main Street.
The laws of The Suspense II’s unhappy little world don’t make much objective sense, but its internal game logic works quite nicely: Change the past to escape death in the present. There are 10 obstacle courses to work through, each one marked by a distinct puzzle. In one, you have to bring a man a shovel so you can get to a key in the underground; in the next, you’re flipping switches in the past so Death itself can walk past some of those saws.
Suspense avoids overseriousness with ridiculous images of cruel fate. Throwing up an Alexander Pope quote—“The good man prolongs his life; to be able to enjoy one’s past is to live twice”—could get heavy if it weren’t counterpointed by the absurdity of a pudgy cartoon guy crucified in his button-down. The game is a little unsatisfying, though. The final level is called “You Can’t Escape Death,” and you can’t. It’s a frustrating trick but a tantalizing one that makes the “To be continued…” at the close quite tempting. Just because death’s inevitable doesn’t mean it’s not fun to try and outrun it.