Developer: Pillow Castle Games
Publisher: Pillow Castle Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Category: Action, First-Person, Puzzle
No. of Players: 1 Player
Release Date: July 7, 2020 (EU & NA)
Price: $20.00 on sale for 16.00
Initially released in November 2019 for Windows, and Xbox and PS4 in May 2020, the game finally arrives on the Nintendo Switch in July 2020. Touted as a fresh take on puzzle games and a visually stunning masterpiece. The game received above average review scores from critics and users alike, where many people cited the unique mind-bending puzzle game.
The story of Superliminal is multilayered and somewhat obtuse up until the ending which had bits of thought-provoking context all the way to the last shot of the game. I initially was under the impression that playing as the unnamed character, i.e. you play as yourself, in a research facility for dream therapy.
From there the game takes a few twists and turns, which would essentially spoil the overall story. It’s safe to say that you may not be expecting the turns the second half of the game is willing to take as it spins you around, upside down, and forces a change of perspective on you in more ways than one.
Your overall direction is fed to you through intercom messages from an unknown voice, most likely a staff member at the facility and Dr. Glenn Pierce through radios you come across during your journey. While you walk through the facility, which quickly transports you through to dreamlike rooms and sequences where the walls and floors bend like M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali impressionism. Objects become melted and stretch and colorful walls become doorways to the next room.
At its core, Superliminal, is a walking simulator on acid. You spend most of your time walking forward room to room until you come to the end of that stage and board an elevator only to ‘wake up’ into the next sequence of the dream. As you enter rooms there are usually objects you will find to interact with that, by using perspective, you can ‘grow’ or ‘shrink’.
This might be a triangle piece of cheese that you will turn into a staircase or a door that you need to grow so you can fit through it. In other rooms, you had to maneuver yourself through a game of light and shadows revealing holes in the floor or a hidden walkway to navigate an endless drop down a dark shaft only to return in the room again and again.
The gameplay in Superliminal is quite basic. You move forward, backward, left, and right with the left-stick. Adjust your camera with the right stick. You can jump with B. Pick up and interact with objects with A and rotate them by holding ZL and moving the left-stick. There’s not much else to the game, though it’s how you align yourself in a room to reveal an interactive object or how you position yourself which plays into a huge part of what makes Superliminal work.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Superliminal has a 1 ½ to 2 hour playthrough of its main campaign. Along the way, there are a handful of achievements you can also get like activating fire alarms or drinking soda from the various machines you will find throughout the game.
The main feature in Superliminal is the unique gameplay and visual punch that the game offers. I can’t tell you the last time I played something so topsy turvy in terms of gameplay which reminded me of a lucid dream akin to falling down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland.
Superliminal has very little in terms of speaking audio. Like I mentioned before there are instructions from the intercom that cover the main gist of the dream therapy program and Dr. Piece does shed light on what is going on. It wasn’t until the last act that all of what was being said came together in a way that was bigger than just a dream, but in how in the real world we deal with things like depression, anxiety, and situations that may lead to adversity in our lives.
The game does feature some great subtle dream-like moments of music throughout the game. Audio comes through as either really ‘floaty’ and dreamy or in one situation almost anxiety-inducing as you run through a sequence quickly. The game’s music really stands out since much of the game is played in silence aside from the intercom and radio dialogue.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The visuals of Superliminal are the selling point in the game. I can’t describe fully what it feels like to walk through the dream sequences as walls and objects melt or flip and your perspective is turned on its head. There were so many ‘oh wow’ moments for me throughout the game. And then there are the puzzles you have to solve where lining up a shadow turns an object into something ‘real’ that you can interact with and need to use to get out of a room.
I didn’t notice any stuttering or drops in frame rate, though the truth is the overall visuals used in the game are lower in textures and for the most part simplified. You will see the same stack of boxes, fire hydrants, and assets used throughout the various stages which may be the game’s only failing point.
Superliminal is one of those games that stands out among all games as doing something unique and different. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and while over quickly tells a great story of how changing perspectives can help you solve even the hardest thing that life throws at you. The game mixes elements of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’, dream within a dream within a dream, and psychedelic impressionism honing in on what is real and how we shape our realities. No game that I know of, has ever done this.
The way that Superliminal forces perspective and out of the box puzzle solving is hard to explain in a review and truly needs to be experienced. If you want something unique and have 2 hours to spare, for the price of a movie ticket you can’t go wrong with Superliminal.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*A Review key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by jonathanober