Superliminal is a puzzle sport by which notion is actuality.

I stand within the hallway of a quiet medical facility, and seize a can of soda from a merchandising machine. When I maintain the soda in my arms, it’s fairly small. However, when I flip and place the soda on the finish of the corridor, I’ve performed a intelligent trick; I can now stroll in direction of the soda can to seek out its grown to an enormous dimension.

This is the important thing mechanic of Superliminal. Later, I discover an orange block painted on the partitions. If I stand excellent, the block appears actual. I can decide it up as if it had been a bodily object, and now it’s in my arms. Portraits, seen in the best method, can develop into doorways to a different surroundings. It’s not about what’s actual, it’s about what appears actual.

You see, I’m in a remedy session performed through goals. I don’t know who I am, however I’m clearly right here to check a program and study one thing within the course of. It sounds soothing, proper up till it turns into clear that one thing, someplace, has gone flawed, and I’m caught inside a dream that in a short time begins to really feel like a nightmare.

The key mechanic

Everything comes all the way down to the concept of tampering with actuality by means of using perspective, which is legitimately very neat. I spend my first hour or so with the sport making bins larger after which smaller once more whereas chuckling to myself. It looks like a magic trick, however one which I management.

The drawback is that Superliminal isn’t a sandbox; it’s a puzzle sport. You can’t make all the pieces larger or smaller, and there are doorways on occasion that block you from bringing your helpful soda cans, exit indicators, or chess items into the subsequent stage.

This typically makes Superliminal really feel like Portal. I’m transferring from segmented stage to stage attempting to determine what the sport desires me to do, as a substitute of getting enjoyable with all the pieces that I’ve been proven is feasible. As I go deeper into the dream and the world turns into much less logical, I paradoxically really feel extra constricted, not much less.

What’s worse is that Superliminal is sometimes buggy to the purpose of shouting in frustration. At one level I discovered a ledge that was too tall for me to climb over with a single brick. There was a second brick painted on the partitions however, for some cause, I couldn’t discover the precise angle that might permit me to make use of the brick as an object as a substitute of a painted decal.

So I used the one block I had entry to, made it massive so it clipped by means of the partitions, hurled my character on the glitching brick, and ended up on the excessive floor regardless. It didn’t really feel proper, and even satisfying, nevertheless it labored?

On one other event, I needed to manipulate the scale of a pool float in an effort to attain a excessive door. I resized the float and moved by means of the doorway solely to seek out myself in a damaged surroundings with out textures. It was actually surreal, however not in the way in which the builders most likely supposed.

A story that doesn’t fairly work

I am accompanied by voices as I descend right into a dream world, together with the affable however unhelpful Dr. Glenn Pierce and a feminine sounding AI. Glenn tries to assuage me however fails, and the feminine AI repeatedly chides me angrily for not dreaming appropriately.

Superliminal struggles as exhausting to attach on an emotional stage because it does to work on a mechanical stage. Everything stays completely middling. Even as the sport is attempting to recommend a way of isolation and escalation by means of environmental cues, like soda instances stacked to learn DIE as I strategy a door, or more and more incoherent and determined whiteboards lined in scribbled pleas for me to WAKE UP, I don’t actually really feel alarmed or involved. There simply isn’t the sense of urgency that the design is clearly attempting to encourage in me.

The companions in Superliminal are too flat to make a lot of an impression, for those who’ll pardon my pun. Superliminal’s characters get caught in the identical patterns and emotional tone all through the sport, with out sufficient variance for them to return throughout as characters with their very own needs and stakes. I can inform the place the jokes are, however they don’t hit with the load they need to.

Superliminal - a whiteboard explaining the levels of dreaming

Pillow Castle

At one level, the character who is meant to be testing me — there’s Portal, once more — informs me that I’m “exhibiting signs consistent with an increase in fear, hopelessness, and frustration.”

That was true! But it wasn’t with the dream, it was with the sport itself. The few intelligent methods that make me really really feel on edge play with the sense of how we’re used to work together with video games generally, not with these puzzles particularly. A loading bar fills up, just for the body to increase to the left and fill once more. My cursor turns into an awkwardly drawn smiley face. In one of many few environmental gags to truly land, I see a rubbish can in a recycling bin.

I not often really feel achieved, as a result of I by no means really feel like I am outsmarting the sport. I’m simply doing the few methods the sport has proven me will work, just for these methods to typically fail on account of technical points, not subversion within the design. And typically when I fail I can’t inform why, whether or not it’s as a result of my concept is unhealthy or the sport simply isn’t recognizing that I’m doing what I must be doing. The lack of suggestions is frustrating; this can be a completed, polished product with some very spectacular scenes, however that makes the roadblocks much more irritating.

I don’t need to dump on the sport. It’s the product of a small studio working for over half a decade. But on the similar time, my husband needed to verify on me after he heard me shouting at my display screen: “Come on, what the fuck” a number of occasions. Perhaps there’s an angle from which Superliminal is a satisfying, Portal-fashion thriller, however sadly, I wasn’t capable of finding that angle. And as the sport was so keen on reminding me, notion is actuality.

Superliminal is now obtainable on Windows PC. The sport was reviewed on PC utilizing a “retail” Epic Games retailer code supplied by Pillow Castle. You can discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.

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