This week, I’m trying an older title, but there’s a newer DLC to tantalize new players to do a deep dive. Superliminal is a perspective-based puzzle title, and as such, it’s a surreal experience that will leave you scratching your head but in a good way. If you’ve got a high threshold for weird and enjoy complex puzzles, you really should give Superliminal a go.
Before going further, let me ask you, did you enjoy the Inception movie? Because if you did, a lot about Superliminal will appeal to you. First, the obvious link is that both the film and the game concern exploring dreamscapes, but while Inception features a heist scenario, Superliminal focuses on the therapeutic application.
By that I mean that your character is a patient of one Dr. Glenn Pierce who has developed SomnaSculpt therapy. The therapy requires that a patient be put into a dream state and then be presented with challenges in order to overcome low self-esteem, apparently. Far be it for me to imply that the great Dr. Pierce is a quack, but it really doesn’t take long for you to fall into ever deepening dream states. The farther down you go, the more surreal your world becomes, and the more the difficulty of the puzzles increase.
The game never lets you forget that you’re in a dream state, and an alarm clock is a recurring motif. However, the game mechanics make sense, contextually, because Superliminal already acknowledges that you’re not in the real world. As a result, you as a player need to rethink how you approach the environment. For example, many of the puzzles will require that you re-size an object, which you do by changing the camera angle until the object in question looks bigger, and when you drop it, you’ll notice that the object now is bigger. You can also rotate your view in order to walk on the ceiling or walls at your pleasure. You’ll be using that resizing mechanic a lot, and you should pay attention as you’ll find objects hidden inside items that you’ve resized that you would never have found otherwise.
You can also expect that Superliminal will play with your visual perception frequently. Trompe l’oeuil is a real artistic technique that fools your eye into perceiving a 2D representation as a 3D object, but the title takes that concept and builds it into its puzzles. In addition, you know the warning in your car’s rear view mirrors: objects may be closer than they appear? In Superliminal, not only may that be true, you can also expect that what you believe to be one thing from a distance looks entirely different once you reach it.
In Superliminal, you’ll find that your environment will reset itself while you’re exploring, which is both cool and irritating at turns. You have to explore all of your environs in order to determine with which items you can interact, and these items then provide both clues and solutions. While you’re flipping fire alarm switches or activating fire extinguishers, you’ll hear brief snatches of narration by both Dr. Glenn Pierce and a Siri-sounding AI assistant that provides a guide to the overarching narrative. Admittedly, the ever-increasing weirdness of your environment is more than enough to clue you into the fact that your mind is in imminent danger.
The game ends on a somewhat didactic note, but the speech does feel as though it flows from the themes you’ve spent your three hours watching unfold. Though Superliminal is short, the ending feels satisfying. Sure, there are ideas that could have been implemented or developed more effectively, but overall, the only real drawback for Superliminal is that the ever-changing perspectives can become dizzying. Players prone to motion-sickness or vertigo should watch a walkthrough or two before deciding to purchase the game.
- You have no body in the game. On the one hand, it’s nice not having to deal with the random floating hands you often see in first person perspective titles, but on the other, it really increases Superliminal’s weirdness.
- Dream Soda is a bit on the nose.
- You’ll fall. A lot. That’s both a motif and part of the way the title works.
- Pay no attention to the random red pawns…
- Writing this review while remaining vague enough not to spoil anything was a real challenge.