Game Review: Superliminal

Release date: 2019
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2021

Developed and published by Pillow Castle, Superliminal is a first person puzzle-story game, based around the concept of dreams and reality. As the unknown, unseen player character, you take part in Dr Glenn Pierce’s “Somnasculpt” dream therapy program at the Pierce Institute. By solving puzzles utilising perspective changes, resizing various objects, and specific object placements, the player character continue through the program as their reality begins to warp around them,

+ the puzzles themselves are not particularly difficult (but see below for a bit more on that). I’d liken them mostly to the perspective puzzles in Pneuma: Breath of Life, as seen in the images below, or the changing of object sizes in Maquette. Some puzzles involve instead the use of light and shadow, but these didn’t really do it for me, either because it was simply trial and error due to you literally not seeing anything, or made redundant by just carrying a light with you
+ the presentation and atmosphere is initially much like Portal. When you first try to think outside the box you might end up somewhere off the beaten track, and that feeling of “I really shouldn’t be here” will start to sink in, even though that is exactly where the game wants you to be. That sort of environment design is very well done
+ the story toes the line between 2deep4u philosophical wank and a sort of psychological thriller. As above, the moments of feeling like you’re doing something wrong are a part of the story, and I enjoyed the feeling of ‘breaking’ the game. The various audio logs are well acted, and the faux-GLaDOS style announcer was fun enough.

– the game is very short. I finished the game in about two hours, neither rushing through nor exploring every nook and cranny. I did play each audio file I found in full without moving on until they completed. With the benefit of hindsight, I did actually see a few of the secrets without bothering to try and get to them, as I didn’t realise they were secrets at the time

> as above, I finished the game in about two hours, with only one puzzle taking me longer than a few minutes to complete (it involved a giant fan; let me know if you agree). I kicked myself when I figured it out

Should you play this game: This was included as part of Xbox’s Game Pass, and for that low price of “free” (in a monthly subscription”) it is well worth playing. It does mix-and-match ideas, both gameplay and design, from games like Pneuma, Portal, and The Stanley Parable, but I’m of the belief you can never go wrong with a puzzle game like this. Who doesn’t like feeling smart?

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