Superliminal is my game of the year. Or at least, I’m struggling to recall a game that has provided me with the same feeling of pure and uninhibited joy in 2019. So before you read this review, I strongly advise that you go into Superliminal as spoiler-free as possible. Especially if you’re a fan of puzzles games. Sure, that renders this review semi-pointless, but most things I do are semi-pointless anyway. Still, I’ll try and do this game justice.
Before proceeding, here are a few games I’ve enjoyed that Superliminal brought to mind. If you like any of these, you’ll probably like Superliminal, since I think it’s better than most of them. Those games are: The Beginner’s Guide, Portal, The Stanley Parable, Antichamber, and The Talos Principle.
Now, I just want to clarify that I genuinely and absolutely adored my time with Superliminal throughout. It’s a rarity that a game puts a smile on my face even, but Superliminal had me literally beaming with delight. I loved every second of it, and I’m incredibly afraid that by getting into specifics, I’ll be robbing anyone of the opportunity to properly experience this masterpiece. So, just to be safe, for a third time, play the game before reading this if at all possible. OK, I think that’s enough spoiler warnings. Let’s dive into it for realsies.
Superliminal’s main gameplay is built upon moving around, looking around, and picking stuff up. If you’ve played first-person games before, the controls will come naturally. The default mouse-sensitivity was a bit slow for my liking, but the options let me fix that, so I have no real complaints about the controls.
What Superliminal does though, is include one very specific rule that every puzzle in the entire game revolves around. Perception is reality. And that’s it. That’s what you have to work with to make your way forward. You see, the premise is that everything you’re seeing is part of your own dream therapy. A unique service provided to guide you towards being a better you. Something like that. This gave the developers free reign to play around with environments, physics, and even reality itself.
So, in my very first moments of the game, I picked up a block. I examined it closely. It looked like a block, because it was, in fact, a block. I moved around a bit, and put the block down. Now it was a much bigger block. How is this possible?
It’s surprisingly simple. By moving backwards, I made the block appear bigger against the backdrop of the walls, so it actually became bigger. If I did the inverse and moved into the walls, the block would shrink.
I acknowledge that I’m doing a terrible job of explaining, but when you play yourself and figure it out, it makes perfect sense. That’s just how this world works. If you see it, it’s real. This concept is used to its fullest to choreograph a sequence of increasingly inventive and mind-boggling puzzles that, in reality, make no sense. But within the confines of Superliminal, anything is possible, and it’s taken full advantage of.
What made the game that much better for me though, is how it used these mechanics not just for puzzle-solving dilemmas, but also for comedy. Comedy through gameplay is incredibly difficult to pull off, yet I laughed out loud several times. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything (noticed a trend yet?), cause these little moments always took me by surprise, in that nice way where you just laugh cause it was a funny joke that didn’t actually hurt anyone.
It’s like this all the way through, I could sense that the developers were focused on fun. The puzzles weren’t incredibly challenging, especially for a pro like me, but the solutions were always so goddamn barmy that it didn’t matter. Simply messing around in this world where nothing really complies to “the rules” was enough to keep me entirely engaged throughout.
It helped a lot that the art style is crisp and well-lit (bar one area) too. It reminds me a lot of fancy hotels that I can’t afford to stay in, but see in the movies from time to time. Straight lines, painted walls, and bright colours. It’s just pleasant to look at.
I don’t really want to go into the story cause I’m bad at gauging the quality of narratives. So, all I’ll say is that at the end of it, I was left thinking about the way I approach problems, and considering changes I could make to try and do better. It was motivational, maybe even inspirational. I’d definitely say it was at least thought-provoking.
And by the way, the soundtrack is made up of calming jazz-piano vibes. I love calming jazz-piano vibes. The soundtrack was simply the cherry on top of a perfect game for me.
Honestly, I’m not sure what else to say. My only possible complaint about the game is that it’s barely a few hours long. Even then, I enjoyed it so much that that hardly seems to matter. I’ve paid more to go to the cinema, so I genuinely don’t think the price is unreasonable considering just how much fun I had playing it.
I simply cannot recommend Superliminal enough. From start to finish, I loved every second. It kept me on my toes, got my mind racing, and tickled my funny bone more than I could have ever expected. I’m just upset that I can’t experience it for the first time again. I’ll have to take solace in introducing my friends to it, I guess.
Superliminal was developed by Pillow Castle Games
Point of Sale: EPIC
$19.99: Pretty cheap for my G.O.T.Y.
A review copy was provided by the developer
SteviePatamon has awarded Superliminal the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.