Superliminal is a first person puzzle game where you use perception, mainly distance perception, to solve puzzles. The description is a little weird so I’ll try to explain it fast and dirty like a quickie with a ratchet skank. In real life, when let’s say a train, is right next to you, you know, it’s fucking big yeah? Well when it’s far away it’s itty bitty. Even my blind ass knows this stuff, so I’m sure you all do too. Well in this game, items stay the same size when you’re holding them, however, their placement in the world changes based on where you’re looking at and its distance from you, like the wall or ceiling. For example, if you pick up an alarm clock, it’s whatever size an alarm clock is, well you look up to the ceiling and let’s say it’s three stories tall, well when you release the alarm clock its position is listed as on the ceiling ready to fall. However, at the same time, the size of it never changed visually, so as it falls, it gets bigger because it’s getting closer to you. Now you have a giant fucking alarm clock, like four or five times your size; it’s batshit crazy. If you walk up to a wall while holding something it gets smaller, or if you look at a far wall and release it, it’s larger cause you have to walk towards it which makes it grow. Get it? I hope so cause my brain feels like it’s about to fucking explode. Explaining it is kind of complicated, playing it isn’t though, thank fuck for that, if it was as complicated I’d have never finished the first puzzle because my brain already hurts.
The reason your nameless, faceless, body-less character can do this stuff is because they’re actually sleeping during the entire game. They’re at a center to help get rid of nightmares, feel like a new person, and just do better in real life in general. You don’t actually see or hear that you’ve gone into this place or that you’re asleep until the AI that’s supposed to guide you through the dream sequences tells you that you’re in this situation and it’s like ‘hey that’s great whatever, bring me da puzzles’. However, things get fucky as your existence somehow fucks with their code causing like every possible error to show up on their end, even to the point they lose your consciousness for a while then ‘poof’ you’re back. And during this whole time the main doctor sends you updates which all pretty much boil down to “I’m a doctor, we have no idea what the fuck is going on, we don’t know where you are, but just keep walking and we’ll figure it out and get you out of there… somehow.” And let me tell you, that shit, that shit right there, that’s not comforting. It’s no bueno. You’re the doctor dude, don’t lose me like that. The hell?
Most of the game is just spent with that distance perception mechanic that I just mentioned. However, there was one other mechanic that’s used rarely, where you line up paint on the walls or ceiling, or both, whatever, and when you align all the lines of the paint into a square, poof, you click it and it becomes a real box that you can do the distance stuff on. It’s not always a box, but most of the time it is. That’s pretty much all there is puzzle-wise, there’s extra areas you can that get increasingly difficult to get into that have collectable stuff in them. Beyond that the main concept of the game is well… up and down, the concept is great and most of the game seems fairly easy. However, there are some sudden spikes of difficulty then it suddenly drops back down which is… I don’t know if it’s good or bad. I’d like to say it’s bad cause sudden difficulty spikes that vanish immediately are kind of unnecessary, just in general, for any and every game out there. That being said, difficulty spikes also gives you some new perspectives on how to do things that you might not have thought of prior and, quite frankly, it’s good to think hard sometimes; it’s something I don’t do often enough. [Editor’s Note: You think hard at all? :P]
Now, I’ve sung some praise for this game, but it’s not all fucking rainbows and sunshine babes and babettes [Editor’s Note:Wouldn’t these both be female and therefore the same thing? Answer: No.]. There are some fairly major issues in this game, that honestly made me incredibly angry and INSTANTLY sucked away the fun and made me think “fuck this game”. The fact that happened really sucks cause I love the concept and I had a lot of fun until the fun was immediately replaced with a big ol’ “fuck you”. The first major issue is there are special rooms that are hard to get into. Some of them required more than just thinking outside the box to get to them, and some of them outright required luck, because you have to grow things to obscene sizes. Let me remind you, objects free fall when they do that, you can’t control them when you release them. If you pick them up again when they’re massively huge they always get smaller cause you, the wall, the floor, something is always too close to the object which makes it get smaller, which makes sense with the way the game works. However, when you drop something from a fuck-off tall height, and it doesn’t land the way you want, and it rarely fucking does, then you have to pick it up and keep trying, except it may NEVER fall the way you want, which fucks you, hard. This is mostly an issue when you’re trying to do the collectable stuff, and thankfully it isn’t a constant thing, but when you spend over two fucking hours trying to create a way to get to something and you just give up cause you spent TWO FUCKING HOURS TRYING AND FAILING TO DO IT, well that just pisses you off, like it did me as that was a literal experience. I did that in an area where you fall down and you have a bunch of chairs, a couple metal beams, and a table, and you have to get up like three or four floors to get back to where you dropped from, and then go another one or two from that to get into a doorway for a collectable. The thing is it’s not like you fall in the hole cause you weren’t paying attention, it’s scripted you don’t have a choice in the matter. Dropping those chairs, and trying to climb up them, I can think of very little that has pissed me off more than that. That was around two hours straight in one single sitting, and I’ve tried it three or four different times. There are other ones that are hard to get to as well, but that one, well… if you want to know all the bad parts of the mechanics, that section highlights damn near every single one of them. The biggest issue this highlights is that a good chunk of the game is based on luck. You can rotate items over the Y-axis, that’s it. If they let you rotate them over the X, Y, and Z-axis that would go a long way to dealing with this issue. Random luck on how items fall and working on getting them to fall the direction you actually need them to fall, that’s not fun. If I need it right side up and it falls upside down or on it’s side, I may never get it to land rightside up ever again. Luck, random number generation (RNG), no one likes that stuff unless it’s heavily in their favor, and it never is, cause it’s random, it’s luck based. Add that to placing platforms you need to have placed in certain ways to climb up stuff, and it kind of ruins the experience. Having it to where we could fully rotate items as we saw fit would still leave some annoying luck based stuff to it, but it would make it much easier to get things set up the way we needed them set up. For instance, let’s say I have a chair, I need it rightside up, but it’s tipped on its side. Well if I can rotate it over the full axis, then I can make it rightside up, and then drop it from the ceiling and make it large, hopefully rightside up without it tipping, but without that if it’s on its side, chances are it’s going to keep landing on its side, that stops the flow of the game and is increasingly unfun the more it happens. Just that one tweak would make this game so much more fun because you wouldn’t spend two hours getting butt-fucked by random luck based stuff, at least probably not anyways, instead you’d get what you needed done and you’d be moving on, which is progress, and everyone likes progress.
Now there are some other issues, and they’re annoying, but not rage inducing like the above one that well… took, let’s say, a lot of time to talk about. They are, however, kind of related very heavily to the above issue. The first is the game only saves you at specific parts of a level and I think that’s just the start of it but I’m not one hundred percent sure. Which means you work your ass off to get through a bunch of the level and you have to turn it off, well it doesn’t tell you when you’re in a new level or anything so you’re gambling God knows how much time that you might now have to redo if you close the game. Want to know how to ruin a game? Make a ton of puzzle rooms as one level but don’t give us manual saves. After your first couple of playthroughs that doesn’t matter a lot cause the game can be completed in under thirty minutes, there’s an achievement for that even, so it is possible. However, your first playthrough you can be on a level for literally hours at a time, and might be near or in the middle of a level after spending hours on it and quit out only to find you’re at the start all over again. Some of you might think it’s a ‘well, it’s not like you have a save bar, so you should have known better’ problem, but you get them all the fucking time cause it saves checkpoints. As long as you don’t quit the game you can always restart a checkpoint and go back to the start of the puzzle you’re currently on. This ties into another save related annoyance, the collectables. I’ve seen the save icon show up after I’ve collected a collectable on more than one occasion, and if I quit out of the game to the main menu or completely out of the game to the dashboard, well I’ll be damned if it saved any of that shit. I show up at the start of the level again and have to recollect everything all over again, and again, some of them are really fucking hard to collect. It’s massively fucking infuriating. Both of these save issues would be fixed by just giving auto-saves or manual saves. I mean it has a checkpoint at the start of every puzzle room, so why does the game delete that save when you quit the game? It should save that so that you start there when you come back to it since the system already registers it as a save point, because it’s a checkpoint. I don’t get it, and that’s such a simple easy fix I don’t understand why they even did it that way, after all not everyone has hours to spend on the game. They might be able to finish one or two rooms, but not a full level at a time, and if that’s the case this game is worthless to them cause they won’t be able to solve them fast enough to get to the end of the level to get to new stuff. Instead, they’ll be playing the same couple of rooms over and over, which isn’t fun. As for the collectables, I’ve seen the save icon show up after grabbing them sometimes, so why aren’t they properly saved? Are they probably saved? I have no clue the game doesn’t tell you. If it is saving them, then don’t let people reobtain them, just remove them from the level like every other game on the planet does, and if it doesn’t save them, then why is it saving immediately after I pick some up? It should save the progress and delete them from the game at that point so that you see they aren’t there, because if it’s saving them but they’re still in the game world, you won’t know which ones you have and haven’t picked up which kind of sucks cause you might pick up the same one over and over trying to get new ones, which is a massive waste of time, and this game is already a major time sink simply because of how long the levels are.
The very last issue is one that I don’t understand how it even exists honestly because it just simply shouldn’t. The framerate drops on occasion and I don’t mean by a few frames, I don’t mean from sixty to thirty, I mean It dropped for me once from standard to fucking ZERO, not metaphorically, literally. I had tried to move and it decided that it wasn’t going to register anything until it finished that movement and it dropped the frames to zero for no reason. I had been in that part of the level a couple times prior, because of the save issues I mentioned prior to this, and that made me have to dashboard and hard quit the game cause the framerate went to zero, the music was playing fine, it wasn’t thinking, it just decided hey, let’s tank this framerate. And I’m playing this on an Xbox One, which has specific specs across the board. This shouldn’t be a problem in any game, you know the specs make it work in those specs or don’t put the game on the system. I mean if this happened on a PC, fine that makes sense, PCs are all different so it’s hard to make it work on absolutely everything. This is an Xbox, they’re all the same, so it only needs to be optimized for the thing. This needs to be fixed, and I’m sure it probably will be, they just need to properly optimize it. This issue was actually the last straw after all the other ones happened numerous times at this point, I just couldn’t put up with it anymore; I was done. I’m still angry with the issues, I wrote this a couple days after I last played it and I worked on editing it 10 days later to make it less pissy gamer sounding and more critic sounding, this is the best I got. I’m still… very pissy.
The issues with the game absolutely killed the game for me, and that bothers me cause, like I love the game outside of these issues, but these issues are like being in an abusive relationship. It’s nice, amazing, great, perfect even, until it decides it’s going to fucking slap you around for no fucking reason. And before anyone gets pissy about me comparing these two things, I’ve been in abusive relationships, fuck off, I know what I’m saying, I stick by it. At the end of each issue I’ve talked about how they could solve the issues, whether they fix any of the issues or not… that’s up in the air. However, as an additional possible solution to the luck based issue I previously mentioned, they could maybe create a way to make an object stay the same size and just let you reposition them, which again would require being able to rotate it around all three axis instead of just one, this would one hundred percent remove the luck based issues, though I doubt they’d go for that one.
There are three types of collectables and a bunch of them all at that. The first one is chess pieces, if you pick them up they glow and exploding in a shower of light and it’s fucking awesome. The next is fire alarms you simply pull them, weirdly no alarms or anything trigger which is kind of both a shame and a blessing cause it’d be nice if something happened but because there’s a ton of them you need to pull… well, no one wants to hear the alarm constantly. The last is fire extinguishers which you click them four times and they stop spraying. I don’t know how many of any of these are because the game doesn’t tell you, it does however list items on each level, you get symbols for each piece and it’s either lit up, not lit up, or the symbol just isn’t there. I assume if it’s lit up you have everything in the level, but I’m not sure. I’d like it if they gave you more information like how many of each collectable is in each level and how many you have out of the total in the level. Like, for example, “Chess Symbol: 5/12”, well now you know you have five of the chess pieces out of twelve total for that level, it lets you figure things out a bit easier and it gives you the information you need collectables-wise. Most games do this, not sure why they chose not to do this, hopefully they change it.
Either way, the game has a great concept, mostly good follow through, but the problems are massive ‘fuck you and fuck off’ red flags of fuckery that if you want to one hundred percent the achievement list, or if you just want to do everything and see everywhere, well they’ll piss you off massively. That being said, this isn’t a game you can watch and appreciate, you really get the appreciation out of playing it. If they can fix the issues I listed then the game would be totally something I’d suggest cause I do like the game most of the time I play it, but those times I don’t like it are so much stronger than when I do like it. It’s like the main game is like a four or five on the like-o-meter at generally all times, sometimes even spiking to a seven out of nine, it’s just a basic slightly mindful fun time waster. BUT THEN, a shitty part happens and it’s like a twenty to twenty-one on the fuck-you-o-meter, and it’s not suppose to go past nine. Like a nine is a I want to put the disc back into the case and chuck it as hard as I can into every wall I see eventually stomping on the case and throwing it in the trash, I can’t even feasibly explain what a fucking twenty to twenty-one fucking is.
I can’t suggest this game to anyone other than the people that feel utter and complete calm and sereneness while playing rage games BECAUSE they’re playing rage games. If you’re a speedrunner, this might be for you. I haven’t played the game in, well, some time now and you can still clearly see I’m pissed about the things I’m pissed about. If that’s for you, then here you go you fucking psycho, this game is totally for you. If these issues are fixed, then this game is going to be for everyone who likes puzzles because the concept behind this is so so fucking cool and it’s fun when it is fun. It makes me sad, because I’ve been looking forward to this game since before it was even released, before they even announced what it would be released on. If they fixed the issues I listed though, it would totally be a great game.
Superliminal was developed by Pillow Castle.
A review copy of the game was provided by the devs.
darkmikasonfire regretfully doesn’t give Superliminal the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.