Developer: Pillow Castle
Publisher: Pillow Castle
Genre: First-person Puzzle
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Official Site: pillowcastlegames.com
Release Date: July 7th, 2020
The award-winning Superliminal, which launched on PC late last year, is now available on consoles. Developed and published by Pillow Castle Games, the first-person puzzle game will likely draw comparisons to others in the genre like Portal or The Witness. What sets it apart is how cleverly it plays around with perspective, depth-of-field, and how the player assumes they need to progress.
Dream Therapy in Superliminal
Superliminal takes place entirely in your dream. As you begin to navigate its world, you determine that your character is undergoing treatment at Somnasculpt. The organization specializes in dream therapy. The plot is kept vague enough so that you don’t know why your character is undergoing the treatment. But this makes it more relatable when the game reveals its overall message towards the end of the game.
There are two disembodied voices who lead you on your journey. One is a GLaDOS-like voice who attempts to instruct you on what to do. The other is Dr. Glenn Pierce, the founder of Somnasculpt who begins to speak to you through scattered tape-decks after you become lost in the dream world. Both voice actors bring humor to their roles. The emotionless, robotic voice delivers her lines dryly. After you become lost, she states patients can fill out a survey to be eligible for a gift card, which would be far from anyone’s concern in this actual situation. Pierce, on the other hand, delivers each line with warmth while he tells you not to focus on the fact that they can’t find you or the despair that led you to therapy to begin with.
The world of Superliminal resembles a hotel with massive conference rooms and other amenities before it begins to devolve into surreal M.C. Escher-like areas of madness. Most areas are accompanied by pleasant piano music. But there are back hallways you can find where music completely stops, giving the impression that the dream is staged. While this element doesn’t impact the gameplay, I thought it was a clever addition.
Exploring the Dreamscape of Superliminal
Each area brings a puzzle that focuses on perspective. Most have to do with changing the size of certain objects so that you can progress. You can enlarge dice blocks by placing them at the other end of the room as your depth-of-field will change their size depending on how close to your body you place them. This led to deceptively clever puzzles, such as increasing the size of an exit sign to be placed on two switches and opening both doors to escape a room.
The further you progress, the more interesting these puzzles become. At one point you’ll use the aforementioned dice as platforms to reach the next area. But at another point, other dice will break apart when you grab them and you’ll have to think of another solution. Other areas will have distorted images of items plastered on a wall. Only by standing in the right spot of the room to make it look like it’s supposed to will the item appear in the room for you to use.
It isn’t just items you’ll change the size of. Sometimes you’ll move and resize entire doorways. One room had a model home sitting on a table that I could pick up, resize, and walk through to an entirely different area. The beauty of Superliminal is how it effortlessly changes not only the perspective of items around you but also your perspective of how to solve each puzzle. Throughout, it was constantly playing with my expectations. Adapting to the game made for frequent “A-HA!” moments that made me crave whatever it could throw at me. And though it isn’t nearly as fast-paced as something like Portal, its approach was never dull.
Unfortunately, as clever as most of the puzzles of Superliminal are, there are some later levels that include less of them. For example, there’s a looping hallway that doesn’t challenge you with using something in the room to your advantage. It was a bit frustrating to endlessly walk through the same area over and over again before realizing what to do. A section after that, you become trapped inside elevators with four doors on each wall, trying to find arrows that point you in the right direction. These sections only appear towards the end of the game, but they aren’t nearly as fun as previous puzzles.
The game is also pretty short at only 8 levels and doesn’t feature any other modes or replayability factors. One could beat it in a single play session and be done with it. However, while the ending came swiftly after a couple of frustrating sections, it ended on a wonderful message about changing perspective in your own life to solve problems differently from how you normally would.
Verdict: Superliminal is an incredibly inventive puzzle game. It constantly switched up what I thought it was going to do and forced me to look at each perspective puzzle differently. While it is a bit too short and some final sections are frustrating, the feeling of intelligence that came from every solution is something no puzzle fan should miss out on.
- Great Humor
- Fantastic Perspective Puzzles
- Positive Message
- Plays With Expectations
- Too Short
- Some Frustrating Final Sections