Perception is reality — This is the occurring theme throughout Superliminal that at first, I thought was nothing more than a clever marketing slogan. But as I progressed throughout the game, I discovered a deeper understanding of not only the quote, but of the underlying message that developers Pillow Castle Games embedded throughout the game.
Superliminal is a unique puzzler that focuses on perception, more precisely altering your perception of reality to overcome various obstacles. These obstacles take place within your dreams and actually reminds me of a blend of three great movies- Inception, The Truman Show, and Groundhog Day. Combine these movies with great puzzler’s such as Portal 2 and The Stanley Parable, and you’re left with the end product — Superliminal.
Superliminal revolves around an experimental dream therapy clinic where you play as a patient who is trapped within a lucid dream. Each day within the game more-or-less plays out the same; your alarm goes off, listen to
propaganda messages from clinic founder Dr. Glenn Price (who will encourage you to think outside the box), and then you overcome a number of puzzles to solve — sounds a lot like reality, doesn’t it?
Imagine an apple sitting on a table, you walk over to it and pick it up – it’s a normal sized apple, perfect size to eat as a snack. But raise it to your eyes and suddenly it looks bigger; you’ve changed your perception of the apple. This is the key to Superliminal, but physical manipulation of objects isn’t the only form of manipulation you’ll need to master; optical manipulation is just as prevalent throughout the game. For instance, you see a door in the distance and walk up to it, only to realize it’s painted on. You notice there’s a cut out of a lamp missing from the door, looking around the room you locate the lamp in question. As you move around the lamp you realize that you can complete the painting of the door by visually getting the perfect angle and lining up both objects. Suddenly, this illusion becomes a reality and you can now physically walk through the door… magic!
This is the foundation of Superliminal and yes, it is as fun and interesting as it sounds. However, once you grasp these mechanics then most puzzles aren’t too difficult, especially as the only items you can interact with are items that help you solve the puzzle. I must admit though, there was a couple of puzzles that took me longer to figure out than I would like to admit…
These foundations combined create a brilliant experience that is let down by a mediocre story. As you progress through the game, it suddenly attempts to take a darker, more aggressive theme, which I found confusing. It didn’t seem to fit into the theme of the game up to this point. It felt like a cheap attempt to add drama and another dimension to an underwhelming story. I would have preferred a more engaging story with less focus on the puzzles, or a true sandbox-puzzler that didn’t feature a story, not something in-between that feels like an afterthought.
Don’t let this discourage you, Superliminal will take you on an adventure that will fill you with self-satisfaction when you finally solve those challenging puzzles. While the game only takes about 4 hours to complete, I feel that this is a good length as the puzzles never feel old and recycled, thanks largely to a clever method of convoluting each puzzle with additional elements, ensuring that each puzzle presents a slightly different challenge.
Upon reflection of the game, I can’t help but feel that Superliminal fails to reach its potential. I love the concept and execution of the core game, but a shallow and misguided story ruins a powerful underlining message that we can all take notice of.
- GAMEPLAY - 85%85%
- STORY - 65%65%
- GRAPHICS - 74%74%
- AUDIO - 68%68%
Superliminal is a great concept and a clever way to get gamers to think differently to what they’re used to. I wish more resources went into developing a more in-depth story that engaged gamers because the underlying message is a strong and powerful one that positivity impacts each of us every day.
For more on Superliminal, check out our previous coverage.