Review: Superliminal

Superliminal has some very interesting mechanics regarding perspective, with a Portal-like “test chamber” setting and a narrative about using dreams to beat depression and the feeling of not being good enough.

The main concept is using perspective to alter the size of objects. You will encounter drinks cans, chess pieces, boxes and other objects that you can pick up. When you drop them, they will be close to the wall away from you (or the floor under you), but the same visible size as when you picked it up. So if an object is further away, but still looks the same size, once you move closer you’ll see that it’s much bigger. You’ll resize objects to make platforms to climb across, push switches or knock stuff over.

The “test chamber” style is only the very start of the game and you’ll quickly find out that the narrative aspect of Supeliminal is its main component, with more focus on spectacle rather than puzzles. You’ll encounter a lot of neat optical illusions and tricks, but at times it feels more like a ride than a game.

What doesn’t help is a lack of consistency in the game’s mechanics. The main resizing mechanic itself is the same (except for one section of the game, where you randomly have a completely different ability for a bit), but the objects you can pick up are very specific. At first I thought it was the same kinds of things – like drinks cans or chess pieces, but then I entered a room and couldn’t interact with the chess pieces in it. It means that you’ll end up looking around for your crosshair to change to find out what you can and can’t interact with.

Another example is that the game tricks you early on with a chess piece you can’t pick up, only to find out that it’s warped paint that just looks like a chess piece from a certain angle, but the next section of the game uses the concept of finding the correct perspective (using paint on walls) to turn the pain into a 3D object you can move. The lack of consistent rules just adds to the feeling that it’s a theme park, not a puzzle game.

So while the puzzles are underwhelming, Superliminal’s short length makes it worth playing just for the visual spectacles the game has. The interactive part of it is still important, as you will move around to examine the optical illusions. The objects you interact with are always everyday objects (one of the notes you can find lampshades this by asking why nobody dreams of any interesting or fictional objects), but I think they enhance the absurdity of it somewhat.

There is an additional challenge mode. This lets you replay the puzzles from the game but with some restrictions, such as only picking up X amount of times or jumping X amount of times, but I find this just ruins the fun of messing about and it just amounts to remembering the final solution and just doing that. It would have been nice to have new puzzles to solve.

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