While not quite as prevalent as the first-person shooter, the first-person puzzler has seen plenty of variations in the last decade. From the standout success of the Portal series, to the hilarious meta-narrative of The Stanley Parable, I always have a soft-spot for a game that makes you think about things in a different way, or in this case, a different perspective.
Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game for PS4 that does away with the traditional concepts you’ve seen in many other titles. Instead, this game is all about perception and perspective. What you see is what you get, quite literally. Don’t worry, I’ll explain, so let’s find out if this game offers a fresh take on the genre.
A Fresh Take on The Genre That Lacks Narrative Punch
There’s no denying the allure of a good puzzle game, and Superliminal has the added benefit of offering a truly unique mechanic. You begin the game as part of Dr. Glenn Pierce’s Somnascult dream therapy program. The program makes lofty promises, but the concept is simple: perception is reality.
With narration from the good doctor himself and a more robotic sounding instructor, you’ll set off to navigate various puzzles involving forced perspective and optical illusions, among other clever mechanics. Without the use of portals, devices, or color-coded brainteasers, Superliminal feels very unique from a gameplay perspective.
The story, on the other hand, doesn’t quite hit the highs of humor or satire when compared to the games it is paying homage to (Portal and The Stanley Parable specifically). There are times when the dialogue is witty or intriguing, and while the story takes some interesting turns, I never had the same motivation to uncover the mysteries here the way I did in other similar titles.
In particular, one thing that I wished had been an option is a zoom feature or function to read the various whiteboards, papers, and other written things throughout the environments. In many cases, these things were not readable and I felt like that was a missed opportunity to add more character to the surroundings (again, something other titles have done in this genre).
Of course, the story is just a small part of what makes a puzzle game great, and Superliminal manages to largely succeed in the gameplay department. There’s a nice progression through each of the puzzle types, and new elements keep you on your toes, even if old ones tend to overstay their welcome.
Don’t get me wrong, the first ten or twenty times I changed an object’s size by looking at it from a distance or placing it in comparison to another differently-sized object was mind-blowing to be sure. However, it became less interesting in later puzzles when it sat alongside other mechanics like optical illusions, tricks with light and shadow, and other things I won’t spoil here.
More often than not, Superliminal would stump me and stop me in my tracks. After plenty of moments spend overcomplicating things, I would suddenly hit that golden “ah hah” moment that comes with a surge of serotonin and drives me to my next fix.
Superliminal is rife with these moments, and that’s a defining characteristic of a puzzle game. The fact that it does so with a unique mechanic only adds to the charm. While there are secrets to find and plenty of quirky trophies to unlock, the game is only a few hours long in the end.
For the price, I don’t mind that too much, but it’s certainly a factor based on how much you want from your $20 price tag. I myself would have preferred a little more variation in the puzzles and more narrative to drive me forward (even just more humor would have been welcome), but I cannot deny the sheer brilliance of the mechanics at play here.
Constantly Messing With Your Head
Superliminal combines colorful visuals with clever visual illusions and forced perspective to create a charming and interesting world to explore. The soundtrack is primarily classical in nature, and the soothing music did help to keep my stress levels down when I was chasing a solution.
That being said, it was a little much at times. I would almost prefer more silence in a game like this so I could focus, but that’s a personal preference.
While Superliminal doesn’t quite set the genre on fire in the same its contemporaries managed to do in their respective times, it’s still one of the most unique and satisfying puzzle games in recent memory. For those who have conquered their fair share of colored blocks, portals, and handheld devices, I’d say it’s time to change your perspective.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of Superliminal was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 7/14/2020