Superliminal is going to be one of the toughest reviews I think for me to date. Not because it isn’t good – far from it – but because so much of what makes it excellent is best left for the player to discover and experience. I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling stuff, but take this warning up front – Superliminal is one of the best games I’ve played this year, and is best played going in with as little prior knowledge as possible. I don’t know if I can recommend it enough.
It’s a game that challenges our perspective on things, and not strictly in the sense of what we see with our own eyes. While we enter the experience under the guise of some experimental sleep treatment, things soon start taking a turn for the bizarre. There’s a healthy dose of that awesome looking mechanic from the trailers, using perspective to adjust the size of objects in real-time, but there’s much more to look forward to inbetween. Surreal tales, something akin to a murder mystery and more await, and around every corner I couldn’t help but have a smile across my face.
Comparisons to Portal can’t be ignored, in both its presentation and delivery, but where that game unleashes an endless barrage of dry, dark wit in accompaniment to the puzzles, Superliminal’s approach meshes both narrative and gameplay far more closely. Almost constantly I was amazed at how Pillow Castle managed to subvert my expectations and turn what might have been a one note mechanic into a procession of wonderfully designed scenarios. The Stanley Parable comes to mind as another inspiration, though Superliminal is not as free flowing as that title (but then, what is).
That’s not to say that mechanic gets old, of course. Throughout its 3 or so hour runtime, I never got bored of flipping an object around, filling the screen one second, then shrinking it to fit in the palm of my hand the next. It’s a deceptively clever mechanic, both technically and in puzzle design, and is used for progression on just the right amount of occasions – though a few more wouldn’t have gone amiss. Again, Pillow Castle takes several opportunities to mess with us here – and these are further examples of the need to go in without prior knowledge. It’s an incredibly clever game, but also not one to beat you over the head with just how clever it is.
According to the press release, there are new puzzles slotted in along the way too, though having not played the original release I’m not sure which they are. Nothing feels out of place though – in fact, I’d be hard pressed to imagine the flow of the game missing any of what’s in here.
Due to the nature of some of the puzzles I did find myself stuck on a handful of occasions, necessitating a check point restart. These are very generous though, and set me back less than a minute on each occasion.
It’s a bit of a trope that indie titles tend to think above their station, offering up overly dramatic prose while attempting to say something meaningful. For me though, Superliminal handles its story and message superbly, and genuinely has a positive and uplifting theme that pays off the experience wonderfully. While it might not so much to dissuade those out there that have their mind set in a certain place, I hope that it may challenge more players than not to really think about what it has to say.
Superliminal pulls us in with a fun looking gameplay hook, holds our attention while it twists our expectations, and brings us out the other end with something to truly reflect on. Easily one of the best puzzlers out there, and one that deserves all of the success in the world.
This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.