Knowing nothing going into Superliminal, the best way to describe it would be to say ‘it’s a bit like Portal’ and I mean that in the most complimentary of ways.
You’re a participant in a Dream Therapy program at an institute. Are you dreaming? Or not? It’s slowly revealed through the story, but after a quick signature on a form indicating the therapy you’re about to receive, it’s time to tackle the first puzzle.
All of the puzzles in Superliminal use the same underlying concept of ‘forced perception’. This means that objects are as big as they look. Let me explain.
Very early on your pick up a chess piece on a table. It’s chess-piece sized. However, as you pick it up and bring it closer to your face, it’s naturally appearing bigger. But… this makes it BECOME bigger. Drop it, it’s now the size of the table. Maybe pick it up again, and face a big room. Compared to how close you’re holding it, the piece looks to take up the entire room. Drop it. The piece is now the size of the room.
This is a brainbuster. Even later in the game as I played through, it really made my head start to combust. There’s one puzzle where a door is out of reach. Nothing is in the room. You resolve it by removing the exit sign above the door, ‘making’ it big and using it as a ramp to escape.
Barriers stop you from taking objects room-to-room, but quite early on the initial set of levels reveal you’re in a designed set/simulation. Behind the scenes is a warehouse, and at parts, you can use this to manipulate solutions to the puzzle. You can see where the Portal comparison comes in. The further you ‘escape’ from the testing, the more you learn about the institute.
The types of puzzle do become a bit familiar as you progress. There are some really clever bits, things like lining up optical illusions to reveal objects that you can grab and resize is a cool feature, and it makes you feel like a genius as you solve the challenges.
The downside is that some of them get quite fiddly. One puzzle has two buttons you need to stand on and a small sign. You need to make the sign bigger and rest on the buttons, but despite a single axis rotation button, it’s very frustrating. I knew what I had to do very quickly, but it took me considerably longer fiddling with the controls and angles to get it to line up.
One of the reasons for this is down to a lack of aim-acceleration. The game is played from a first-person perspective, however, moving the stick moves the viewpoint at the same pace. This is really off-putting. Most FPS games have an acceleration with the aim moving at an increased pace depending on how far you move the stick. PUBG on console (admittedly a very different type of game) had the same issue and was problematic. This isn’t anywhere near as reaction based as that game, but nonetheless is a quality of life improvement which wouldn’t go amiss.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Superliminal. The familiarity and comparison to Portal could really hurt it, but instead, it offers something similar but worthy enough to stand on its own legs. On that basis, it’s an easy choice to recommend.
Reviewed on PS4