[Beyond PlayStation] Superliminal Review

by the_nmac

Is perception reality? What is reality? Find out all about this and more in our Superliminal review!

Perception is reality. Escape from a mind-bending dream where everything is exactly it seems.
As you fall asleep with the TV on at 3AM, you remember catching a glimpse of the commercial from Dr.Pierce’s Somnasculpt dream therapy program. By the time you open your eyes, you’re already dreaming – beginning the first stages of this experimental program. Welcome to Superliminal.

Superliminal is a first-person puzzle game based on forced perspective and optical illusions. Puzzles in this game give you a sense of the unexpected. Players need to change their perspective and think outside the box to wake up from the dream.

Superliminal is a new first-person puzzler, in the vein of Portal, from the team at Pillow Castle Games. It’s been on PC since late last year, and it has now made the jump to all consoles. I’ve been looking forward to playing this one since it was revealed it was on its way to consoles, so I was more than happy to take the game for a spin when I got a copy of Superliminal for the Nintendo Switch.

You start by watching an ad for the Pierce Institute, which you happen to be at. You immediately get control and start exploring the institute. As you walk around, you are presented with puzzles featuring optical illusions and forced perspective. You are trapped in a recurring dream, continually waking up in bed, but in new levels of the dream. You must listen to the advice of Dr. Glenn Pierce so that you can have a chance to escape your dream!

As you explore the Pierce Institute, you have two voices accompanying you. One is a semi-robotic female voice warning you about going deeper into your dreams. The other one is Dr. Glenn Pierce, who shows up on tape recorders you can interact with, providing you with some advice on trying to get you out of your dream state – he has a more philosophical take on the whole thing. Once they started talking to me, I was definitely hoping for more of a GLaDOS-style interaction, as the game was giving me Portal vibes early on, but they really never got to that point. Not a deal-breaker, but something you do need to be aware of.

Superliminal is a very simple game since you move using the left analog stick and look around using the right one. You have to use an object to interact with your environment… and that’s it! It’s a very simple control scheme, but with a simple control scheme comes some interesting gameplay mechanics since the point of the game is challenging your perception of the world that surrounds you.

What really propels this game to a whole new level are the puzzles you run into. In the first area, you will use your perspective of objects and turn them into reality. If you see a giant chess piece, pick it up, then point it at the ground, and it will now be really small. Get it over to a switch from a distance to open a door, and you’re on your way! This level will deal with you making things bigger or smaller based on your perspective. It’s a bit tricky at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of things, picking up objects and dropping them over a considerable distance while making them the right size for the job.

In the next area, you will find things on the walls that need to line up properly to pop into existence, so that you can use them to proceed through your dreams. As you make your way through a new segment, each one will have a new technique for you to learn, so that you can use that and the other stuff you’ve learned before to be able to make it to the end of the sequence. Some will involve cloning objects, others will have you changing their size, and you’ll even have some cubism to take care of. It’s a great ride!

I loved almost all of the puzzle-solving, and I was rarely really stumped as to what I needed to do next because the game does a great job of giving you hints here and there. The fact that the dreams build upon each other is also a good design choice. The one issue I would have is that I would have liked to have more forced perspective puzzles thrown in during the second half of the game since they were very clever, and I enjoyed them a lot.

The Pierce Institute is an interesting place to explore. Most of the time, you’re in pinkish hallways. Sometimes you will find yourself in the back of more warehouse-y areas. The game finds neat ways to refresh the aesthetic as you progress further into the story. As mentioned, I played on the Nintendo Switch. I tried playing first on Portable Mode, but after playing for fifteen minutes, I honestly felt the need to play the game on my TV. It’s not that it’s unplayable in Portable or Tabletop Mode, but that it’s an experience that greatly benefits from playing on the larger screen. I did run into some framerate hiccups here and there, but nothing that kept me from carrying on.

Superliminal gave me Portal vibes early on, which is never a bad thing. What you get in this release is a great puzzle game, and the Pierce Institute is a pleasure to explore. The puzzles are smart and inventive, and I would have liked for the techniques from early in the game to make a big comeback at the end. There are definitely some framerate issues on the Nintendo Switch, but it doesn’t hamper the experience overall. I look forward to seeing what the team is working on next!

This Superliminal review is based on a Nintendo Switch copy provided by Pillow Castle Games.

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