Superliminal, dreams within dreams – First Sip Review
Superliminal is a first-person puzzle/walking simulator. Developed and published by the fine folks at Pillow Castle.
Superliminal has an interesting story revolving around sleep, dreams, insecurity, fear, and many other emotions. Staring at your clock at 3 am in the morning after watching an ad for Somnascult dream therapy, you drift to sleep. Waking up you find that you are in a dream and not just a dream but the Somnascult dream therapy.
From here you will solve puzzles and dive deeper into your dream mind. Heading from dreams to dreams within dreams. All the while receiving information from Dr. Glenn Pierce the creator of the therapy.
While the story is fairly minimal dialogue wise, the overall story is what I would call transcendent. By the end of the game, you might have overcome issues you didn’t even know you were dealing with.
The sign of any good story, Superliminal is a game I am still thinking about after completing it. A game I would enjoy discussing further with others who have experienced it.
Much like the story, the art style of Superliminal is minimalistic. A lot of elements lack details and just solid white or black. Therein lies the genius of the design. Rooms that are designed with a minimalistic template are functional to the game. Often times you will find a black or white square that ends up being a doorway to the next room.
Outweighing the monochrome rooms in terms of square footage, are places like hotel hallways. A lobby. Your bedroom, and many more. All of these rooms are designed with more detail than the monochrome rooms and look fantastic as well. Occasionally the two will intersect and blend seamlessly.
There are a lot of other really fantastic graphical features but I’ll cover them more in the gameplay section.
Another homerun here, the music in Superliminal is minimalistic much like the story and art, but again it works well. There are pieces of piano music and funky lo-fi beats that play intermittently. These serve to heighten the emotional impact of the scene, much like a good movie soundtrack would.
The voice acting in the game is spot on as well. You have the robotic female voice that is supposed to be detached and unbiased. And then Dr. Glenn Pierce himself whose soundbites can be found on various radios dotted through the game. Dr. Pierce speaks with an Irish accent and is somehow comforting and menacing in equal measures. Although it is mostly dependent on the situation in the current room.
The main positive for sound though is sound-design. The noises for selecting objects, walking, jumping are all distinct and work well. The atmospheric noises such as wind and rain are absolutely fantastic. The buzzing of fluorescent lights increases the tension in segments of the game. An overall more than solid performance.
Superliminal operates in a space between a puzzle game (such as Portal). And a walking simulator (more like The Stanley Parable). At the start of the game, you see a piece of paper telling you “Perception is Reality” and this motif flows throughout the game.
The game uses multiple mechanics for the puzzles, mostly you’ll be picking up items and using perspective to manipulate them. What this means is that if you pick up a small chess piece and then position it on camera like it is massive, the forced perspective will apply in the game and make the chess piece huge. Similarly, if you were to hold an object to make it look like it was in another room you can drop it so it will be there.
Each room or dream plays by its own rules. In most rooms, you’ll be working with perspective shifts. But some of them have a duplication effect where instead of picking an item up you make smaller copies of it. There are also other things like using a sign as a flashlight and looking at a picture on the right angle to make an item real.
The gameplay changes up enough to remain constantly entertaining for the runtime of the game. I clocked in a playthrough of about 4 hours although a few puzzles took me a while and it included the time I wasn’t actively playing. There are places with multiple paths and at least a few puzzles with multiple solutions. So replaying the game is worthwhile too.
I like to say positive things about games. I like to present negative aspects as constructively as possible. Superliminal is a game I don’t think I can fault in any way though. Every aspect of the game worked well, it started off really fun and interesting and by the end, I felt a sense of accomplishment and peace that isn’t too common for any game.
To me, the game felt like a combination of other games. Portal, The Stanley Parable, Layers of Fear, Gravitas, etc. But it never stopped feeling like it was its own thing. The puzzles were tricky but I worked them out without assistance. There is an incredibly effective horror sequence midway through the game. And I played it to completion, which isn’t something I normally get to do with a review.
What’s more, is that Superliminal achieved something very few puzzle games have ever done…it hooked my little brother Aron until the very end.
In Coffee Terms
Superliminal in coffee terms is like a perfect blend of all the flavors you could ask for. As you drink, new and interesting subtleties appear to you. You think I’ll just finish this cup and I’ll be good and then you look over at the empty pot you’ve already drained. Then you realize the pot is just a picture that looks real from the angle you’re on. So you’re down to the last little bit in your cup. But if you bring the cup closer to your face it looks huge and you find it has so much more to offer than you ever expected.
Epic Games Store: https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/superliminal/home
Superliminal Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.