Superliminal is a fresh game from Pillow Castle Games that focuses on perspective puzzles. It’s an interesting concept that has made the jump into an exceptional game over its five years in development.
Superliminal starts with the player focused on exploring a dream-like space. It’s a common theme for puzzle games with the player being put in some nebulous danger by the story and then asked to pass through numerous levels to get free or safe. As a concept on paper, it might seem thin, however, Superliminal also has a great design and interesting levels that elevate the simplistic design.
The core mechanic of Superliminal is that players can pick up objects and drop them. However while players might pick up an object such as an apple, objects will grow to fill the maximum space of the player’s view that they can when dropped. So an apple size object might become the size of a car if held up to the end of a long hallway or a large block may become tiny if released while looking at a wall.
That might sound confusing and for the first ten minutes, players might wrestle with the conceptual idea of what the controls and game are offering and requiring. Standing closer to objects allows players to create larger objects, yet players can also pick up objects from the other side of the room (somehow) and shrink large objects in moments due to how far they are from their targets.
And while this is a major change to how players think about the physical properties of a three-dimensional object, this becomes second nature, which is good since this is something that Superliminal will require players to do often over the course of the game. Superliminal does this multiple times and each time moving from a foreign concept needed to complete a puzzle which quickly becomes a brand new ability and then something players will be able to use as if it something they’ve used for years in multiple games.
There’s something particularly effective in the way Superliminal structures its levels to train the player to think in the way the designer was thinking. About two thirds through the game, players are asked to walk through a wall with no overt clue that it would be possible, but by that point, Superliminal will have restructured the way players look at the game and the rules of the world of Superliminal that this becomes a reasonable assumption.
Simply put, Superliminal will change how you view games and the assumption you make because of your knowledge of the real world. There’s a lot of interesting and unique style to the way Superliminal is built and that helps to make it into a unique experience.
But alas it is a level-based platformer, and thus there are still a pair of common issues to discuss. The story of Superliminal is good but mostly feels like it’s hidden from the player. Superliminal probably could have benefitted from a stronger narrative throughout the experience. Everything up to the final moments of the game feels like it’s a game where the story was an afterthought and perhaps it was. I wondered if the game would pay off since the story is so infrequently visited.
However, the finale of Superliminal lands in a way that impressed me, and while I still think the story lacks something up to that point I still enjoy the core concept Superliminal tried to explore.
The other common topic about level-based puzzle games is length, and in this Superliminal still has an issue. Superliminal will take players around three hours to complete. While there is a challenge mode that focuses on the number of moves players make (objects picked up and jumps made) and a developer commentary, there’s not a ton of content in Superliminal, and the amount of time spent in the game will unlikely reach double digits.
There also is now Steam Workshop support which was released on PC in December 2020. This allows players to import their own 3D models and share them online in Steam’s Workshop as well as create their own levels. A couple of hundred people have uploaded levels already, but it’s yet unknown if this will become the next large user-created content game. I’d probably bet money against it, however, it still may create new and unique ideas and designs.
Superliminal is a unique concept. The core ideas in Superliminal feel like a brand new concept and will bend players’ minds. The puzzles are unique and many feel like they could only exist in the world of Superliminal with the rules it has.
While Superliminal could be longer, it also doesn’t overstay its welcome and likely couldn’t keep the quality at the level it’s reached as a game when going for a longer experience. It’s a shame but ultimately I think the shorter, more refined experience is preferable to a drawn-out game.
I give Superliminal an arbitrary
If you enjoyed games like Portal or Stanley Parable, you should check this game out. Though it’s clearly made for fans of the puzzle genre.
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