First-person puzzle games are really starting to become more commonplace in the market, especially with the indie scene after the success of games like Portal. Jonathan Bloom’s The Witness and Steam darling The Talos Principle also come to mind, but it’s good to see a game like Superliminal offer a different perspective… That was supposed to be a joke, a pun one really. Okay, I’ll stop with the bad intro.
What Is It?
Superliminal is another first-person puzzler much in the vein of games like Portal, but there’s nothing to shoot here. What sets Superliminal apart is in its gameplay structure. It’s all about forced perspective. Take your phone for instance. It’s a fixed size, so if you look at it from farther away, it’s going to look small, but if you look at it up front, it’ll appear to be a lot bigger than it actually is.
The game utilizes forced perspective as a size manipulation method for the various items in the game where the objective is to move from room to room until the game is over you’re free, or at least you think you are.
The result is a wonderfully paced, albeit short, puzzler with a heartwarming finish.
Why Should I Care?
It’s worth noting that I’ve never actually beaten any of the aforementioned first-person puzzlers, but after seeing the gameplay trailer, I couldn’t help but feel intrigued. Superliminal, for me, was a palette cleanser to get through in between really dense releases in The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, and it more than got the job done.
Take the introductory rooms in the game for instance. You’re pretty much setup to believe that you’re in an insane asylum. You’re all alone, with nothing but some blocks, a chessboard and its pieces, and as you make your way out, the game starts to mess with you.
One of the early rooms has a giant block in it, and it covers the entrance to another hallway leading to another room. So one of the ways through is to grab the chessboard, make it bigger by holding it above your head and dropping it. You can then use that bigger chessboard as a ramp to make your way up the oversized block and into the room. Or you can make the block smaller, jump on it, and get into the room that way. Most of the rooms have more than one solution, and that’s the beauty of the game. It doesn’t punish you for thinking outside the box.
The game also uses optical illusions to mess with your mind. Another level in the game, for example, features 2D art on walls made to look like objects you’d otherwise be able to interact with.
One such room requires you to walk to the back, look back at the entrance to the room to see what looks like a vase on a roundtable. When you initially entered that room, it wasn’t there, but it had only appeared there after looking at it from the back angle. That vase also doubles as a missing part of a painting of a checkered cube on the wall. If you look at it from an angle where the cube on the wall is complete, you’ll be able to pick the cube off the wall and use it as a solution to get to the nearby exit.
It’s all really clever stuff, and each level features a new theme to think about as you make your way through, including a horror level.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
As cool as some of these ideas are, these types of games aren’t for everybody. Until now, I’ve never understood the appeal of Portal, I ragequitted The Witness, and I’ve never bothered with The Talos Principle, but Superliminal just clicked.
Now if you’re into games like this, it’s definitely an experience seeing it through to the end, but at only eight levels, it’s a really short game. If you’re good at these kinds of puzzles, beating it in less than an hour isn’t out of ordinary–in fact, doing so will get net you a trophy/achievement. It took me more than a few sittings and around two to three hours to complete because some of the puzzles were pretty frustrating (I admittedly looked some up on YouTube) and first-person games also aren’t really my jam and I found myself with a headache a few times, and that’s all due to the fact that it’s in first-person. That said, I definitely needed my share of breaks.
If you can get over all that, it’s an easy recommendation. At $20 it could be a little steep, but when you inevitably see this game on sale, definitely give it some thought. It’s a doozy, and the six-man team at Pillow Castle did a great job.