Superliminal (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 12.08.2020

Review for Superliminal on Nintendo Switch

There are games out there that can immediately capture the interest of the populous just with a premise or trailer, and for Superliminal that's certainly the case. A first-person perspective puzzler, where utilizing perspective and point of view with things in a room to change the world. Superliminal sees a nameless protagonist trying to escape from a memory session, where every door just seems to lead deeper into the subconscious.

Awakening to the sound of an alarm then stepping out from the room into a strange complex, an old school stereo sits unattended and when interacted with a voice rings out: "Hello. My name is Doctor Glenn Pierce." This guiding voice aims to direct the player through this cognitive world inside their dreams, taking them step by step through a series of tests before returning them to the real world. At least, that was the plan. Alongside the good doctor, a robotic voice rings out clinical observations, as the character slips deeper and deeper, and the world distorts further and further.

Screenshot for Superliminal on Nintendo Switch

The premise and mechanics are very simple and well conveyed in the opening segments. Picking up objects and moving them so that they seem larger relatively to the environment then releasing them grows them to the size they seem in that perspective. Conversely, holding an item and moving close to a wall or looking at the floor can make the object shrink. This basic mechanic is used with aplomb, managing to continue to deliver fresh takes on the puzzles.

At first, the puzzles are taking blocks and making them smaller to be able to reach areas they previous barricaded. Or taking toy building blocks and turning them into the size of a car to jump up over obstructions. The stages then move on to add more simple physics-based puzzles, having to depress switches to open doors, or needing a specific angle or view to line up items within the room to transform them into something else. Drawn lines through the environment when arranged right will form an item that can be picked up to be used.

Screenshot for Superliminal on Nintendo Switch

As the stages progress, the surrealist nature of this dreamscape starts to distort. Some areas take on a horror vibe, as voices and footsteps echo just out of sight, and blood trail spatter across the walls. Others include random and strange items to manipulate. An inflatable bouncy castle that can be used as a doorway, a room filled with apples that duplicate when they're interacted with, all giving life to new puzzles. Possibly best of all though is the very final stage, a bizarre "walking simulator," where perspective twists, and the world reaches the very apex of surreal strangeness, navigating through a truly dreamlike experience as walls become doorways, windows to nothings open into Truman-show like nightscapes, and infinite paradoxes form.

Screenshot for Superliminal on Nintendo Switch

The issue Subliminal suffers with is that it doesn't flow. Neither in narrative, nor the design of the stages. The stages of the dream feel isolated, like they could be played through in any order and without a feeling of progression or development on the mechanics introduced in the very first area. In terms of narrative, it tries to instill a sense of fear in the player. Reality twists repeating hints that the character needs to "Wake up!" The sections where the lights go out, areas are destroyed and blood trails lead to a closet… the open door slamming just as it is approached. The stages twisting into crazy worlds, the voices of the computer and the doctor distorting. It just fails to land in the same way the wonderful guiding voices of Portal did.

There are obviously immediate parallels to the latter, with its linear, separated levels with physics-based puzzles separating them. The major difference is with the quality of the puzzle. With Portal completing a puzzle instilled a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of being smart. These puzzles mostly lack that, and just feel like going through the motions.

Screenshot for Superliminal on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

It takes two hours or so to complete this, and it's a fun little experience, filled with some smart puzzles interspersed with the odd stinker with little logical sense, but nothing to get particularly stuck or hung up on in the entire play-through. A few "Oh really?!" moments exist as well, as the solution becomes apparent. There is an extra aspect to consider here though. At the conclusion of the game the Doctor gives a very earnest speech about the struggles everybody goes through in life, and how to examine things from a fresh perspective. Taking that to heart and stepping back, this could be more important than ever right now. With the population all struggling with the "new normal" and mindfulness becoming a powerful tool in helping that, this game would serve wonderfully on mindfulness courses. Its positive message on perspective being one that everyone could benefit from hearing.

Developer

Pillow Castle

Publisher

Pillow Castle

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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