I’m probably going to use the word “clever” more than once during this review. I can’t escape it. Superliminal is just such a damned clever game. I’ve played plenty of puzzle games—even ones that are intentionally mind-bending, but never have I stopped so often to have my wife look at a solution to a puzzle I just found because the solution is so mind-bendingly clever I couldn’t contain my excitement.
Superliminal is a puzzler, through and through. While it does contain thematic aspects of other games—like Portal, Stanley Parable and even a little bit of Control, it doesn’t have a story driving it forward. You are a person taking part in some sort of therapy to find yourself, and to do that, you have to control your dreams. Or something like that. There is a story though—told through two different voices. One, an AI (I assume) that is a bit like GladOS, and Dr. Glenn Pierce—a calm voice that guides you through your experience in Superliminal.
Superliminal is all about perspective. Did you ever look at a far object, like the moon, and pretend to crush it with your fingers? Well, imagine if you could pluck that moon out of the sky, and roll it like a marble. That’s the basis for most of the puzzles in Superliminal. If you see a doorway up a wall you can’t access, but there’s a box in the room, you can place that box in a spot that makes it larger than it was, and now you can pick up the larger box. But it’s more than just making a small box big to get to a higher step—though there’s plenty of that. Superliminal takes the idea of perspective puzzles to all of their extremes in some of the best ways.
There’s more to perspective than objects getting larger and smaller. Superliminal also uses light and shadow, and negative space in clever ways to make puzzles. If you find yourself in a dark hallway with no way through on both ends, the answer may be walking through the dark walls on the side—that aren’t walls after all.
Objects can become pictures, pictures can become objects. Doorways can be removed from the wall in some puzzles, and placed in other locations—or even made smaller or bigger, to increase or decrease the player’s size as well. Things get really mind bending when you get the chance to place doorways within doorways. And while puzzles seem to be thematically similar, I often found myself not knowing what to expect even within the same set of puzzles.
As clever as the puzzles are, they aren’t the most challenging I’ve come across. I only got stumped by the puzzles a few times. I don’t know if I’m just particularly adept at finding the solutions to these types of puzzles, or if they really were that easy. That being said, there were a few headscratchers, and I did get stuck for a little while.
There was one puzzle that I got stuck on in the worst way—without giving too much away, I shrunk myself down and fell between the cracks of a level. Thinking it was a solution, I spent way too long slow walking around until I discovered it was just a bug.
Besides the bug I ran into, my biggest complaint is its short length. I was able to play through Superliminal in a single sitting—just over two and a half hours. As with most puzzle games, you may get stuck and spend more time with it, but there isn’t a whole lot of content. That said, what’s there is extremely well done.
Using perspective as a puzzle mechanic isn’t unique to Superliminal, but it’s one of the only games I’ve played that leans on it throughout, and probably the most fun I’ve had while playing such a game. It has a short running time, but there were so many amusingly clever moments in those few hours I played to make it worth it. If you like puzzle games, Superliminal is a safe bet.
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