Ever since Valve’s iconic puzzler Portal launched back in 2007, we’ve seen a number of developers put their own spin on the genre, including ChromaGun, The Witness, and The Talos Principle. Superliminal is one of the more successful efforts; a mind-bending jaunt into a mysterious facility that turns out to be one of the more surprisingly heart-warming Switch games of 2020 – so far, at least.
At the Pierce Institute, you play as an unidentified participant in the ‘Somnasculpt’ dream therapy program. After signing a terms of service, you’re off from room to room, solving puzzles in order to unlock the connecting doors. The gameplay is focused around the concept of ‘forced perspective’, a technique that allows objects to appear bigger, smaller, closer, or further away than they may initially appear.
For example, early in the game, you’ll find yourself in a room with an exit located halfway up the wall, well out of reach on your own. A small, wooden block lies on the ground, only a couple of cubic inches in size. But once you pick up the block, you can place it below the exit from a distance, thus utilising forced perspective; the small block immediately becomes several cubic feet in size, allowing you to jump on top of it and reach the exit.
This is just one of many ingenious examples of the concept, and it only gets more elaborate as you progress through the game. Though split into chapters that you can access individually from the main menu, the experience can quite easily be completed in one sitting. This may put some people off, but we’d actually recommend playing it this way; the pacing is superb and the underlying message at the end will resonate so much more (we won’t lie, we played it in one go and were close to shedding a tear at the end). The only downside to a game of this nature is that once you’ve played it once, a second run isn’t half as intriguing.
While the graphics aren’t the most cutting edge on the market, everything is so carefully considered that we have to give the developer credit. Every object is placed exactly where it should be, and the lighting is frequently designed to guide you down a specific path (sometimes deliberately down the wrong path). The frame rate is solid throughout, with minimal dips to disturb the experience, and the music is extremely well implemented, designed to make you feel at ease despite the strange goings-on. Objects can occasionally glitch out as you’re moving them around, but this is thankfully a very rare occurrence.
Will Superliminal resonate with everyone as much as it did with us? Possibly not, but regardless, if you’re looking for a game in a similar vein to Portal, you’ll be right at home here. It’s pretty short, so if this bothers you, then you might want to pick it up at a discounted price. Otherwise, you’re in for a wholly unique experience that completely stands on its own, and delivers a message that – in 2020, at least – is exceptionally powerful.