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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Pillow Castle Games
Release Date: Nov. 12, 2019


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PC Preview - 'Superliminal'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Nov. 5, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Superliminal is a puzzle game where you explore the ambiguity of perception and depth in this surreal world by manipulating objects in physical space according to their perspective.

Portal may not have created the "trapped in an empty place with quirky science" genre, but it certainly popularized it. It's easy to understand the simple appeal of having a really cool gimmick and slowly expanding it over time. Superliminal is the latest in the series of games that follows the basic concept. The idea is simple: You are in a dream, but it's a dream where you are lucid and can use the distorted perception of time and space to explore a series of rooms and hallways, guided by a charmingly unhelpful scientist named Dr. Glenn Pierce.

Since you're in a dream, the world functions on dream logic. In our preview build, the primary rule was "perception is reality." That means any object you pick up will change size instantly to how you are perceiving it. For example, an object that is far away will seem tiny, so if you grab a giant chess piece from far away, it becomes a tiny chess piece. On the other hand, something above you and coming toward you might seem larger than it is, so put that same chess piece up high, and it suddenly becomes gigantic.

The puzzles all felt incredibly natural to solve once you understood that one simple rule. For example, there is one segment where you find a Rubik's Cube that instantly breaks into flat pieces when you try to manipulate it. You need to reach a door high above you, and the flat pieces are useless for that task. However, by manipulating their size and position, you can create a ramp and walk right up it. Another has you shifting several same-size blocks into different sizes to create stairs. You may also need to manipulate the object's size to get it through a small door and then grow it again to create a pathway.

There are also going to be other kinds of puzzles. One we saw involved blocks that could be stretched either horizontally or vertically. They formed a pretty basic maze, and you had to move the blocks in such a way that you could get one horizontal block in a spot to form a stepping stone. There also are perspective puzzles. A splash of paint on the wall, when viewed from the appropriate angle, may turn into an item that you can pick up and use. It's all built upon the logic of dreams, but that makes it incredibly engaging.

All in all, the brief playtime we had with Superliminal shows that it has a ton of potential. The simple controls and easy-to-understand puzzles combined with the unusual dream logic offer a lot of possibilities for interesting puzzles. It's certainly in the same vein as Portal, but as just as Portal had one really engaging gimmick that defined it, so does Superliminal. Assuming the final product lives up to the promise of the preview build, it should be a must-play when it comes out later this year on the Epic Game store.

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