Where do I even begin for Superliminal. I guess one can only start from the beginning. The game’s starting screen shows immediately that it is a game that has wit and dry humor in abundance. It is simply a screen with one color, and the only controls in the game, WASD for movement, Space for jump, and the Mouse to look around. It looks like a generic control overlay but immediately find out that it is actually a drawing on a wall as soon as you try to move. And it also introduces the games core mechanic, that things aren’t really as they seem. That a change in perspective will often times lead to solutions that you thought weren’t possible.
And now we go through a series of levels, each with a certain theme, and a new angle on the core mechanic. By moving around objects and playing with the camera angles, you can increase or decrease the size of the objects relative to the map. They play with this in interesting ways, by playing with shadows cast by objects, by creating items by looking at paintings at the right angle, by multiplying objects, by having passageways linked by recursion and increasing/decreasing your own size relative to the map. All of this backed by bits of soothing narration and beautifully calm piano music.
Each subset of levels have different thematic elements as well. One that stands out, is a series of puzzles through a kitchen like environment that resembles something straight out of a nightmare. It is very dark and gloomy, with what seems to be trails of blood everywhere. This environment contrasts the highly lit, pastel safety of the level you started out in. As you progress, you use new mechanics that relate to light. As you make your way out of the level, you find that it was not as it seemed. That something that resembled a nightmare, in actually was just the lights being turned off and red paint being spilled everywhere. There is even a humorous part where you spy what appears to be a mysterious killer behind a door only to see that it is a chess piece. And this is where the game starts to shine.
Much like the game’s mechanic itself, you soon find that the game is not what it appeared to be from the beginning, a quirky, charming, and brilliant puzzle game. By the game’s end, you realize that the game is showing you that in the face of seemingly impossible situations, that a change in perspective can lead to solutions you never expected. And there is a sense of realism and practicality about it as well. The game doesn’t make it easy to solve some of the puzzles. I had quite a difficult time for a few of them. But difficult though things may be, nothing is impossible. And that is the point that it drives home. Much like the game itself, life is filled to the brim with seemingly impossible challenges, with no possible exit in sight. But with a change in perspective, and a lot of hard work, you will be able to find your way out. Whether it be depression, financial difficulties, difficult relationships, whatever hardships one may face in the course of life. When you beat the game, it walks you through the game in reverse order, from the end to the beginning to show you your journey throughout the game, to show you that you’ve come this far and overcome all the obstacles. It is a bittersweet message. It doesn’t tell you that life will become any easier, it just simply tells you that there is a way out if you’re willing to change your perspective.
The ending hit me pretty hard. I had to sit there for a while and just sort through a torrent of emotions and thoughts. It’s been a while since a game has made me think or feel anything to this extent. It resonated with me, I related to this game. It transcended simple entertainment and instilled in me a sense of hope. For that I sincerely want to thank the people who made this game possible.