Superliminal game review: Turning dream therapy into virtual reality

The game plays on the concepts of perspective and size to build a fun experience

Superliminal puts the player in a dreamlike state and plays on perspectives. Photo: Pillow Castle Games
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What is a liminal space?

Described as being the “the uncertain transition between where you've been and where you're going, physically, emotionally, or metaphorically”, the aesthetic has become popular on the internet in recent years.

Picture an empty hallway in a quiet hotel, or a barren warehouse. These can be described as liminal spaces, where images of these spaces can evoke calmness, loneliness or even dread.

Superliminal

Developer: Pillow Castle Games
Publisher: Pillow Castle Games
Console: PlayStation 4&5, Xbox Series One & X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac
Rating: 4/5

Superliminal, a game developed and published by Pillow Castle Games, explores these spaces and their effect on the human mind.

It was released in 2019 on Mac and PC, and in 2020 on the Nintendo Switch, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Recently, the game was added to the PlayStation Plus library of free games.

The game uses the premise of being in a dreamlike state, as the player is the participant in a dream therapy programme. During the study, the participant or the player becomes entangled in a cycle of dreams in which puzzles must be solved to progress and wake up.

Perspective is key

Superliminal's main game mechanic is using objects and changing their size to solve puzzles and traverse levels.

The objects range from chess pieces to boxes. The way it works is an object is picked up by the player, and depending on how close or far they are, the object shrinks or enlarges.

For example, picture a small box sitting on a table. If the box is brought close to the eye, it might seem like the box is big. Well, the game makes the box big as a result of the changing perspective.

This nifty mechanic immerses the player in the dreamlike feeling as the game sets in. The fluid physics of things make it seem like anything is possible.

The quality of the graphics also aids in the feel while playing, as things seem almost real but not quite, much like how they would be in a dream.

Time to wake up

The story of the game is simple and straightforward. The player is in a dream therapy programme and for one reason or another, is entangled in dream cycles that keep generating puzzles for them to traverse and solve.

As the player progresses, radios present themselves that when activated play a message from the study researchers who are observing and trying to help the player wake up from the endless sleep cycles.

These messages can sometimes be helpful, but often simply remind the player that they are not in a real-life situation and are only dreaming.

As the player progresses, the levels become more complex and require some creativity and logical (or illogical) thinking.

Verdict

Video games for the most part tend to fall into categories such as being a shooting game, fighting game, or maybe even adventure or sports. Superliminal at heart is just a puzzle game, but it puts out puzzles in a unique and creative setting.

The game will appeal to those wanting a different gaming experience. One with less pressure and stakes but with more creativity.

The playing experience can be described as calm and enjoyable, and sometimes even funny.

The messages streamed to the player through the radio broadcasts can sometimes use wit or dark comedy to get the message across. It is certainly humorous to picture a team of scientists attempting to wake someone up as they dream of puzzles.

Superliminal is a memorable game and can be completed in just one sitting or several short ones, but will definitely become a fun game to replay when needing a calm time to just be in an empty space.

Updated: December 01, 2023, 6:02 PM
Superliminal

Developer: Pillow Castle Games
Publisher: Pillow Castle Games
Console: PlayStation 4&5, Xbox Series One & X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC and Mac
Rating: 4/5