Superliminal PlayStation 4 Review

Logical puzzle solving won’t help in a world where bizarre imagination prevails.

By Fragnarok, Posted 29 Jul 2020

Dreams are one of the most confusing human experiences. Logic, rationale, and science can be completely thrown out the window, yet it all makes perfect sense to our brains at the time. After waking, it can be hard to recall what happened and even more difficult to figure out what it all meant. Pillow Castle aims to create such a bewildering experience in Superliminal, a first-person puzzle game where reality isn’t important and perspective controls your dream realm.

Players take control of a patient at the Somna Sculpt sleep clinic and are guided by the Dr. Glenn Pierce. The doctor, along with the trial simulation’s AI, provides voiceover narration and context to the dream therapy you are undergoing. No characters or other creatures make any physical appearance, allowing you to take your time exploring the dream simulation.

Superliminal,Pillow Castle,PlayStation 4

One can freely move around, jump, and interact with objects. In most cases, the interact button picks up an item, but other times it instead duplicates objects or allows pushing and pulling on a track. The main gameplay involves forced perspective: objects are really as big as they appear in view. This means you can pick up a small soda, drop it in the distance and make it massive. Conversely, walk dozens of meters from a building and you’ll be able to hold it in your palm. The other main feature is trompe-l’oeil objects: two-dimensional drawings on surfaces made to look third dimensional. But in the dreamland of Superliminal perceiving anything as 3D actually does transform them into fully modeled 3D objects. For most puzzles these mechanics should be used as a basis, but further manipulated from an out-of-box viewpoint.

Superliminal’s puzzles aren’t very challenging once you understand the mechanics. Instead, much of the game will involve exploration to figure out what the puzzle even is. This can result in pacing around looking for anything intractable within a seemingly static environment. In many cases you could enter a room with nothing in it, only to find clues tucked in the ceiling corner or may need to disable the previous puzzle solution from the doorway you just walked in from. Objects from one puzzle might be critical to solve the next, so it can be a good strategy to take a used item into the next room.

Superliminal,Pillow Castle,PlayStation 4 

In some cases following directions will lead to an unwinnable loop and the only way to pass is by doing the exact opposite of what is suggested. Very often back peddling or strafing will bring you to the right pathway, while advancing ahead will lead to dead ends. Other puzzles require removing any sort of logic, such as throwing blocks on top of holes to make them solid floors, bypassing strong air currents by not looking at them, or turning on and off lights to form shadow doors. A dedicated player will likely be able to clear the main story’s eight levels and any side content within 3 to 4 hours.

The first-person view and warped reality may give players a nostalgic feeling to 2007’s Portal. However, that game had more reliance on platforming, momentum, and featured some enemy encounters. Despite having a jump function, Superliminal is very light on acrobatics often letting one stick to ledges and enter doorways they should have completely missed. Other times the presented jump puzzle is impossible and purposely drops you into a new dream sequence as you fail. The few portal-like teleportation doors in Superliminal are also somewhat prone to glitches, resulting in leaping outside the game’s boundaries or losing necessary items inside geometry. Thankfully, nearly every room has a checkpoint save and it is easy to reload a level.

Superliminal,Pillow Castle,PlayStation 4

The character of Dr. Pierce will incite comparisons to other voice-over narrators like the one from The Stanley Parable or recordings of Cave Johnson in Portal 2. Pierce starts as a plain clinical doctor, but moves into more absurd jokes as the study progresses. Nothing said will likely make players roar with laughter, but may still result in a few chuckles. In some levels, there is minor insinuation that the player character isn’t only a sleep patient, but may suffer from psychological trauma or have a troubled past. This isn’t fully clarified, with Pierce and the admin chalking it up as another dream and moving on to the next test. Towards the last few levels, Pierce starts entering an avant-garde state, giving guru like philosophical advice rather than more grounded therapy. This also causes most of the last level to be more of an epilogue with exposition instead of gameplay.                    

The PlayStation 4 (and other consoles) release of the game adds in new extras to help pad out content. This includes hidden rooms containing star constellations, collectible chess pieces, and interacting with every fire alarm and fire extinguisher inside Somna Sculpt. With only limited replayability, there isn’t a lot packed into the game. At its current retail price of $19.99, only dedicated puzzle game fans should rush to get Superliminal. For everyone else it is definitely worth adding to your wish list and picking up during a sale or reduced price.

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Pillow Castle
Developer(s): Pillow Castle
Genres: Puzzle
Themes: Sleep
Release Date: 2020-07-07

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