SIGNALIS will keep players on edge, both from fear and frustration.

By Fragnarok, Posted 25 Oct 2022

SIGNALIS is a retro survival horror game developed by rose-engine and published by Humble Games. Robotic clone Replika worker Elster has crash landed long distance from her intended target - the governmental outpost facility on an alien planet. Elster’s main mission is to rendezvous with the previous Replika team that scouted the area. However, she also has a personal interest in locating her friend, Ariane, who seemed to have gone missing during the accident. Little does she know that nefarious and cosmic horrors a wait.

SIGNALIS is presented from a top-down camera view. Most action takes place on a single screen at a time, though some larger rooms may scroll slightly upwards or to the side. This typically gives players the full scope of all enemies, hazards, and NPCs, though some may be hidden in shadows. Not all interactions are clearly visible, and one will need to move Elster to the right position even to know some objects are switches and not just part of the background.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

In some cases, the camera will also transition to a first-person view. This allows for closer inspection of surroundings or a means of taking objects that were not otherwise visible. Full movement is turned off during these segments, with a click of the mouse typically moving Elster to a predefined position or focus. Much of what is found is just flavor text but can lead to puzzle solutions.

SIGNALIS offers a lot of freedom of exploration. At the start of the game, Elster awakens from cryo sleep and almost no direction or context is given. It becomes unclear what is going on or even how to leave. One might expect to go deeper into the ship, but in reality, the solution comes by looking through the east wing and then the cockpit for clues. In fact, there are many red herrings in the backgrounds, documents, and items.

Puzzles make up around 40% of the entire game. Finding the answers on the first playthrough will take a combination of going through multiple rooms, reading between the lines of files and conversations, and using the information found hours ago. For example, players might be carrying a seemingly useless butterfly carving, only to find out much later that it holds the key to activating a blocked elevator. It can make it both frustrating at the moment but also absolutely triumphant once a solution is found.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

To help sort through various documents, players are given a memory menu that will bring up previously found notes. While this does bring up the in-game text, it can be hard to remember the context of what all of it meant. Many people going through SIGNALIS for the first time may want to make separate and clearer notes on their own. Relying on just the in-game memories may make it too confusing to return to older saved games.

In subsequent playthroughs, a puzzle solution or passcode combination will stay the same. This allows players to speed-run sections by just inputting the correct answers. This can even go as far as sequence breaking, with Elster skipping past meeting NPCs, lacking weapons or items, or even bypassing part of the plot. While it doesn’t directly lead to a no-win situation, it does mean players will need to be more conservative with items.

Around another 40-50% of the game is shooter combat. Elster’s first possible weapon is a basic handgun, though the amount of ammo is extremely limited. A few shots will stun enemies, while it may take half a clip to kill someone. Another option is stun rods, which will temporarily paralyze but are still consumed after use. Players will want to use at least some means of defense, as Elster takes damage when even making physical contact with a non-attacking creature.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

Elster will need to manage her inventory carefully. Players will only have so many items slots for weapons, ammo, healing items, and even quest objects. The remainder can be placed into storage. However, overuse or mismanagement of items can pigeonhole into daunting fights and other encounters that may be near impossible to survive.

The majority of enemies are what appear to be resurrected or otherwise possessed Replika technicians and soldiers. Many are either burned or scarred, making them look like horrific and mutilated versions of Elster herself. They are very hard of hearing and may not notice players that move slowly. However, once spotted or attacked, they will quickly rush in response. If players do sustain damage in a fight, they can heal with repair kits.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

It seems that all humanoid droids within Replika’s space exploration team are modeled as attractive Asian-featured women. Besides Elster and Ariane, other early Replika members found in the facility include security guard Star and the knife-wielding Gestalt Isa. Neither of them can provide much insight into what happened, and like most survival games, one should not get overly attached.

SIGNALIS is layered with mystery and suspense, but answers are few and far between - and in some cases, there is no resolution. Often, Elster will talk about situations and events that players will be completely clueless about. Perhaps this is a form of in media res, or context will be given later. However, it is unclear if rose-engine is purposely trying to heighten the level of insanity or if there is really some poor writing or mistranslation from the native German.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

With horror being the overwhelming aspect, SIGNALIS is not for the faint of heart. The game incorporates both fear and creepiness into the visual and sound design. Even something as simple as opening a menu can turn the screen blood red and unleash a piercing screech. At other points, characters may suddenly melt only to whiplash back to just a momentary jump scare. The HUD and other system messages can even taunt players with foreboding messages like “You will regret this later” when declining to save.

SIGNALIS uses a heavily stylized pixelated view, even including scan lines mimicking an old CTR. This gives it a similar look to early cinematic adventure classics like Another World and Flashback. While this can be visually interesting at times, it can also make it hard to parse what is going on in a room or conflate puzzles even further. In one example, a monitor displayed the pins of a lock-picking device. However, the constant static and blurriness lead to unnecessary additional failures.

SIGNALIS, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Female Protagonist, Survival Horror, NoobFeed

SIGNALIS appears to have been developed for consoles, and the Steam PC version does not make full use of the computer interface. The mouse cursor automatically turns Elster for better aiming in combat but serves no additional function when exploring or using interactions. Additionally, the default keybinds do not even accommodate a standard three-button mouse - either an expanded FPS or MMO mouse is needed to reload or fight in melee comfortably. Players will almost need to plug in a controller to get the whole SIGNALIS experience.

SIGNALIS never lets up from feeling completely strange and unsettling. This works great in the context of a terrifying and disturbing alien world. However, this bizarreness stretches into archaic gameplay designs, a muddled story, and strange visuals. It feels like genuinely stepping into the past of the late 1990s, both for better and worse.

Kurtis Seid, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Humble Games, Playism
Developer(s): rose-engine
Genres: Survival Horror
Themes: Adventure, Shooter
Release Date: 2022-10-27

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