“Perception is reality.” From the get-go, that mind-bending phrase lingers, as you manipulate the size of chess pieces simply by altering how far away they are, truly impacting their physical nature. It’s a concept so simple and yet so intriguing, making interactions with the smallest details of Superliminal’s world feel engaging right off the bat.
With perception dictating reality, the puzzles make for some incredibly thought-provoking gameplay, as you transport objects through closed doors, enlarge items enough to activate multiple triggers at once and shift props to from the size of your pinky to something large enough to let you reach a high ledge. Complexity gradually develops in an organic and fluid manner, making the development from puzzle to puzzle feel intuitive yet challenging.
Shifting perceptions isn’t all that Superliminal has in store, however, as there are also optical illusions abound, from items that turn out to be paintings on the walls and floors to doorways that are really objects protruding outwards to walls that are, in actuality, corridors. At first, this is somewhat disorienting, but once you get into the flow of the game’s language, the charm behind its trickery is infectious.
That is ultimately the key selling point of Superliminal: its rich charm, with gameplay and atmosphere akin to Portal and Stanley Parable. Everything feels clean-cut, almost clinical. However, this is a front, as behind the one-tone walls and cheery elevator music, there’s an industrial, gritty and guttural exterior that extends from the opening facility to the distorted hotel that feels right out of The Shining. It serves to give the otherwise harmless puzzle extravaganza eerie overtones that leave you somewhat unsettled, especially given the feeling of being watched that forms right from signing the terms and conditions in the opening.
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Superliminal falters in very few places, even though it took the humungous risk of falling into the category of soulless Portal copycats which are abundant. It manages to build its own eerie aesthetic with its own interesting gameplay quirk that is far more than a gimmick, given how well-designed each puzzle is. However, that being said, on the Switch, Superliminal has its janky elements, from fps stuttering when you enlarge an object too much to a camera that sometimes lags if there’s a lot going on. Granted, it didn’t go through a meat grinder to end up on the Switch, retaining crisp visuals, so the FPS dips are more than acceptable and far from enough to hinder the experience.
Final Score: 90%
Well-built puzzle games are always a treat, but Superliminal goes above and beyond as it is a well and true masterworks entry into the genre, solidifying itself as an instant classic through its personality-rich aesthetic and wealth of thought-provoking, well-designed challenges. The way that optical illusions and perceptive tricks have been integrated into Superliminal is a spark of genius that is executed phenomenally through slick, smooth, and responsive design.
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