In 2020, it's been harder than ever to have a truly good night's sleep. With the world in disarray as a pandemic threatens our safety and wellbeing, I know that I am not alone in seeing a heavy uptick in nightmares, including dreams about death, disease, and general distress. Superliminal is about dreams and dream-logic, and represents a sort of nightmare itself, but it's a different kind from the ones I've experienced. For all its confusing geometry, strange logic, and growing unease, it's ultimately an optimistic and satisfying experience. Superliminal offers a short, enjoyable run through a subconscious in crisis, and it's a consistently clever and pleasantly challenging game with a lot on its virtual mind.
You play as a patient of Dr. Glenn Pierce, one who is undergoing the Somnasculpta sleep therapy program. The whole game is set within your medically induced dream as the program probes your subconscious, asking you to complete a series of challenges to find peace of mind and overcome feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Things go wrong fast, though; you take a wrong turn and stumble deeper into a dream state than was intended, and the deeper you go, the further your surroundings shift from a recognizable reality. It's like Portal's puzzle chambers crossed with the dream spaces of Inception (and a hint of Alice in Wonderland too), but despite those clear influences Superliminal feels like its own thing.
To get through the game, you're told to view things from a different perspective--although it might be more accurate to say that the game is about taking your existing perspectives and reconceptualizing them. The puzzles in Superliminal all revolve around your first-person viewpoint, and you have to figure out what elements of each environment you can manipulate. A lot of this involves resizing objects through an extremely satisfying mechanic--if you hold up a small square block in a hallway and position the reticule so that the block looks like it's far in the distance, you can drop it… and it'll now be much larger and located down at the other end of the hall. Similarly, if you grab something large in the distance and then look straight down, you can drop what is now a tiny object on the ground in front of you.
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