Superliminal is a game that lets you play around with forced perspective. That there is the elevator pitch and, for the most part, it's all you really need to know.
Forced perspective can be defined as a technique that employs optical illusion to make an object appear further away or closer, larger or smaller than it actually is. What this means with regards to Superliminal is that you can pick up an object and then place it far away from you so that now it is actually physically much bigger, or the other way around, which would make it much smaller.
As the game begins we find ourselves in bed at the Pierce Institute heading into SomnaSculpt dream therapy, being overseen by doctors and a non-sympathetic and robot sounding "Standard Orientation Protocol". It is within this dreamscape that we start to play around with forced perspective but it is not long until we find ourselves off the beaten path of the simulation and trying to find our way back to the waking world alongside increasingly disorientating levels and less than helpful messages from Dr Glenn Pierce and the SOP.
Superliminal begs for comparison to both Portal, due to the test chamber-esque structure of the levels and the attempt at dry humour, and to The Stanley Parable, due to the overall aesthetic and untrustworthy environments where things can disappear as your gaze wanders, hallways lead on into themselves, and mazes that defy physics. However, in the end, it doesn't succeed in matching either.
Forced perspective is the throughline of the game and the main way to interact with the world outside of walking and jumping. But here comes the rub: this a linear puzzle game with several levels that in turn are segmented and split apart with doors, and these doors don't let items through. This means that this main mechanic quickly becomes more limited than originally promised in the early stages of the game, lending one to scan around for the specific interactable object in the room before figuring out the specific way the puzzle is meant to be solved in order to progress.
That feeling of slight disappointment quickly subsides as the puzzles are quite fun, however, our enjoyment was met by rising annoyance with the narrative of the game, which much of the time fell a bit flat. The third act of the game, however, pulls both narrative and mechanics together in a way that changes one's perspective and that filled us with a new appreciation of events prior. What's more, with a runtime of just under three hours, it never overstayed its welcome.
In a game that sometimes tries to be Portal without the portals and The Stanley Parable without the parable, the narrative often feels forced. However, as a puzzle game, its main mechanic proves original and fun despite some limitations. The experience as a whole is quite enjoyable if a bit lopsided, where the beginning and end stand tall while the middle section drags a bit. Still, it's a unique one for sure and one well worth exploring.
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