Living The Dream

Hello my name is doctor Glenn Pierce…,” these seven words would come to define one of the most creative and engaging games I’ve encountered to this date. “Superliminal” published in November 2019, by developers Pillow Castle, this walking simulator of a puzzle game follows the abstract and surreal state of a dream-like subconscious. 

On the surface, it’s a very minimalist game, where the way you see the world is an important tool. Yet digging deeper into this love letter of a game, shows not only the developers’ passion and drive to produce a complete, pleasant and groundbreaking product, but an interesting dive into the human mind, where the game shows its true colors, of not just being a surreal, puzzle game, but a fantastic way of helping people deal with their issues. 

My first experience with this game was during late 2020, which most people can agree was a mentally tough time for most all of us. I saw someone showing off this “cool new game” and stuck around, not only were the visuals minimalist but spoke loudly, along with its calming music, and engaging mechanics forced me to stay. I have completed this game a total of three times, once on my normal first playthrough, second playing the game with the developer commentary and finally now to write this review. The basic background you are given is that you’re in a “Superliminal ” state of dream, where you exist in this dream above a state of subconscious, using the Pierce institutes, SomnaSculpt dream therapy. Where shortly after signing the waiver they provide you, you’re introduced to the mechanics of perspective being reality. What this means is that if you hold an object above your head with a large open sky, and when letting go it’ll come crashing down to the ground at the size it appeared to be. 

This (along with other surreal mechanics) will guide you through ‘Superliminals’ nine chapters, each with their own theme and story. Starting in chapter one, “Induction,” you awake in a early 2000’s research lab that introduces the basic mechanics of perspective, rotation, optical illusions and thinking critically. A robotic voice comes over the speaker welcoming the Somna Sculpt dream therapy, before sending you to the next location. Chapter two “Optical,” after walking through the halls of the sleep clinic, it is apparent you still haven’t awoken and you’re now in a very well decorated hotel corridor, a sense of warmth and comfort fills each object and location present, but this illusion is broken as you must escape the hotels halls into what appears to a film sound stage, and the once beautiful hotel is underscored by a slight feeling of dread. Whereupon the discovery of a radio Dr. Glenn Pierce informs you that they now have no idea where you are. Upon reentering the hotel facade, and solving puzzles, you’re sent back to the sleep clinic and once again upon leaving you’re found in a new chapter. 

With just the two opening chapters the game tests your ability to see things from a different perspective, and to not doubt yourself when finding a solution, as even the smallest and most insignificant solution can solve your problem. Now away from the story and gameplay of “Superliminal,” one of its most defining (and best) features is the incredible use of sound and music it bolsters. Each chapter has its own style of music or ambient sounds that establish and fill the otherwise empty halls. I have actually found myself returning to just listen to the incredible soundtrack of piano jazz.

“Superliminal” is a fun, challenging adventure that introduces new mechanics and forces the player to think outside the box, in hope of forcing the player to think in new ways. It’s a sweet but short adventure that I think is worth it. So this title is granted a 4.5/5