Critical Play: Puzzles — Superliminal

Critical Play: Puzzles – Superliminal

Superliminal by Pillow Castle Games is a surreal puzzle game released in 2019 for PC, Xbox, PS4, or Nintendo Switch targeted to a general audience.

Players drag and drop objects, using creative shifts in perspective and perception to change object sizes and advance to the next level.

Formal elements

Players: Superliminal is first person single player game.

Objectives: Solve surreal puzzles that take advantage of perspective shifts and optical illusions to advance to the next parts of the level.

Rules & procedures: Drag objects around to manipulate your environment, change the size and angle of objects, and unlock the next area.

Resources: The game plays by using the mouse, and in-game objects to move around and manipulate to navigate areas to the next.

Boundaries: As the player progresses through the game, each puzzle is bounded in its environment, such as the boundaries of a red carpeted room.

Outcomes: The player plays through the story of someone who is going through a “SomnaSculpt” dream therapy technology, “waking up”  several times throughout the game with an alarm clock.

Types of fun

Superliminal includes aesthetics of challenge, which naturally results from the challenge of attempting to solve the perception puzzles Superliminal throws at you.

How the mechanics of the puzzle influence the experience of the game

For example, the game onboards the player at the beginning of the game by introducing them to a room full of cubes, boxes, and chess pieces of varying sizes. Through dragging the pieces across the room, players discover its size changes accordingly in a twist of perception, allowing players to move objects and allow them to use them to jump up to the next room. This thematically fits well with the narrative of the game, which is about a new dream technology — in dreams, perception shifts just as much as it does in Superliminal.

A normal sized “EXIT” sign turns supersized as the player manipulates it to use to escape to the next room, including turning signs into ramps.

Moments of success or fails and things I would change to make the game better

Successes: This game is superb and smart; puzzles relying on optical illusions leads to players having so many “a ha!” moments as they use what they’ve learned from the last puzzle to move onward. Yest, each new puzzle relies on looking at the puzzle in a different light with new twists from the last to solve. Superliminal offers a novel experience that one won’t forget, relying on twists in perception to solve. It’s a genius game that is still so simple for anyone to solve, requiring only dragging objects around the screen to win.

Fails: It’s a brain twisting game whose puzzles could be solved at worst by trial and error, but there are parts where it got extremely frustrating and tedious to try to figure out.

This puzzle, a cube painted onto the wall, required different mechanics from the super-sized objects before to solve.

Many puzzles also rely on changing object sizes to win, but this maybe a tedious process of dragging and dropping objects repeatedly to get it to be the right size. Thus, certain puzzles feel a bit repetitive, and I would cut out those puzzles entirely from the game if necessary.

About the author

I like animation and game dev yeet.

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