As quick as a dream, but just as meaningful.
As a former student of psychology, the concept of lucid dreaming has always been fascinating to me. I’ve never been able to do it myself, but I’ve read that those with better control and recall of their dreams are able to tap into a very deep, creative aspect of their subconscious. What does the human mind look like when it’s unfiltered by conscious preconceptions? Well, I don’t think Superliminal is an exact example of a lucid dreaming state, but it comes pretty close.
Superliminal‘s plot is framed in a similar manner to Portal or The Stanley Parable; you’re an unnamed participant in an experimental lucid dreaming therapy designed to help relieve anxieties and stress. As you may expect from a lucid dream, though, it doesn’t take long before things start getting weird. It’s up to you to navigate your own psyche and return to the waking world. I won’t go into any more detail than that for fear of spoilers, but I will say that at the end of it all, I had a knowing smile on my face.
If you ever messed around with a book of optical illusions as a kid, you’ll be in familiar territory here. Superliminal is a game of perception, where what you see in front of you isn’t always quite what’s there. Any object that’s not bolted down can be picked up, and by carefully positioning yourself and the object in a room, you can change its actual size. Pick up a box that’s close to you and place it on the far side of a room, and suddenly it’s gigantic. Grab something from across the room, and it’s tiny. This mechanic leads to some really fascinating puzzle designs, involving illusions, impossible space, and lots of other weird, fourth-dimensional concepts. Though despite what you may expect, most of the puzzles are surprisingly intuitive. There were a couple of head-scratchers, but after I deduced the solution, I would always go “oh, duh.”
If I had any criticisms for Superliminal, it would be that it’s a pretty short game. I beat the whole thing in a single sitting of about an hour and a half, which may not be very cost-effective for $19.99. Still, I wasn’t especially bothered by the short length, since it was thematically appropriate. A typical dream only lasts around 30 minutes, y’know?
Superliminal, as would be appropriate, feels like a pleasant dream. It’s a bit confusing on the surface, but once you wake up, you smile, stretch, and go on with your day. It would’ve been nice if it lasted longer, but it wouldn’t be a dream if it wasn’t fleeting.