Finally, I get to talk about SIGNALIS in full. Do read my earlier preview here so that you get the full context, and also the options menu.
THROUGH THE ARCHWAY
I find it a little hard to articulate my thoughts about SIGNALIS, because the thing I really want to dive into is the story, but I don’t want to spoil too many things about it.
The second half of the game is where things can truly get dicey, as the Replikas you’ve been seeing posters on have all been infected, somehow, and are screeching and charging at you. Even the ‘regular’ knife-toting ones seem to get tougher later on in the game, and the only way you can be sure they don’t get up again is if you burn them, the option available to you through signal flares. Not only do you have a strict inventory item limit, there’s also a cap to how much of a single item you can carry, so you better make those shots count.
There’s one type where you need to tune your radio all the while as your screen can start glitching out in their presence. It can be an incredibly distressing affair especially when other corrupted Replika are in the vicinity; good luck with that aim!
I did praise the game’s map in the preview. However, there will be sequences where the map is completely unavailable, so I hope you’ve been keeping track yourself. Space can get weird in this structurally chaotic way as your muscle memory gets you round as you screech back at enemies that start getting back up again. Due to the slightly funky hitboxes, I did try to sequence break when I got completely stumped by a puzzle, but it didn’t get me anywhere since I needed the actual goods.
On completing one playthrough, the game will allow you to ‘begin anew’. The in-game time shown for that save file starts counting up from 0 so it seems to be a fresh file. Much to think about.
TIS BUT A DREAM
In the interest of people getting a similar experience as me as they go through the story, I really do want to avoid writing about it too much. What I will do is give a rough summary of possible content warnings I recall off the top of my head so that you can be informed, which include: dismemberment, cannibalism, body horror, incredibly glitchy visual effects, gore/blood in general, grievous harm with sharp implements, potentially distressing sound cues over extended periods, among others.
‘We’ have become a far more advanced spacefaring species, where Russian, German, Japanese, Korean and Chinese – or at least, what I think I recognize – have all come together in a curious blender of not just the language, but their culture. There are familiar traditions, and others yet that have evolved in this galactic melting pot. Assisted by Replikas through technology they don’t quite understand, the humans – the Gestalt – embark on journeys to the great beyond, and of course, war.
It doesn’t seem like there’s overt discrimination towards the Replikas, who are essentially mimicking the Gestalt. What there is, is a lot of paperwork filing formal complaints and requests.
I will reiterate that I do believe it’s the mechanics that are likely the reason that people will bounce off this game, on the assumption that these more ‘classic’ controls are not to ‘modern’ tastes. For those who subscribe solely to the money/game time ratio of determining a game’s ‘worth’, they’re going to be complaining too: it’s possible to blitz through the game in under 6 hours in your first playthrough if you know what you’re doing.
Fortunately, a review is allowed to be subjective, so here’s me highly recommending SIGNALIS as a gameplay experience. The sense of oppressiveness from the relative lack of music, the striking art style, and yes, the story, is one to feel for yourself, as the world around you morphs into something you just don’t quite understand, with hints pushing you towards a certain interpretation, and all the while everything seems to be breaking down. To me, it feels less of horror, more to psychological thriller and existentialism.
The game is not perfect, but I have been duly informed of its flaws and I accept it for what it is.
|Atmospheric, gripping story||The same classic experience is what can make some people bounce off|
|Modern additions to a classic experience|
Code provided by Humble Games. Reviewed on PC.
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