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SIGNALIS is a 2D survival horror game set in a dystopian future. In this world, you play as a technician Replika named Elster, who is on a mission to recover her memories and her partner. 

As much as I wish I could begin the review by explaining how the story is and how I felt about it, I just wouldn't even know where to begin. This is due to the extremely vague nature of the game's story-telling — I understood barely anything, and by the time things began piecing together, I had already missed too much vital context.

This was my very first gripe with the game. SIGNALIS constantly bombards you with information through scattered notes, random (and contextless) flashbacks, and NPCs that are dispersed throughout the game. Unfortunately, due to the lack of proper structure, it becomes so taxing to remember all the random details that I didn't feel I could follow along, and it would take an entire second playthrough to even begin to grasp the story. This is only made worse by the fact that it's set in a futuristic world that you know nothing about, and it has random mixes of languages, too. Because of all of these issues, I quickly gave up on the story and lost interest. 

SIGNALIS Screenshot 1

Thankfully, whilst you're busy hoarding information and taking notes to remember things, you'll also find some incredible puzzles. They were SIGNALIS' biggest strength, as I found them to be creative, engaging, and unique. Although they were challenging primarily due to the (nearly absolute) lack of tutorials, I feel like it was a great decision on the developer's part; any adept gamer will be able to use their videogame knowledge to crack how they work. They are rewarding, complex, and fun.

If I had to explain the puzzles in the game, it would be through the saying: “the devil is in the details”. There's a nice combination between the classic puzzles where you know you're currently trying to figure something out — such as the one where you have to play with some notches until you get the proper voltage right — and more subtle ones. The inconspicuous ones will require you to put two and two together to realise you've just seen a hint to one of the puzzles you found earlier. And, just as I said with the saying, you'll need to pay a lot of attention to every minute detail.

This leads me to one of the aspects not everyone is going to like — you're going to get lost a lot. With no HUD, no quest log, barely any tutorials, and a lot of relying on your own cunning, it gets incredibly easy to get stuck in a rut. In SIGNALIS, it felt like if I wasn't paying full attention, any small detail missed meant I'd end up running back and forth between rooms trying to figure out what I had to do next. Although the very informative map does a great job at helping out, this — again — relies on you even understanding what the information means through sheer analysis.

SIGNALIS Screenshot 2

Getting lost and having to return to rooms only got more frustrating as I had to deal with the reviving enemies in the hallways; this was my second issue with the game. While the combat wasn't difficult — in fact, I'd argue it was too predictable and slow — having to dodge enemies over and over again really dampened my enjoyment of the game. The enemies were sluggish, loud, and intrusive, usually only serving as a minor and tedious obstacle between me and the next puzzle.

This didn't get better as I met the bosses either. As an example, the first one you encounter summons an enemy to fight you while he shoots you from further away. His shots are incredibly slow and easy to dodge, and once you've disabled the enemies he brings out (which seems to cap at two), all you have to do is avoid getting shot and shoot him when he pauses to vomit. It was so easy that the fight felt drawn out and meaningless. I feel like the game would have been so much better had they not made it stealth-based or just plainly taken out the enemies completely.

Aside from dodging enemies and solving puzzles, you'll spend your time scavenging the rooms for supplies, such as ammo, weapons, and healing items. Although I usually love this type of gameplay, I found the inventory system incredibly limiting, as it forced me to either constantly run back and forth to leave items in the storage or not pick anything up. You can only take six items in your inventory, and weapons and healing take space, meaning that between a singular weapon, its ammo, and one healing-type item, I was already taking half my inventory space. 

SIGNALIS Screenshot 3

And my last complaint — the sound design and graphics. Although the pixelated style is pretty cool and dark, I oftentimes found myself struggling to discern what I was even looking at. I did, however, really enjoy the 3D segments; they were so well done that I wished the game had been done in that style instead. It looked very unique and pleasant, despite it having the same pixelation as the rest of the game. 

And whilst I rarely have anything negative to say about sound design in games (I either don't notice it or love it), SIGNALIS constantly attacks the ears with high-pitch noises and loud, intrusive songs. I dreaded killing enemies due to their dying sound and combat music. 

Overall, my biggest problem with SIGNALIS was that it was so tedious that it diminished my enjoyment. Although I enjoyed the unique and challenging puzzles, the irksome elements — such as the inventory system, combat, and sound design — made it difficult for me to stay interested.

6.50/10 6½

SIGNALIS (Reviewed on Windows)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

I can confidently recommend SIGNALIS for its puzzle element, but its combat, inventory, and sound design manage to bog it down to a merely okay title.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Violet Plata

Violet Plata

Staff Writer

Liable to jump at her own shadow.

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