Signalis has been firmly on my radar over the last couple of years, with the game seemingly ticking all of the boxes I expect from the sci-fi survival horror genre with its atmospheric world, gruelling enemy encounters, and clever puzzles. Now, I’ve finally had the chance to play through the game and can confirm it has fully lived up to all of my expectations… even if it does have one or two little stumbling blocks along the way.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Signalis puts players in the role of Elster, a Replika (essentially a clone) that has crashed landed on an icy planet whilst seeking out her human co-pilot. Naturally, things have gone haywire on this planet and monstrous creatures are attacking her, leaving her in a fight for survival as she looks to escape unscathed whilst also completing her mission. I don’t want to risk giving away any spoilers for the game so won’t go into more detail than that, but what follows is an evocative and mind-bending tale that’ll keep players guessing as they unravel the plot. Signalis can be somewhat cryptic in places, but also offers plenty of lore for players to uncover to learn the ins-and-outs of its eerie narrative. It’s really good stuff, and whilst I will admit that some of its details went over my head, for the most part I was fully invested in Elster’s deadly plight.
When it comes to gameplay, Signalis feels like a classic survival horror release of the 90s. This means there are plenty of creatures out to kill you with limited ammo to take them down, an array of puzzles to solve that’ll require clever thinking, and a heavy emphasis on item management where you’ve got to use bullets sparingly and ensure you’ve got the space to carry important items. Add to that the eerie realisation that you never know what is waiting for you in a room as well as a claustrophobic world that you’ll have to carefully explore, and you’ll quickly find that the game nails all of the aspects players might remember from the likes of Resident Evil’s PSOne days.
Combat is exactly what you’d expect from the genre, with players lining up shots using a variety of weaponry in order to take out foes. However, with ammo limited and enemies coming back to life if you don’t burn them with thermite charges (which are also limited), encounters with them have to be carefully planned. Is it worth taking them on or should you simply try to avoid them? It’s a balance that adds a serious degree of tension to the experience, especially since some rooms can fill with enemies quickly, so not knowing if you’ll even have enough ammo to handle them will leave players nervous throughout (and I mean that in the best possible way).
“Everything [else] within the game is tightly designed and of a high quality, with each aspect of the gameplay offering that perfect balance of fear and puzzling that’s so dearly associated with the survival horror titles of yesteryear.”
On the other hand, the puzzles are cleverly designed and demand some clever thinking to solve, with some utilising a first-person view as you carefully fiddle with objects in front of you. Of course, some just require you find a specific item and use it in true survival horror fashion, but even they still require a bit of logical thinking and some suave exploration skills. Nothing felt tedious at all in the puzzle design, even IF some did leave me scratching my head for a few minutes to solve. The game does a good job of indicating what you can interact with and what you can find in each environment too, so it’s not like you’ll be stuck trying to find an item you just can’t see across the dark and desolate world.
Whilst the combat is intense and the puzzling rewarding, the balance of the two could make for some tedious moments during gameplay. Not because either are badly designed, but rather because of the game’s throwback to 90s survival horror by limiting your inventory space. With just six spaces to hold stuff, having to run back to an item box to make up some space for something you need to grab becomes a VERY regular occurrence. With ammo limited and combat best avoided where possible, this means you have to constantly run through dangerous fight-or-flight scenarios as you try to traverse the environment safely. I have no doubt that it was intentionally designed this way and it does add to the sense of eerie desperation found within Signalis, but from a gameplay perspective, I found myself dreading the situations where I’d run out of inventory space rather than embracing it. Maybe I’m just used to the convenience of modern releases these days?
It’s the only real flaw of the gameplay, and if I’m being honest, it’s something that probably won’t bother a lot of players. Everything else within the game is tightly designed and of a high quality, with each aspect of the gameplay offering that perfect balance of fear and puzzling that’s so dearly associated with the survival horror titles of yesteryear. It even modernises things by including a detailed map that clearly marks all important item and areas, which goes a long way in making life easier for players when backtracking. Signalis really does nail most aspects of its design, with just a few little issues found here and there.
Check out some screenshots down below:
All of this is complemented by some wonderful visuals that blend together an old-school style with an anime slickness. The environments can show off some real beauty, all whilst having this foreboding atmosphere to them that acts as a constant reminder that your life is at risk – the impressive lighting effects will keep you guessing at every shadow you see around you too, with Signalis simply oozing with creepiness. Add to that the stylishly heavily-pixelated design of the character models and you’ll quickly find that Signalis is a game that manages to look both stunning and unique across its world.
Signalis is a gripping sci-fi survival horror that utilises the best elements of the classic releases of yesteryear in the genre. Between the smart puzzles, the intense enemy encounters, and atmospheric world design, it has everything fans of survival horror need to keep them on the edge of their seat. It does have a few stumbling blocks here and there, but they are small issues in what is otherwise an enthralling and memorable experience.
Publisher: Humble Games, Playism
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch