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Superliminal review: it plucks many such optical illusions from its bag of tricks

(XO/PS4/Sw/PC) ★★★★★ Age: 7+

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Superliminal

Superliminal

Beyond A Steel Sky

Beyond A Steel Sky

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Superliminal

Your eyes lie to you all the time. In the cinema, which is just a rapid series of photos. In the sunshine with its mirages. In the dark with its after-images. Don't trust your eyes: they can easily fool your brain.

The con is explored by Superliminal, a puzzle game that riffs on the theme of reality versus perception. It harnesses the fact that perspective deceives your synapses into seeing far-away objects as small and those near to you as large.

But Superliminal allows you to exploit this to your ends in escaping a dream laboratory (don't ask).

The setting evokes 2007's droll classic Portal, all angular rooms and sarcastic voiceover. Each room contains an exit - perhaps located high up on the wall, perhaps locked behind a door. Early puzzles require simple manipulation of the objects in the room - pick up a small cube far away, say, and bring it close to enlarge its size such that you can climb up on it to the exit.

Later, it flips reality inside out and breaks the fourth wall - for instance, asking you to magnify a toy house big enough to fit inside where the exit hides.

It feels like a spoiler to talk about the time I used the moon to find a block that concealed a hidden door, which I placed over the wall blocking your path.

Superliminal plucks many such optical illusions from its bag of tricks, and its short running time ensures the audacious novelty doesn't wear off.

Beyond a Steel Sky

(Apple Arcade, PC) ★★★ Age: 12+

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Beyond A Steel Sky

Beyond A Steel Sky

Beyond A Steel Sky

 

A sequel a quarter-century in the making, Beyond a Steel Sky is a point'n'click adventure that updates the cyberpunk aesthetic of the fondly remembered Beneath a Steel Sky. Veteran studio Revolution Software leaves its slightly implausible puzzle mechanics alone, though.

Once again, you're an everyman infiltrating a dystopian society, by way of conversation for the people and a hacking tool for the electronics. The dialogue is snarkily entertaining, but not as sharp as it thinks it is. The hacking makes for an intriguing concept, but is underused compared with the hackneyed point'n'click style of "Use object X on Y".

Despite the fresh lick of paint and undoubted ambition, you get the sense Revolution has bitten off more than it can chew thanks to a slew of bugs. Nostalgia carries it only so far.

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