Signalis created by Rose Engine consisting primarily of two people is basically a love letter to classic survival horror, dark sci-fi cinema and anime all mashed together into a stellar indie release that naturally has flown under most radars (it didn't even get a VGA nomination). Signalis meshes an isometric overhead camera that smoothly sweeps down into focus when interacting with puzzle objects revealing things that you assumed were simple 2D pixel art to be in fact fully rendered 3D objects. With everything having a very unique lo-fi aesthetic with jagged pixelated edges this is a great effect and the last time I saw something similar was in FEZ. Everything has this chunky feel to it from the PC bootup sequence to the inventory screens. It's an incredible look and a breath of fresh air in the indie space which has for a long time been dominated by increasingly more detailed flat pixel art.
The story delves into many different genres but broadly speaking it tasks your character with the singular goal of locating your copilot who has gone missing. What follows is a gradual descent into madness as you begin piecing together a fractured narrative and start to question pieces of the puzzle that initially seem to fit together but with added time and context begin to increasingly fall out of place. While the narrative goes in many directions the world of Signalis is wonderfully grounded. There is history to it's people and concepts and it feels like a place that has existed and worked and isn't just mere set dressing for you to walk through. This is one of those games where I anxiously picked up and examined every note in order to learn more about these people and their conflicts.
The game harkens back to classic Resident Evil with strict inventory management that constantly challenges you with making the call on whether to carry ammo or leave your precious inventory slots open for the many key items you will need to pick up. Combat is meaningfully slow and cumbersome but not unpleasant from a gameplay perspective like Silent Hill, a game from which Signalis draws many inspirations - some quite literal towards the latter half of the story. Puzzles range from classics like finding a specific key for a specific door to very clever headscratches requiring you to write down ciphers and even take screenshots with a built in game camera (or you know.. just take a picture of your screen with your phone). There is a lot of variety and most importantly Signalis will typically point you in the right direction but apart from one puzzle involving a water pump will never outright tell you the answer. You will never encounter a locked box and the combination written on a piece of paper 2 steps away. While unlike Silent Hill games there is no slider for puzzle difficulty I found them all quite enjoyable and never too obscure to the point of frustration.
The game is Game Pass so no excuse really. Go and play it, enjoy it, and support the developers because they've created something special.