SIGNALIS should be your game of the year

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Humanity

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ALLTheDinos

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I finished this game earlier this week, and it cemented itself near the top of my GOTY list. I definitely felt like it evoked a ton of Silent Hill 1-2 while maintaining its own identity throughout. The visual style is also incredible, easily the best of the year. Glad others are talking this one up!

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stealydan

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The real question though is this: is it 'Signal-iss' or 'Sig-NAWL-iss'? It's probably supposed to be the former, but the latter is what I default to.

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Humanity

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SethMode

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#6  Edited By SethMode

I'm not trying to poo-poo this as I am still early goings and enjoying it but...is there more to the gameplay than just room hunting for the right object and occasionally shooting things? It's not bad, but I feel like I just need to properly adjust just HOW MUCH like old school RE this is.

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Undeadpool

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Onto my list it goes!

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AV_Gamer

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I've been tempted to play this game, because many positive reviews claim its a throw back to classic survivor horror games. This convinced me to give it a try.

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bwheeeler

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It was ok

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KillEm_Dafoe

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It's an absolutely fantastic game with a few relatively minor caveats. The tone and presentation of this game really sets it apart from other games in the genre. It has some of the best puzzles I've ever seen too. Great mix of kind of grounded, practical puzzles and the more esoteric Silent Hill type ones. The water pump puzzle, I'm pretty sure, is a direct reference to a very similar puzzle in RE3. I also read that the reason that the answer is right next to the puzzle is because that puzzle tested very poorly with early testers so rather than improving its design, they just straight up tell you what to do. Some of the later puzzles made me feel like a fucking genius though, and that's really the best feeling.

My biggest gripe with the game was the inventory limit. I'm no stranger to inventory management in survival horror games, but Signalis takes it a step too far. You find so many things lying around that 6 slots is kinda brutal. Not only are ammo stacks very small, you can't even hold multiple stacks at once which makes zero sense. The utility/defensive items should also be put in a separate slot when equipped. I played on the hardest mode where items are even more limited and was still struggling to get everything.

Can't complain much beyond that and some annoying bugs that seem like they've gotten fixed rather quickly. True survival horror has been seeing a great resurgence in the last several years. It's a wonderful sight.

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infantpipoc

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The water pump puzzle, I'm pretty sure, is a direct reference to a very similar puzzle in RE3.

That puzzle, my friend, must have been predating the media of video game itself.

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infantpipoc

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SethMode

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#13  Edited By SethMode

@infantpipoc: Is the water pump puzzle that one where you need to use three receptacles to move the water around to get a precise amount of water? Because if so, yes, that is a callback to like, every video game puzzle ever and every puzzle-y thing before that even. I even sent a screenshot of the puzzle I'm referring to to my wife to joke about how the Die Hard With a Vengeance puzzle made it into another game.

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darkvare

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@sethmode: i think is the one where you have to match 3 dials with bars of various lengths

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SethMode

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Finally finished this up today, and it's great! I really had an enjoyable time, even if the era it is pulling from doesn't have a ton of nostalgia for me. Really enjoyed the story and the style, and the game does a good job of making you feel like you need to conserve ammo by fleeing, while also making that not too frustrating. A hard accomplishment.

I second @killem_dafoe though: the six item limit is too much (or too little I guess). And it is like, weird, outdated and outright bad game design that the stuff you have equipped still counts in your inventory. I can tolerate the gun, but your side arm thing makes me just never want to carry a side arm because it's far more dangerous to keep walking back and forth than it is to just pack myself full of all of the puzzle items I need plus a gun. Of course, the game naturally forces you into situations where you need say...LIGHT...and so if you don't bring it with you it's time to hoof it back.

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KillEm_Dafoe

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#16  Edited By KillEm_Dafoe

@infantpipoc:I realize that the concept of the puzzle itself is nothing new, but I read online, which could just be hearsay, that the devs specifically referenced the RE3 puzzle, which is also a water pump and kind of notorious for being a pain in the ass. Could be bullshit but whatever. I'm actually glad they just hand you the answer.

@sethmode: You run back, get the flashlight, bring a gun and maybe a health item, go into the dark room and boom: 5 new items to pick up. That shit happens just often enough to be aggravating. You're right about the side items too. I didn't end up using them all that often. At one point I got tired of always having to run back to get the light after encountering a new dark room, so I just kept it all the time. By then, of course, it's only useful like once or twice more and just wastes inventory space.

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theonewhoplays

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#17  Edited By theonewhoplays

This is a little silly, but it being on Gamepass makes me not want to get it. I don't have a PC that can play it, and I'm not buying a second console just for GP. And the fact that a lot of people can play it for basically free makes me not want to buy it for my PS5. I feel that way about basically every GP game. Buying games for 1-4 times the cost of a month of GP makes me feel like a sucker.

That, and inventory limitations, my most hated stone-age game mechanic. I know why it's there but in practice it just means I will spend a bunch of time on boring backtracking.

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SethMode

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@theonewhoplays: You could always try playing it via the Cloud? I personally have had atrocious luck with it where everything either plays like shit, looks like soup, or both.

I also can't say you'd love it if you truly hate inventory shit that much. There is so so much of it.

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theonewhoplays

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@sethmode: Thanks, I could try giving the streaming solution a try.

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Thank you for surfacing this game more. I really enjoyed it.
Signalis and Ghostsong are both really cool surprises that
threaten Elden Ring for my personal GOTY. Both games play on
a certain nostalgia — while also shaping a personality of their own.

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SethMode

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@geirr: Off topic quick question: should I give Ghostsong another shot? Love the genre, really like its look, but after like 45 minutes to an hour it felt kind of clunky/samey and it wasn't really pulling me in. I'm hoping maybe I just need to suck it up and give it more time?

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Humanity

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I agree that the inventory limit really does hamper the experience and in my opinion is too stringent. Forcing the flashlight to take up one inventory slot was also a frustrating game design choice that just adds even more needless back and forth trips. It’s also the reason why I never used the screenshot item which I thought was a really fun in-world tool for solving the puzzles but fuck me if I’m wasting an entire slot for it when I can just take a picture of my screen with my phone. The radio stuff was great though and especially in the way it ties into one of the enemies which can be killed by just tuning your radio. I also loved all the anime references - I have to admit I initially thought the presentation had a very “friend who drew anime during recess” vibe to it at first but it really won me over by the end. That one moment with the hatch that directly references Ghost in the Shell had me laughing and cheering these crazy Germans on.