Signalis is a classic horror action game developed by the small studio rose-engine, existing of only two developers located in Hamburg. Signalis combines the classic gameplay-mechanics of first Resident Evil games with an own pixel art style. You play the character of Elster after your spaceship crashed on an unknown plant. Elster is a replika, a kind of robot copied based on a human imprint. Typical for the genre after the crash you must figure out what happened to the rest of the staff of the ship and by further exploring the planet.
The story is told using cutscenes and logs you find along the rooms and corridors. The cutscenes, as well as written logs are often vague and only after some time you get a bit deeper into the game’s lore. However even after some logs read giving you more details on the replikas, the political powers and the role of Adler (a person you meet early in the game) the story remains mysterious. In fact, the game creates an atmosphere I found quite similar to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey movie, with its philosophical comment and melancholic music being less a horror game but more a quest into an unknown world. And indeed, it was more this unique atmosphere I enjoyed rather than the gameplay and mechanics. These are quite simple: You control Elster from a top view through corridors and rooms with the help of a map. Occasionally you encounter monsters you can shot with one of the various pistols, shotgun or a rifle you find along during the playthrough. Keycards help you to eventually enter rooms being locked before. Other items are used in small puzzles to be solved or need to be combined, for example combining multiple puppets for creating a full matryoshka. Whereas the puzzles are very good designed and fun to solve combat lack the tension typical for the genre. After being shot Elster can give them a kick while lying on the ground preventing them from getting up again. Since enemies are rather slow and ammo is a rare resource just passing by them is often the best strategy to play. This is unfortunately even enforced as the small inventory requires a massive amount of backtracking and enemies defeated revive occasionally again when reentering a room again. Having to go back to the last saving room to get rid of some item in order to collect an import item for a puzzle was more the standard then the exception throughout my playthrough. I understand the charm of the classic design using fixed save rooms where items can be stored in an inventory box just, but increasing the number of items allowed to be carried from six to eight would have helped a lot already to reduce backtracking.
The pixel art of Signalis is a real eye catcher, especially when the scenes change to 1st person view in special sequences. Controls are flawless using a lock-mechanism for aiming on enemies. The use of the radio enhances the puzzle games and combat. Elster has a radio receiver and its frequency need to be adjusted by the player. This is not only used in puzzles, when, for example, you must use the correct frequencies when arranging multiple antennas accordingly, but also in combat. Occasionally you will enter rooms with lots of enemies and the view of the scene gets distorted. A number will pop up shortly among the distortions allowing you to configure your radio to this frequency and eliminating all enemies.
The few boss battles are nothing special. They require you to understand the trick how they are defeated and similar as to the usual combats do not pose a real challenge to your hands-eye coordination.
Overall Signalis is a good game driven by its melancholic atmosphere, unique art-style and well-designed puzzles. Instead of combatting the focus is clear on exploring the mysterious world touching political and sociological topics making it especially interesting for fans of philosophical science fiction.
- nice pixel art style
- melancholic, mysterious atmosphere
- full of political and philosophical references
- well-designed puzzles making use of the radio
- multiple endings
- combat to easy, can be easily avoided
- lots of backtracking due to much to small inventory
“Signalis is a horror game focused on exploration, storytelling and puzzles, especially interesting for fans of philosophical SciFi. ”
Sources: Screenshots: own screen captures