Look at a screenshot of Signalis and you’ll see the same pixel-heavy art style shared by a lot of games these days. Watch a video, however, and you’ll see something quite different. In motion the game reveals itself as a 3D survival-horror game — something in the vein of early Resident Evil. Only Signalis has a lot more numbers station mantras and sci-fi death screams.
The very, very short demo I received during the 2021 Tribeca Festival showed more than superficial ties to PS1 horror, however. The early stages of Signalis leaned into puzzles. A broken keycard needed fixing; combining it with some clear tape in my inventory did the job. It’s an almost comically low-tech solution. But it felt good in the “put the round peg in the round hole” sort of way the best Resident Evil games conquer.
I say it’s a low-tech solution because Signalis has a very high-tech world. We don’t know much about it. At least not at the start. Though there are hints of a futuristic space authority of which your character is a part.
Your character is not, however, human. She’s a “Replika.” After being freed from cold storage, you take control of her on an abandoned outpost full of loitering monsters. In my experience, they only attacked when I got too close. Unfortunately, that was often. A German numbers station pulled my character outside the outpost and into an upsetting hallucination of her synthetic skin falling off. That was where my demo ended — without extra context for why these puzzles and beasties were getting in the way.
Everything was effectively creepy, though. One monster looked like a pair of legs with a metal beam for a head. Approaching it drew a scream like glass breaking (which repeated, perhaps as a warning, any time I drew a creature’s attention). I could have shot it with a handgun I found. Experience playing other fixed perspective horror games has taught me this is rarely the right choice, so instead I simply dodged them as best I could. Combined with the not-quite-pixel-art style of the game, Signalis certainly makes an unsettling first impression, even if the pieces don’t ultimately fall together.
Certain sequences even push you into a first-person perspective. Here the low-poly art style really stands out — becoming oppressive and claustrophobic. I was never attacked during these scenes. Yet it always felt a second away from happening. The fact that I could usually see more of the world made the limited view all the more dangerous.
The full release of Signalis will clarify if that feeling holds true for an entire game. The short demo, on the other hand, at least established a mood and laid groundwork for satisfying puzzles. And hey! I love a fucking creepy numbers station as much as anyone. Even if the game just draws a collage of scary sights and sounds, maybe that’s enough to round things out.
There’s currently no release date for the game, but it’s set to release on Steam sometime soon.