i wish i liked signalis more. but i feel like a lot of the enjoyment i got from it was just from it being in a genre i love, which is only recently getting a resurgence, and not from the choices the game actually makes.
the game is inspired by a lot of fantastic media. resident evil (the remake of 1 in particular), silent hill (mostly 1 and 2), evangelion, the shining, lovecraft, and more. i can tell because it won't shut up about it. i'm not opposed to wearing your inspirations on your sleeve, but this game does it so blatantly and so frequently that it distracts me from the game i'm supposed to be playing and enjoying, and makes me thinks of other things i like better instead. yes, signalis, i remember the part in resident evil where jill plays moonlight sonata on a piano to open a secret passage. that was a cool moment. you aren't recapturing that by putting a piano in one of the save rooms and playing moonlight sonata in the background, because it's not tied to anything, it has no relevance, you're not doing a new twist on it. you're just making a reference to a game you like. yes, signalis, i recognize the carpet from the shining. yes, signalis, i remember angela from silent hill 2. yes, signalis, i've seen end of evangelion. can we make our own thing now? the worst of it is the blatant, absolutely shameless lifting of an entire major area from silent hill, taking its mechanical gimmick, its aesthetic, and even its name. the game even has the nerve to recycle an entire major plot moment from SH2 in that area. there is a line between "cute reference" and "borderline plagiarism" and signalis crosses it.
signalis strikes me as a game made by people who like a lot of things, but don't understand why they like the things they like. they like the resident evil remake, a game where some downed enemies will eventually get back up unless their bodies are burned, and need to be killed again in a stronger form. but they wanted to one-up that mechanic, so now EVERY enemy gets up unless burned, infinite times, which discourages combat too much. stealth quickly becomes the dominant strategy, slowing the pace of the game down and leading to the player stockpiling way too much ammo and healing. by the time i reached the final boss, my item box was stuffed with dozens of healing items and bullets for every gun, and i'd never touched any of those guns aside from the pistol, and maybe the shotgun once or twice. it's not that the game is too easy once you've figured it out, it's that it's too easy to figure out. enemy encounters should be as much of a puzzle as any door code or wall safe combination.
maybe the biggest offender is the save system. resident evil requires you to spend an ink ribbon to save for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is pacing. in a game where every bullet/healing item is precious, the player is gonna wanna save often to lock in their progress. by tying your ability to save to a resource, the game keeps you from ducking into a save room every 30 seconds and slowing the game to a crawl. it also means that if you wanna savescum to try a room over and over until you can do it without spending bullets or healing, then it'll at least cost you a save ribbon, probably two since you're gonna wanna save again after your perfect run. it's another thing the designer has to balance, but the effort is worth it.
signalis takes the easy way out and allows infinite free saves. so if you wanna play safe, which you SHOULD because that's the name of the game, then you'll shatter the game's pacing by saving after every single room clear. you'll savescum rooms over and over until you get by without taking a hit, then you'll save again, and it won't cost you anything. call that exploitative if you want, but we already had a mechanic that stopped players from playing this way nearly 30 years ago in the original resident evil for ps1, and signalis fails to learn from that despite constantly referencing that game. even the resident evil 2 remake, which had free saving, still had a hardcore mode which brought back the ink ribbons. i wish signalis' hard mode did the same, instead of just lazily increasing enemy health and damage.
also, for god's sake, why do the defensive items take up an item slot? and why can't i have a stun rod and the flashlight equipped at the same time? REmake doesn't make you give up an item slot to carry a taser, and silent hill doesn't bar you from using melee weapons if you have your flashlight out. this is just a stupid, misguided attempt to make inventory management more intense, when what it actually does is make stun rods worthless to carry around, force you to run back to the item box every time you wanna go through a dark room, and make the theoretically cool in-game screenshot item a waste of time and inventory space.
the story is fine, but it takes a lot of skill to pull off this sort of lain-esque, stream of consciousness, highly interpretive storytelling, and i don't think signalis sticks the landing. there's only one Serial Experiments Lain, and that's for good reason. i'm not sure even david lynch could put "Image Intentionally Left Blank" where a cutscene would normally go and make it work. i understand the story fine, but it's trying way too hard with its presentation. simple in-engine sequences would be much more effective than the 15 different styles of cutscene this game cycles through, especially the amateurish-looking anime ones that are way too clean and pretty for such a grungy, rusty, bloody game. though i suppose i haven't seen many games before which have such explicit lesbian overtones. depending on who you are, that element might hit hard.
if i weren't such a junkie for Scary Hallway Logistics Simulators, i'd probably be more down on this game. when i actually think about it, so much bad comes to mind. but even if it's fucked up, inferior resident evil, it's still resident evil, which i'll never stop finding fun. and given this game was made almost entirely by just two people, it's a monumental achievement. i just wish it were a better game.

Reviewed on Feb 16, 2023


3 months ago

Great review colin

2 months ago

Wait are you that guy who had a God complex over Persona 4? Or am I thinking of someone else

2 months ago


2 months ago

That’s fair, although I don’t entirely agree it’s outright plagiarism. I can see the references being too on the nose for some but I still dig it. I feel someone can not know the things it’s making reference to and still enjoy it. I also think the aesthetic works really well also I’m more confused about not liking the anime sprites for being too clean and different from the grungy horror if you also want the game to stand on its own more.
I’d also argue the ways to get the ending while being the system from silent hill 2 in my personal opinion improve on it in a way that makes sense for a player to actually get certain endings.
Also the backstory and world of the previous events as well as the gay romance does hit for me so I’m clearly biased.
Not a bad review though just placing my own thoughts