It’s October, Halloween season. Time for the first of my scary game reviews for this spooky season. Resident Evil, a game that, didn’t invent but kickstarted the survival horror genre. Ever since that first game was released back in 1996, horror games have had a new template to be held up against. Resident Evil introduced certain tropes that can still be found today, especially when an indie studio takes a lot of those tropes and blends them into its own bloody and horrific cocktail. Developer rose-engine and publisher Humble Games are the minds behind Signalis, a new survival horror title that could be perfect to play this Halloween.
“A classic survival horror experience set in a dystopian future where humanity has uncovered a dark secret. Unravel a cosmic mystery, escape terrifying creatures, and scavenge an off-world government facility as Elster, a technician Replika searching for her lost dreams.”
I think that the best way to describe Signalis is to take a big slice of Resident Evil, add in a generously sized portion of Silent Hill, throw in several handfuls of Dead Space and then garnish with plenty of well-crafted anime-styled art before blending thoroughly. As I said in the intro, a bloody and horrific cocktail. Right from the off, Signalis hits you with a lot of familiar gameplay mechanics. Very limited inventory, check and combine items, set and limited save points, ammo management and more. From the moment that you pick up the controller and start exploring the menu and inventory screen, you can’t help but think of those early Resident Evil titles.
As you walk around the game’s sci-fi-inspired map, memories of playing Dead Space will wash over you. And then, there’s a very strong psychological horror vibe that will most definitely put you in mind of Silent Hill. Oh, don’t get me wrong, Signalis isn’t a lazy rehash of past classics, this game takes some of the very best elements of some of the very best survival horror games and creates something that feels familiar and wonderfully fresh at the same time.
You play as Elster, a Replika android who is searching for the missing pilot of the spaceship that you are on which has crashed on a mysterious ice planet. Expect a lot of exploration, locked doors, puzzles and yes, lots of scary horror. Much like those classic survival horror games, ammo is sparse and so are healing items. Your limited inventory will force you to pick and choose what to use when and often leave you in a state of uncertainty and panic. Of course, there are chests where you can store and swap items as and when needed… if you last long enough to find one. Readable scraps of paper and logs fill in the backstory. The combat here is simple and effective. Aim your gun and shoot, simple. So far, Signalis is a very ‘by the numbers’ kind of survival horror game.
However, where this comes alive is its mood and atmosphere. The beautifully drawn anime art and cutscenes are striking and they create a wonderful juxtaposition against the gloom of the environment that you are in. The graphics are stylised low-res and crammed with great details and atmospheric lighting. You don’t get any of those annoying screens where you can’t see what is going on, as with some of those early survival horror games. Signalis is presented with a much clearer (and slightly angled) top-down view, so that you can see what is going on at all of the time. However, it does cut to a first-person view for some of the segments. Mainly the puzzle elements and doing things like using lifts, etc.
Now, in terms of the story, I really can not tell you much, as to avoid spoilers. This is one that you really do want to go into as blind as possible. But, suffice it to say, the basic plot of you trying to find the pilot of the crashed ship is just the beginning of a much deeper tale and one that takes you on a much more psychological horror and nightmare-like journey. Signalis is certainly a title that will linger in your mind long after you have reached the end credits.
If you are a seasoned survival horror gamer, you will definitely feel very at home here. The game starts out relatively ‘easy’ and lets you slide into the familiar game mechanics with ease. However, the latter third of Signalis will really test your gaming prowess as things get far more difficult. Fewer resources, tougher enemies (that will randomly come back to life after you have downed them) and far tricker puzzles are what you will have to contend with as you guide Elster toward her goal. Signalis doesn’t rely on jump scares to get under your skin either. The horror angle here is much more Jacob’s Ladder than the likes of The Conjuring films. The mood, the atmosphere and the style are what will remain in your head for hours after you finish playing.
When released, Signalis will have a price tag of around £16 (I think) and is available on PC and all the consoles from the 27th. It is also on Game Pass day one, so check it out when you can. If you don’t have Game Pass, this is a game that you really should get on your radar for Halloween and the £16 price tag is a great one. Signalis is dark, creepy and offers some genuine scares. The gameplay is not remarkable and does play very much like a typical 90s survival horror title, which is not a bad thing at all. Signalis is retro-styled gameplay done extremely well. A love letter to the 90s survival horror game and very well penned too. This is PS1-era gaming handled with passion and respect and a perfect game to play over Halloween with the lights off.