The classic survival horror game is something many people have grown up with. And while we are fortunate enough to experience a resurgence of the genre right now, with Resident Evil releasing one incredible title after the other, the Silent Hill franchise seeing a revival soon, and more indie games in the genre than any one person could possibly play, the true classic survival horror experience seems to have been lost a bit. Developer rose-engine seems to agree and so, with the help of publishers, Humble Games and Playism, is here to bring us back to the roots. If you’ve been waiting for a new game that reminds you of the glory days of oldschool Resident Evil and Silent Hill, then Signalis is waiting for you.

In Signalis you play as the Replika Elster, a robot of some sort that’s part of the crew on a small spaceship. Said spaceship has crash-landed on a remote unknown planet, and even worse, your pilot is missing. With no other options, you’re forced to explore the frozen landscape and come across a mysterious underground complex. The only option to find your pilot, and the only way to get off the planet, seems to be to go deeper…

“Perhaps, this is hell”

Upon starting Signalis your head immediately fills with a million questions. Who, or what, exactly are you? Where are you? What happened that led to this? And many, many more. This doesn’t get much better as you progress through the game. For every answer you get, there are a couple more questions that arise. This is by design, of course, and rather than feeling frustrating, is incredibly exciting, leaving you thinking long after you’ve finished the game. What exactly happens in Signalis is up to interpretation, but the game gives you enough to chew on for you to never lose grip on, at least, the basic fundamentals of what’s happening. At least until the end when it decides to completely embrace cosmic horror, making you question everything you thought you knew. Signalis also offers different endings, some of which might give you more or less answers than others.

But all of this only works, because there is an atmosphere here that gets its hooks into you as soon as you start Signalis and won’t let you go until you finish it. Now, admittedly, I don’t think Signalis is particularly scary, instead there’s this mysterious vibe that’s palpable during every second of it. Along with that comes a sense of dread that’s in equal parts about the things that might be waiting for you in the future, and the things that might have happened at this location in the past. Speaking of the past, there’s also a strong sense of melancholy spreading through the hallways of the underground facility, as you explore the ruins of a fallen station. Signalis also manages to make you feel incredibly lonely in these tight corridors, and isolated from the rest of the world. If there is someone else here alongside you, they’re probably an enemy. So, while the gameplay and presentation of Signalis are clearly inspired by classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill, the atmosphere is much more reminiscent of classic Metroid, although there’s still a solid amount of Silent Hill‘s DNA in the mix as well.

What is this place and what the hell happened here?

The outstanding art direction helps here as well. The retro-futuristic environments are beautifully rendered with a mix of pixel art and low poly assets, which all feel so cold and desolate that you can’t help but feel a strong sense of isolation at all times. The inspiration from anime is obvious, but charming. The use of colour is quite impressive. Most of the game has a rather dark colour palette, with lots of blacks and greys, but then there’s red. Red is everywhere in Signalis, it permeates every single room, menu, cutscene and more. It’s just everywhere and you better believe that this carries narrative weight alongside just looking absolutely stunning. It makes for a very complete feeling aesthetic.

As mentioned before, the gameplay is very similar to classic survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. You’re traversing through a series of tight corridors and messy rooms, collecting keys and other objects to solve puzzles, while you are fighting and running from zombie-like creatures, having to make the most out of your limited resources. It’s simple, but, as we should all know by now, it works.

Even the all to familiar save room can’t escape the glow of the red light

Signalis does a great job of balancing the limited resources with the amount of enemies you have to face to keep it tense but fair for most of the game. The same is true for the balance of the limited inventory space and the amount of important items you will want to carry around. But then there’s one area towards the end of the game where it all gets a bit too much. There are too many items to keep track of, too many enemies to fight, and no map you can rely on anymore, making the area a frustrating experience more than anything else. But outside of that one area the game is balanced quite well.

It’s clear that the people behind Signalis understand what makes the classic survival horror experience work and, with this game, they’ve managed to build on that in a fantastic way. In the process, creating something that feels both familiar to fans of the genre, and unique enough to stand on its own legs.

The inventory is a vital part of the survival horror experience

Nairon played Signalis on PC with a review key. Signalis is also available on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X|S.

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