The Signifier it is the newest game from the small Chilean studio Playmestudio but, despite its modest team, it has a very bold premise to plunge headlong into the human psyche as a pretext to develop a psychological thriller. It is a very interesting idea that, unfortunately, stumbles on the natural barriers imposed by the chosen genre.
We have here another walking simulator, which already makes it a very “love or hate” game due to the simple polarizing nature of its gameplay: for those who only seek a good story without greater challenges or obstacles, it is certainly worth checking out their creative narrative and engaging, but those who want a less passive journey, with plenty of action, meaningful interactions and more busy gameplay should fall asleep.
A mystery to break your head
In the plot of The Signifier we accompanied neuroscientist Frederick Russel, the inventor of a technology that forever changed the world of forensic investigators. After all, thanks to your machine, it is now possible to immerse yourself in the minds of crime victims and then explore their latest memories and conscious and unconscious information that were recorded there in order to search for clues to unveil murders.
It is a very cool idea that has good ramifications both in the field of science fiction and in the good use of concepts from the best psychoanalytic literature, both explored early in the game, since it starts with the protagonist being informed of the death of executive Johanna Kasr. As she was an important figure in a technology company, the case is surrounded by mystery and her services are hired in secret.
The greatest advantage and grace of the game is to use Frederick’s machine to plunge into Johanna’s mind, and then investigate every corner of the scene to learn a little more about her troubled past. There are plenty of twists and turns, but obviously we will not bring any spoilers in our analysis, not least because gradually solving the case, whether interacting with other people or turning over the objects of the phases is one of the main attractions of the journey.
Especially since you will be interacting with different versions of almost everything that comes your way, as The Signifier it spreads its gameplay between segments in the real world, other parts within the victim’s objective memory, and also in its subjective memory, in an important distinction both in terms of thematic and visual. The visual balconies to distinguish these three worlds are very good!
The journey through the mind
If the real world is more linear and bureaucratic, in the world of objective memory we find several strange elements, gaps and visual distortions with which you need to interact to make the plot move.
This is where the little active gameplay in the game comes in, as you must manipulate the items by sliding a meter back and forth in time until you can discern what exactly they should represent, only then connect the dots and connect them to what is wrong in the victim’s memory.
Despite getting tired quickly and not having much depth, the mechanics have a little fun whenever it appears and brings a pleasant breath of variety to what, otherwise, would be limited to being a little interactive film.
It is cooler to see how, in the world of the subjective unconscious, people’s feelings can transform and take on more abstract forms, generating metaphorical and real natural defenses to prevent you from continuing to go where you were not invited to enter. These allegories generate some of the best moments of the entire journey!
The Signifier it is a game as interesting as it is short, and can be completed in just under four hours in all. The idea of navigating the victims’ unconscious is very good, but the few existing puzzles bring the game too close to the most tedious walking simulators, with too much walking and too little action. For anyone looking for a short psychological thriller with a compelling narrative, it’s worth it. For the rest, it is better to stay away.
The Signifier was kindly provided by Raw Fury to carry out this analysis.
The Signifier brings interesting premise and narrative compromised by its shallow gameplay.