The Signifier is probably one of the most interesting games I’ve played this year. Developed by Play Me Studio and published by Raw Fury, this journey into the mind offers an engaging mystery that will keep you coming back time and again to dig deeper and ultimately discover the truth. The great narrative the game offers is paired with an extremely creative and interesting visual design that will have you looking at all the details, and constantly make you curious about the inner workings of your own mind.
The Signifier is first and foremost a narrative-driven game. You experience this story through the eyes of Frederick Russel, a renowned scientist who has created a machine that together with the extremely advanced AI he constructed, known as Evee, allows you to experience a person’s memories . The device also allows you to see what their subjective view of the memory is, not just what was objectively in the world. Most importantly though, the aptly named “Dreamwalker” lets you explore all these memories and brain states to piece together the truth about what has happened to Johanna.
You go back and forth from the objective state to the subjective state in order to solve puzzles while using Evee in hopes to piece together the mysterious death of a high-ranking tech executive. The story will also have you visiting some of the places you see in memories in the real world to make connections between them. I don’t want to dive too deep into the story, as I believe one of The Signifier’s strong points is the experience of discovery as you play but I will say that it the story is good. The game also has multiple endings, and after only seeing credits roll the one time, I still have a litany of questions that will keep me going back for answers. The Signifier is also a game that deals with mature content and could potentially be uncomfortable for some.
The presentation of the game is where I believe its creativity really shines. The environments you walk around, be they memories of events gone by or a journey into the subconscious, are all incredibly designed. The look of the environments and the setting of it all being recreated through technology mesh together very well, and can create a very ominous atmosphere at times. Even the spaces in reality are well built, and it adds another layer of interest when exploring places first viewed in the Dreamwalker and then again in reality. In this sense the idea of The Dreamwalker feels very animus-esque in concept but how it is utilized in this game is far more intriguing.
The gameplay is very simple since The Signifier is mainly a walking simulator. You will spend most of your time looking for things to interact with either marked by an eye or a hand indicating you can either look at it and ponder what it means or actually interact with it. You can also pick up certain pieces of what is called raw data while inside the Dreamwalker. You can examine the raw data on a scale between its multiple states in time and use different viewing angles to help decipher as to what it could be, and where it belongs within the event you are exploring. These puzzles are well executed and paced, and while attending to every detail in the narrative is the most full experience, as long as you pay some attention to the story you won’t find yourself getting lost in how to solve the next puzzle. If you do ever have an issue, you always have the ability to ask Evee, which provides you with helpful tips on how to possibly progress.
Some of the more interesting aspects of gameplay are how you can also interact with the memory or dream you are exploring via the Dreamwalker. Things like time warps allow you to view a small portion of the memory play out. Within specific mind states you can even take control of avatars and explore areas that the mind initially blocked you from exploring. Using avatars and time warps help to vary the gameplay beyond just clicking on everything in sight. The switching between objective mind states and subjective mind states is the mechanic that interests me the most. It makes you think about things outside of the game, about your own experiences and memories, especially regarding memories of days past. Is there still a place in my mind where the memories from my childhood remain, and if I could walk around in that memory, what would it look like? How different would what was actually real look versus what I felt about everything around me? Does my opinion of those memories and events now attach added subjective elements to these memories that were not there originally?
These questions are all what The Signifier attempts to answer, and anytime a game makes me genuinely think outside of its world and consider the implications of the story makes that game excellent in my book. I really don’t have anything negative to say about it, because it does what it intends to do very well, and within a well paced time frame. There’s no point at which I felt the game was dragging in any sense, and all of its main elements are executed well.
All in all, I can’t recommend The Signifier enough. It is a very interesting tale that will keep you asking questions while you’re playing and beyond. The game also feels quite timely with how technology is advancing in our own world and the implications that some of those advances may bring. It feels like the kind of game you want everyone to experience, because it can lead to some incredibly interesting discussions and sharing between how it all made everyone feel and think about their own brains.