The tech-noir title is finally out there with The Signifier and gamers can be ready to dive right into it all. This would be the latest from Playmestudio and Raw Fury that asks a few interesting questions about AI and human memory. Well, at least some of our perceptions about it as we try to make heads and tails of the latest case that the protagonist is on here. All while getting the traditional mind-bending visuals and gameplay that games like The Signifier normally bring us. All of that being the shorter version of things, as we had a chance to sit down and give the game solid play. Here we go with our full review on just how well this game did and if you should give it your time and money over on the PS4, Xbox One, or PC.
Another crime has happened out there and we need to task Frederick Russell to head in and help figure out what has happened. Why Mt Russell? Well, he just happens to be one of the leading AI researchers out there that also knows how to navigate brain scans and digital recreations of memories to help find extra clues that might now be in the real world. Thankfully for the world, he has his own lab and is willing to take on cases to help with that and also kind of further along with his own work. I do hope that he can get to the bottom of the latest crime while being able to truly navigate all of these memories…
The Signifier here does a great job of keeping what is the standard when it comes to first-person walking/investigation simulators. To make the game truly shine, it was going to need some kind of standout mechanic that we have not seen before or have only seen in a poor way before. That is not to say that The Signifier does not try to break up the loop of walking from one place to another to collect clues for the character to piece together, it just does not feel like it is part of the game. The best example being when it comes to trying to reform memories with found Raw Data. There is a mechanic to try to reshape it to see where it might go in the memory, but the places it can go are so few and far between that it always felt like a waste of time to try that instead of just clicking the various places for the story to just carry on. Add in the fact that the Raw Data was always in the perfect form to figure it out, there just never seemed to be a challenge and that we were just going through the motions more than solving anything.
The above could have been interesting to force to be figured out in The Signifier, but the fact that it was not made it so my next issue did not just have me stopping the game in the first place. That is, the game does not hold hands or lay things out as to what to do next. That is good for a game like this. Unfortunately, it does place in full game mechanics in places where it feels like it could be important all for it to do nothing at all. The first time a Time Warp came up, something that allowed us to play a bit of the memory like a video, it felt like it was an important part of the investigation. I spent more time than I want to admit trying to figure out how it worked in The Signifier to find out later on that it did nothing once I dropped the Raw Data fragment I found right in. Later on, this mechanic plays a factor, but the first time and many times after it felt in there as a red herring to pad the runtime of the game. That may not be the case, but it sure felt like that once all was said and done.
The last big issue I had with The Signifier has to come down to the pacing of the story and how the dialog progressed throughout. It felt like a chore to sit through and that it was all offered up in such a droll manner that I felt like I was losing interest. Something that should not be the case for me as the concepts that the game touched on are generally interesting to me and how the world is moving forward. Maybe this was due to the voice acting or just the fact that I wanted to dive back into the investigation of The Signifier quickly, but it was a rough one to sit through. Sure, when you do it is can be worth it, but I should not find myself trying to focus on a story when a good portion of the game is about the story and technology behind it all. Worth it, but just something I wished I would have known before going into the game in the first place. If that makes sense.
I know I touched on it before, but I do have to say that when it was brought into the correct places in The Signifier the Time Warp mechanic was fun to play with and solve some of the dream puzzles in there. Especially when we had to mix in perspective or remember parts from another bit of the game to find the hidden clues. The first real-time it showed up again and we have to warp a dream from start to end so we can move about and track certain things down felt like what it was meant to be from the start. I found myself scrubbing and re-scrubbing these scenes quite a bit on The Signifier to see if I was missing something or needed to find one more path along the way. It was a great mechanic when it was used the way that it felt like the developers wanted it to. Hence why I had mixed feeling about it this whole time.
Continuing on the puzzle and clue solving of The Signifier, I also have to say that the use of mirrors, light, and perspective in the game to drive some of these home was also a fun thing to play with. They were hidden and required enough skill in the game to make them feel rewarding when found but also never too difficult to suss out. Even after finding them, The Signifier did a great job of making you wonder if you did it correctly and built that extra level of suspension before giving you the note that you did perfectly. For me, it weirdly kept the pacing of the gameplay flowing while I waited for the story to pick back up with it. Especially when it came from different angles and you could have multiple conclusions working in the background while trying to press forward with other bits in the game in hopes that you were right from before.
Lastly, I have to say it was interesting to see the use of different memory types being used in The Signifier here. That being based on sight, sound, and other inputs that humans have. In a video game realm it can be hard to present all of that as most do not think about their world like that, but The Signifier did a great job to make sure we knew it was the case. Also given that memory does not always work like a video or picture being replayed but emotions can play in. things like a child seeing their parents as giants when they are just average size humans or a faithful friend more in lines with what society would think them to be instead of an actual face. It is something that we do not normally get in the media out there and it was nice to see that The Signifier was trying to do just that. A solid tip of the hat there for giving us a different feel for how it could work for many different people out there.
A word to the wise here for The Signifier, if none of the content of the story fits your interests then you might be a little put off from it. It has some slow pacing when it comes to story and a few of the gameplay mechanics get dropped in during places where they will just throw off your progression. Nothing that will fully make you toss a controller or mouse, but it can get frustrating rather quickly. Especially after you get to see how these mechanics can truly play out in the game when they come up correctly. It is also worth noting, as I mentioned, that The Signifier does touch on some of the different aspects of memory that we do not normally get to see highlighted in our video games. It is a nice touch to see and can bring extra enjoyment to your playthrough. Just know that it can be a bit rough and jarring to get through it all when there are signs it could have been a bit more concise at the end of the day.
I give The Signifier 7 Bits Of Raw Data on the Bits Of Raw Data scale.
The Signifier — Launch Trailer