My Harrowing Journey with Signalis
Join Chris, host of 1 Hour 1 Decision and member of Podcasters United as he takes you on his harrowing journey with the horror game Signalis!
It’s that time of the year again when people try to make other folks soil their pants with horrifying imagery, bloodcurdling sounds, or melted Reese’s peanut butter cups. Is it fun to watch folks scream and call out to their respective deity? Sure! But being that person screaming? Double hockey sticks no! I’m generally not one to partake in these activities, ESPECIALLY not in my games (looking at you Five Nights at Freddy’s) but I was really intrigued by this game called SIGNALIS. I played the first hour and maybe another hour after, but put it down after that because this game really gave me the creeps.
SIGNALIS is an indie project that started development back in 2014 and released last year in October of 2022. The duo that created this game said this 3rd person PS1 era-style horror game was heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and Hideaki Anno. I can certainly see all those elements in this game and even a touch of Ghost in the Shell. This game has a fantastic sense of style. There is a mix of cyberpunk aesthetics, odd anime cutscenes, and a Resident Evil-style inventory system (heck it even had tank controls!). The inventory system causes tension as you can only carry up to 6 items. You’re always trying to figure out whether keeping that ammo or the medipack is worthwhile. Don’t make me choose!
The music and overall sound designs add to the dread you feel in this game. The fantastic score has a way of constantly reminding you that this game is When the audio completely cuts out and all you can hear are your footsteps - my mind was just trying SO HARD to anticipate the jump scare, but it never came. These moments made the upcoming moments that much more tense for me! It was excruciating - but maybe for some people, fun?
So to set the scene, the protagonist - a female android akin to Major Motoko Kusanagi - awakens from what appears to be some sort of cryo sleep in a room straight out of the Nostromo. An eerie low woosh lingers in the background as I tiptoe through the darkly lit rooms. The doors snap open and close with a hiss and a thud upon each entrance causing a mini panic in my brain as I’m expecting something to lurch at me. As I navigate my surroundings - with the woosh following me - I discover that I’m on a ship that’s crash landed with me being the only survivor. I need to get out. For the most part, the game is in 3rd person with a fixed camera but I find a room that’s in first person. A beam of light at the center of it forces me to step into it like I’m about to do an unprepared standup routine. Terrifying. As I navigate the room with a crosshair I’m waiting for that proverbial shoe to drop and something to pop out at me. But it doesn’t arrive, instead a suit that I can collect and make my exit from this ship. A cutscene of me putting on the suit happens and I’m outside in a frozen tundra. I press forward in first person and finally arrive at a large circular chasm with stairs spiraling the circumference. Down I go.
From the blanched background at the top of the stairs to now a blood-red bottom at the foot of them, I’m forced to crawl into a dark hole. Perspective again switches to first person as the audio cuts out to a low hum and all I see is a bright red dot. The dot expands as I move forward until I discover that I’m in a room with a CB radio transmitter, a desktop PC from the late 90s, and a book - The King in Yellow. As I grab the book, the radio crackles awake and the CRT monitor flashes “Preparing to send message”. Numbers stamp the screen as images flash like subliminal messages. The screen turns red as what appears to be excerpts from an ancient tome. Your character's face flickers in between these excerpts, slowly peeling away her skin.
A piano crescendos and REMEMBER OUR PROMISE inverses the background. Finally, a mysterious pale-faced and haired figure appears beckoning me to WAKE UP.
TITLE CARD - please tell me I beat the game.
Back to 3rd person as I see my character now in a dilapidated (and also dimly lit) bathroom staring into a mirror. Confusion shoots through me as this is NOT the room I was just in. I exit the bathroom and a familiar sense of emptiness and dread tags along. With each step I take I’m just waiting for that jump scare. But like a Tarantino scene, it just keeps going. The tension builds up in my mind as I read through notes, pick up items, and pitter-patter away these dreary hallways. This game is tense, it’s stressful, and I need to stop. So I did.
I don’t know if that’s a testament to how well the audio and dark retro look work so well, or how much of a wimp I am. Maybe both. Signalis is only about 10 hours from what I understand. If you’re in the mood for something that gives you that old-school Resident Evil feeling but in a fairly tight package (and apparently multiple endings) try this on for size! As of this article, the game was available on Xbox Game Pass.
If you want to learn more about my thoughts about this game and other games on Xbox Game Pass, check out my show with my buddy Tom!
Chris is a connoisseur of all things Xbox, especially Game Pass. He loves it so much, in fact, that he created the 1 Hour 1 Decision podcast with his buddy Tom to randomly play and review Game Pass titles!
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