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Home / Videos / One of gaming's most worn-out cliches gets updated in the terrifying game Signalis.

One of gaming's most worn-out cliches gets updated in the terrifying game Signalis.

2022-11-11  Sophia Zackary

Humble Games-1
The worlds of video games are nonetheless shockingly careless regarding matters of safety, even though they include top-secret military installations and castles that are carefully guarded. It only needs to go as far as games such as Dying Light 2, The Last of Us Part 1, or Deathloop to find examples of games in which computer passwords and safe combinations are written on pieces of paper and concealed merely feet away.

Signalis, a vintage survival-horror game published on Game Pass a few weeks ago, is an exception to this rule since it has a more modern feel. The action takes place in the far reaches of a made-up solar system on a chilly planet that is reminiscent of the Antarctic research outpost in John Carpenter's The Thing. An issue has arisen at an underground facility. As an android that has only just emerged from slumber, it is your responsibility to explore the facility, fight off hordes of rabid zombies, and find solutions to several environmental puzzles from a top-down viewpoint.

[Editor's note: This paragraph contains some Signalis puzzle hints.]

A locked safe in a classroom on the eastern side of the map is one of the initial challenges you will face in the game. I let out a solid sigh when I first came across the safe, and I was disappointed that an otherwise stylish game was falling back on such a cliched video game trope. Nevertheless, I began searching the classroom and the rooms that were adjacent to it for the code's telltale note, and I eventually found it. I didn't cut.

Instead, I discovered a form for requesting a service. It said, "The wall safe in classroom 4B keeps resetting to the default combination. Please change it." If the only way to get into our safe is by using the code printed in the manual, then the entire radio code broadcasting method seems somewhat pointless. The logical next step was to look for the guidebook, as mentioned above. But before that, I discovered an aperture card, a primarily obsolete piece of technology that, among other things, makes it possible to read an article on microfilm that has been placed in it. I took it to a microfilm reader I had previously come upon, and voila! There it was, in eerie, enlarged print: the default safe code.

Humble Games1
Not only did this puzzle achieve the difficult-yet-impossible balance of being both challenging and intuitive, but it also made perfect sense in the larger context of the world of Signalis. This facility is built on a class system that keeps necessary particulars away from the prying eyes of diggers, janitors, and bodyguards. This puzzle was designed to achieve that balance. It is reasonable to assume that the top members of the bureaucracy would not leave crucial safe combinations lying about on a table or in an unlocked locker. To get me, a humble android, on the right track, it needed an irate written complaint (which, judging by the file number, had made its way through many levels of red tape).

It is OK in certain circumstances for a keypad code to be written down on a markerboard in my book. There is a kind of self-awareness at play: "Look, this is a video game, and sometimes, for you to have fun, characters need to be foolish." (Prey, developed by Arkane Studios and still my favorite game from that developer, is one of the most egregious examples of this genre.)

Existing in a game world where the non-playable characters (NPCs) are comprehensive, intelligent, and meticulous may be an exciting experience. The fact that the homeowner expressly did not want me to go through their things amplifies the voyeuristic nature of the incident. The game's rose-engine developer has packed Signalis with challenges to get your blood pumping.

I don't want every game to property two-factor verification puzzles (actually, that might be fun). Still, video game vocabulary is general enough that traditional safe-cracking and computer-hacking perplex need to go the way of the aperture card. This is not to say that I want every game to feature puzzles that involve two-factor authentication. When game producers populate their environments with sentient characters, they put their faith in the gamers to interact with them. The term "immersive" is used quite a bit, but it's not frequently applied to a game that deserves the description. It is only fitting that Signalis be included on the list.

 


2022-11-11  Sophia Zackary