For all their top-secret military bases and heavily guarded castles, the worlds of video games are still woefully reckless when it comes to security. Look no further than the likes of Dying light 2, The last of us part 1Or DeathloopIn which computer passwords and secure combinations are scrawled on scraps of paper hidden just feet away.
The same cannot be said signalis, the throwback survival-horror game that was released a couple of weeks ago on Game Pass. It takes place in the outer reaches of a fictional star system, on a winter planet none other than John Carpenter’s Antarctic research base. The thing. Something is wrong in an underground facility, and as an android recently awakened from hibernation, it is your job to descend into the complex, protect wild zombies and solve a lot of environmental puzzles from a top-down perspective.
[Ed. note: Light puzzle spoilers follow for Signalis.]
One of the game’s earliest hurdles is a locked safe in a classroom on the east side of the map. When I first encountered the safe, I breathed a heavy sigh and, disappointed that an otherwise modern game had resorted to such a tired video game trope, began to scour the classroom, and the rooms adjacent to it, for evidence of the code. . I came up short.
Instead, I found a service request form. It read: “The wall safe in classroom 4B keeps resetting the default combination. What’s the point of the whole radio code broadcasting system if our safe can only be opened with the code in the manual? Naturally, this prompted a search for the manual. But first, I found an aperture card—a largely defunct piece of technology that, among other functions, allows the viewing of an embedded piece of microfilm. I brought it to a microfilm viewer I had previously stumbled upon and voila: It was the default secure code, in ghostly, magnified print.
This puzzle not only struck the ever-elusive balance between challenging and intuitive, but it also made sense in the context of signalisWorld: This is a facility built on a class system that works to keep important information away from the prying eyes of miners, janitors and bodyguards. It stands to reason that the bureaucratic elite would not leave important safe combos lying on a table or in an open locker. It took an angry written complaint (which, according to the file number, went through several layers of red tape) to send me, a lowly android, on the right track.
In certain cases, I don’t have to find a keypad code jotted down on a markerboard. There’s a certain self-awareness at play — something that says, “Look, this is a video game, and sometimes, characters need to be stupid for you to have fun.” (prey is still my favorite game from Arkane Studios, and it’s one of the biggest offenders of this trope.)
But there is something exciting about a game world in which NPCs are actually careful, thoughtful and fastidious. It increases the varistic quality of parsing by the property of someone who clearly has Not We want to do that. Developer Rose-Motor has flooded signalis With puzzles that provide the thrill.
I’m not saying that I want every game to have two-factor authentication puzzles (actually, that could be pretty fun), but I think that the vocabulary of video games is widespread enough that traditional safe-cracking and computer-hacking puzzles. Need to go the way of the opening card. When studios fill their worlds with intelligent people, they trust their players to respond in turn. We toss around the word “immersive” so often, but it’s a rare game that actually earns the label. signalis Deserves a place on the list.