The Signifier (2020) is a horror adventure game where you explore a murder victim's memories to discover how they were killed. As the memories you visit disintegrate you pass between the real and the badly remembered to piece together a narrative that is different each time you play.
You explore the world, passing between real and surreal existence. What starts as a story about a researcher behind an experimental deep brain scanner, soon spirals into a murder investigation. You are tasked with using the device to explore the victim's memories and discover what happened.
In each of the memories, you must walk around, explore, solve puzzles and unlock dialogue to gain more information. These range from straightforward logic challenges to more esoteric conundrums that require you to pass back and forth between the objective and subjective elements of the memory.
However, being memories, all is not what it seems. They are fractured and contradictory rather than verbatim recreations of events. This is true both of their content but also their coherence -- at times they dissolve into a mess of shapes and colours.
It sounds complex and heavy-handed, but in practice works well to draw you into the woman's memory. The scenes have a creepy air to them that is underlined not only by the distorted graphics but the way you interact with her different states of mind to gain more clues. This takes the game in some dark directions, touch on the woman's shame and fear that take shape as you piece together what happened.
It is a horror game, but one that doesn't have jump scares. What's horrific here is put to good use in the unravelling narrative of this woman's life. Along the way you find yourself questioning the implications of AI, intrusion to the consciousness, privacy, and whether we see the world as it is or a subjective creation of our minds.
The Signifier: Director’s Cut is planned for Xbox and PlayStation. This adds more narrative content, new memories, dialogue and voice-over, three additional story endings, and a new epilogue giving greater insight to key characters and choices.
Our examiner, Andy Robertson
, first checked The Signifier 2 years ago. It was re-examined by Jo Robertson
and updated 3 weeks ago.