Signalis in the tradition of the past review

Signalis – in the tradition of the past. review

Old hits are a powerful source of inspiration. Above all, it is important not to succumb to the impulse to copy the favorite work of the venerable author, but to look at the past from a new perspective. That’s exactly what the humble Rose Engine studio, which consisted of just two developers, attempted. Signalis is inspired by the classic horror films of the PlayStation 1 era. The roots of the original Resident Evil are clearer than anything else, but the influence of Silent Hill’s Dino Crisis is also felt. But if these cult horror films from Japan were styled after western products, then Signalis is the opposite – an anime of European origin.

    Too bad the environment isn't as detailed as the characters in the story scenes

Too bad the environment isn’t as detailed as the characters in the story scenes

Android girls in the service of the people

Signalis does not give the player detailed information about the world in which the action takes place. In the future, humanity will be divided into two interplanetary states: the Empire and the Nation. Details about the life structure or politics are not to be expected. The overall picture is characterized by posters on the walls and laconic notes. It is only clear that we are on the territory of the nation clearly controlled by a totalitarian regime. Personal history is more important here.

People not only conquered space, but also learned to make intelligent androids – replicas. Their consciousness is built on the basis of the human gestalt brain, which they can work with in pairs. Most often, of course, these are pretty girls with big eyes and colorful hair. Yes, the Nier series seems to have been one of the main inspirations for Rose Engine. Keep this in mind when you come to the credits…

We get the role of Magpie – Replica Technician. Along with her form, she took part in a certain mission, but the ship was destroyed. After getting out of the rubble, the heroine finds her way to the mining station “Serpinsky-23”. Despite being run by nation allies, no help can be found. It turns out that the station is under quarantine and most of the residents are either dead or gone insane and turned into bloodthirsty monsters. However, this does not stop the heroine, who must save her partner at all costs.

    Flashbacks from the past are told in the first person

Flashbacks from the past are told in the first person

Signalis from the first episodes creates an oppressive feeling of claustrophobia. “Serpinsky” is a labyrinth of narrow corridors and cramped spaces. Most locations fit on one screen. The perspective in the game is something between platformer and top view. Imagine standing at a height of five meters and watching what is happening, looking down at forty-five degrees. Basically, the environment is designed in a two-dimensional style with rare three-dimensional objects, so it’s not always clear where the pillar to avoid is and where the fixed obstacle is. But the characters are completely three-dimensional.

The developers tried to recreate the look of the horror from the first PlayStation, but they went too far in that quest. The image, while stylish, is desperately lacking in clarity. Although it takes a while to get used to the image, some gamers will definitely be put off by this pixel noise. However, looks are not the only element of the horror films of those years that Signalis carefully reproduces.

We endured before, and now we will endure

The game is intentionally uncomfortable and unfriendly. Magpie is slow (thanks for not having “tank” controls!) and cannot carry more than six items. “Six articles are all a citizen needs,” it even says on a poster. I must say right away that its author is a brazen liar. After all, the key, weapons, first-aid kits, cartridges – all this takes a place. Not to mention a number of story arcs whose purpose can only be guessed at for now. Even keeping identical items in the same cell doesn’t help much.

    There's no point in wasting ammo when you can run out of the room - the monsters won't follow Magpie

There’s no point in wasting ammo when you can run out of the room – the monsters won’t follow Magpie

With this constraint, it is necessary to plan each forced march from the bottomless vault to the next objective. As you study the next level, memorize the locations of the things you can’t take with you right away and pay attention to where to use the items you hit – so you don’t have to run down the same back streets.

There are enough supplies to clear the way for the angry replicas. The catch is that like zombies in Resident Evil Remake, they come to life over time and at irregular intervals. The only way to finally finish off the enemy is to burn the fallen body with a thermite stone. And now they are not enough for everyone. We need to think about which paths should be secured and where it is easier to run past the monsters.

The idea is obvious. You’ll be forced to constantly return to the vault through the same spots, and a terrifying creature will surely block your path. Are you trying to get around or shoot? And when you’ve spent the cartridges, do you also donate a precious stone? In theory, you always have to choose between two options, each with advantages and disadvantages. But the immutability of this scheme leads to monotony. Eventually you will develop a tactic that applies to the entire passage. Most likely – to run past all dangers, if space allows.

    The bosses look a lot more dangerous than they really are.

The bosses look a lot more dangerous than they really are.

It seems that a contradictory game is emerging. But for some reason it is difficult to break away from Signalis. You get stuck in its atmosphere in the best sense of the word. Having fallen into this nightmare, I want to know where it will lead. In addition, the game skilfully builds up the pace. The puzzles are varied and balanced in difficulty. The passage is measured, but not slow. As soon as the location becomes boring, it is replaced by another part of the facility. And the deeper you go, the scarier the environment becomes.

At first you think: “Dead Space, anime style.” There’s devilry afoot on the station, but devilry is understandable. Workers dug up another junk in the mines, and we already know that such a problem can be completely solved using a plasma cutter. But over time, the focus shifts. One wonders more and more who Elster is actually fighting, what their true motives are.

Signalis talks about much more subtle things than any other space evil. She gropes for the limit where a human being becomes just a cog in a machine and an artificial creation becomes a living human being. The further you go, the more you begin to doubt the reality of what is happening. Towards the end, the story enters Silent Hill territory, where psychologism and symbolism replace common sense. What does it matter if the world is real if it feels real?

    Needless to say, the hole is disappearing...

Needless to say, the hole is disappearing…

* * *

For those who want to plunge into the past and lose themselves in a cosmic (but not chthonic) nightmare, Signalis will be a real gift. rose-engine skillfully reproduced the classic formula, although some of the ingredients could have been replaced with modern counterparts. It will be interesting to see if the developers can offer players something more original but just as exciting in the future.


  • well balanced puzzles;
  • viscous atmosphere mixing cosmic terrors and psychologism;
  • The story is captivating and captivating.


  • styling for an amateur;
  • Having an inventory that is too limited will eventually start to be quite annoying.


The image is stylized into the PlayStation 1 era, with all its rough edges and quivering pixels.


Dirty ambient on the edge of noise and classical music is a very interesting combination.

single player game

The same horror film from the second half of the 90’s, with an emphasis on survival, resource management and mysteries. Not until 2022.

Estimated travel time

Seven to eight hours for the first playthrough.

collective game

Not provided.

overall impression

A quarter of a century ago, Signalis would have become a cult. And now it’s just a love letter to the classics of the genre, full of soul and respect. Although it literally repeated the game design approach of twenty years ago.

Rating: 7.0/10

Learn more about the rating system


Related Links:

  • Video: Trailer for stylish space horror Signalis brings back the atmosphere of early Resident Evil and Silent Hill
  • The developers of the old-school horror Signalis have set the target platforms and release date
  • Frighteningly beautiful pixel art: signal this old-school sci-fi horror

About the author

Alan Foster

Alan Foster covers computers and games and all the news in the gaming industry.

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