The Signal State – Review

the signal state main menu

What happens when you combine frequency modulation, logic, maths, music, the apocalypse and farming? That’s a question that I bet you have had the burning desire to find the answer to for a long time. If so, then I’m pleased to tell you that The Signal State is a puzzle game set on an abandoned farm following an apocalyptic event where you apply logic and maths in order to modulate frequencies to complete tasks. Oh, and you can make music too.

From patching to hatching

There are two modes in The Signal State. In Story mode, you play a young apprentice who has been given the task to get farming equipment at an abandoned farm back up and running. Each piece of machinery is its own puzzle, and each puzzle will have you wiring up a number of analogue devices in order to match a pattern – match your output with the pattern, solve the puzzle. Progress through the game, and you will be rewarded with new devices to help you solve the more complex puzzles that you will encounter.

The tasks that I have completed so far have the same objective. You will have at least one source output and at least one input. The output will need to be modulated to match the expected pattern at the input. Each device has its own ability. Some examples – the ‘split’ device will split a signal into two, while the ‘sum’ device will add the value of two signals together. Logic gates check for particular conditions, while a CV device will modulate a frequency based on the input of another frequency. Is the output of your pattern not meeting your expectations? You can debug by adding breakpoints to the sequencer and an oscilloscope to see where the faults lie with the logic you’ve implemented.

I’ve really simplified this, but The Signal State does a better job of explaining the theory of frequency modulating to beginners if you’ve avoided the topic before. You have certainly encountered it – it is the foundation of the electronic music we listen to every day.

signal state level select

Propellerheads Reason: The Computer Game

The game is a bizarre concept. You expect to be in some kind of laboratory playing with analogue devices, but instead you are in the middle of a farm getting power generators up by getting the right beeps and boops. But eventually, it works as the story grows.

Signal State is aesthetically pleasing. The drag and drop element of the devices in and out of the rack works well. The animations are simple, but they didn’t need to be overcomplicated. Credit to the developers for being able to make cable management enjoyable – no one enjoys that in real life. But it’s a core element of the gameplay, and there is a great level of enjoyment watching your completed cable patching come to life. Those familiar with the Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) Propellerheads Reason will be familiar with this. To those who haven’t, it may not appeal at first, but stick with it.

signal state conversation

Get a groove on

There is also Sandbox Mode, where you can let your creativity run wild. The game comes with an example of a working track in case you need an overview on how to get some beats or melodies going. There is a learning curve, and it may take you some time to understand the process. Those with music production experience may get into it a little easier, but based on what I have seen and heard so far, you can make some catchy tunes.

Which is ironic, because my only gripe with this game is the background music that plays in Story Mode. It’s nice the first couple of times, but after an hour of the same loop, you’ll want to listen to something else, or mute it altogether.

signal state logo


Games can be educational as well as entertaining, and The Signal State does both well. It is accessible to all ages, and arguably, a great introduction to programming. It will help if you enjoy maths and solving problems with logic, however, it will help further if you’re interested in sound and frequencies. If you don’t, you’ll learn at least a little about how electronic sound is generated, and that in itself is worth learning about.

If that ticks all of your boxes like it ticks all of mine, The Signal State is a necessary purchase. Thankfully there is a free demo available on the Steam store page if you’re still on the fence.

The Signal State logo showing audio switch board
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