Hearing that Supergiant Games were releasing a new game I was full of optimism since their last title Bastion won over 100 awards. However, sometimes it can be a tough act to follow such a big hit, so fans of their previous game may be happy to know that it would seem from first glance that Supergiant Games have stuck to what they know best. “How?” I hear you ask? Because graphically the game looks the same in terms of level design and style with a slightly more futuristic twist. So you’d expect this game to be just as damn good, but will it actually live up to its predecessor or like a machine with a faulty Transistor will it fail to work?
Well, I’m not going to lie; when I started playing this game, it confused the hell out of me. I was playing as some redheaded woman that picks up a talking sword and starts being attacked by some strange robotic creatures known as the Process. Soon into the game though you make a little sense of what is going on. You’re a famous singer called Red that lives in Cloudbank, a city in a futuristic world, a world where it appears those jealous of your talents want you dead and buried. Unfortunately for them their attempt on your life fails and instead of hurling a legendary sword known as Transistor into your chest, it narrowly sails pass. Nevertheless, they don’t entirely miss it would seem as you wake up, knelt over the body of another with Transistor lodged in their chest, and it would appear that it has absorbed this persons voice as well as your own. It is from here that your journey with Transistor begins as you plan your revenge against the people who attacked you. Sounds ok right? Well, it would be if it never seemed to end too quickly revealing the entire story as it feels like you just begun; I really don’t like games that do this and give you very little gameplay and close abruptly, it just takes the enjoyment out of gaming.
Now I wasn’t sure what to expect from Transistor gameplay wise, but I must admit it did have me slightly disappointed. You spend a lot of your time walking around the level dragging your sword behind you interacting with various things in your environment; looking in old buildings where you may find enemies and reading the news where you can seem to vote on things like what the weather should be, not that you notice it changes. Now this isn’t too bad I mean fighting can be fun and the news does seem to put together a few pieces of the game’s puzzling story, but introducing moves like prancing through the air seem pretty pointless especially when in my opinion it adds nothing to the game. Intensifying the pointlessness within Transistor are moments such as during one of the cut scenes early on in the game where you get on a motorbike to reach a new area; it tells you to press a button to accelerate, but there is no need as it doesn’t get you anywhere any quicker just makes some flames come out of your exhaust, I mean it looks nice but is there really any need?
When it comes to fighting the gameplay does improve, but again, it can also be frustrating at times. Enemies of various forms will pop up around you as do small white cubes that form walls, which can be used for cover from enemy fire; these come in very handy at times and are useless in other scenarios. Why is that? Because bosses will blast right through them and hit you anyway, meaning you have to really plan your attacks, which is easy to do thanks to a special attack planning mode. That’s right, you can opt to either wade in and try to dispatch the enemy head on, which I wouldn’t recommend at all, or alternatively you can pause time, which allows you to plot out your movement and attacks, but it does mean once executed you cannot attack for a few seconds while your energy recovers leaving you vulnerable. A nice feature I liked though was an emergency planning mode which would automatically kick in when you were on your death bed, even if your energy hadn’t recovered from a previous attack. This gives you one last chance to dispatch of the enemy before they get you, or you can use it to get a couple of long ranged attacks in and then to distance yourself from the battle, just make sure whatever you do you make it count.
As you progress through your journey and discard of your enemies you’ll earn XP which is used to level up, each time you step up a level you’ll be rewarded with new upgrades to be applied to your character. You’ll also be able to unlock new attacks as Transistor absorbs the souls from bodies lying on the abandoned streets of Cloudbank. Once these souls are absorbed you can assign the abilities you get from them to one of four slots; these consist of a mixture of short and long ranged attacks, evasive manoeuvres and also summoning a friend to help you in battle. If you have found the four core moves that you want to use throughout your mission, though, you can instead upgrade your current selection to increase damage or add new extras on to your move like causing your attacks to chain between nearby enemies or even switch an enemy’s allegiance temporarily. However it isn’t as simple as just selecting four things, each one has their own point value and you only have a limited number of points that you can use to select moves so you will have to mix and match everything you have unlocked to suit your style.
Now the only thing I couldn’t fault was the graphics and the music. For those of you who played Bastion you’ll be aware of the artistic talents within Supergiant Games and know that the artwork in terms of level design and character detail is brilliant. It’s so good that cut scenes almost feel like you’re watching a comic book come to life with beautifully crafted back drops. The soundtrack to Transistor really helps manage to capture the mood and theme of the game as well; after all you’d expect a game about a singer to have decent music. It’s not something you’d catch on the radio unless you tune in to some private internet podcast thingy but it is something you could find yourself listening to for hours like when you try to relax in a bath as the rather angelic melodies create a calming aura. If you like it enough then you’ll be happy to know that throughout the game you can enter what I can only describe as a safe house that contains several rooms that offer you training as well as a beach ball to bash around, a bed and a musical device where you can listen to tunes you unlock throughout the game.
Unfortunately, though the graphics and music weren’t enough to make me enjoy this game on their own, no matter how much I played the game I just couldn’t enjoy it even when I really wanted to. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t terrible, it just seems to annoy me far too much with pointless actions throughout the game, a lack of gameplay time and a story that ends too soon. It’d be much better if they’d taken the time to add a bit more gameplay and develop the story properly. I mean you start not knowing a thing, then piece by piece you start to put the story together before the rest of the plot just being dropped on you, it’s like reading a book and then someone telling you the end before you’ve actually reached it. I really wanted to enjoy this game, but it just wouldn’t let me.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.