Supergiant Games continues a trend of esoteric story telling with Transistor, a melancholic romp through the shell of a dying dystopia. You play as Red, a young woman rendered mute after she is attacked by the Camerata – a collection of individuals who wish to see the city halt its endless change. The story’s narrator is an un-named man who now resides inside a large sword-like object called the Transistor.
The City of Cloudbank is both a cyberpunk dystopia and an artistic dream made real. Vibrant colors paint elegant levels that bring to mind 1920s New York overlayed with circuitry and neon. This city is a character all its own but it’s being slowly deleted by The Process, a legion of robots ostensibly under the control of the Camerata. As the game progresses Cloudbank’s color drains away leaving a blank whiteness. There are few other characters Red encounters, besides the robotic Process, but there is still a sense of loss and desolation that can be felt as the city is wiped away.
The game sports an interesting arcade-y combat system. As Red progresses she acquires abilities called functions. These functions may be applied to the Transistor in three different ways: active, upgrade, or passive. Mixing and matching these functions produce wildly different combat styles. Red also has access to an ability called Turn(), which stops time and allows her to plan out a series of actions to be executed in quick succession.
Each combat encounter can be viewed as a puzzle. Just the right mixture of upgraded actives, passives, and positioning will result in a favorable outcome; however, if bad luck strikes the player will find themselves loosing functions as Red takes a pounding. Reloading a save is really the best option if functions are lost as they can only be regained piecemeal by reaching check points without dying.
Transistor feels like it has something to say about death in modern games but doesn’t quite get the message across unless you dig a little. That aside Transistor provides a deep, challenging, and tactical beat ‘em up that’s very hard not to enjoy.
Joseph Angus is a video game reviewer. He spends his days writing reviews for games that he thinks people will enjoy playing. When he’s not working, Joe enjoys reading and watching movies with his friends and family.