After playing Bastion, my attention turned to the, at the time, upcoming release of Transistor. The music was gorgeous, and the art style is very inventive and tied together, with a cool blend of European city design and circuitry. The gameplay comes across as slightly complex and stilted, but very quickly turns into a mesh of turn based combat and real time combat. Much like the city/circuit setting of the game…
The first thing I want to talk about with this game, is the music. If you know me, you’ll know I tend to talk about game music before anything else the games does, and Transistor is the best example of amazing music that adds to the gaming experience. Press L1 out of combat, and Red will hum along to the music, adding a really beautiful yet slightly haunting harmony that will get stuck in your head, even when you’re not playing.
The story, sadly, isn’t the best story in a video game, but it still makes sense and goes along as you’d want it to. Having said that, the way the story between Red and the mysterious man in the Transistor (the big greatsword that looks like a computer chip) is actually done very expertly.The journey between them, where Red can’t talk, and the Transistor acting as narrator; all of it adds up to a very sad story that ends in a bittersweet moment that is made all the more better with the spot on sound design and voice acting. And yes, the music.
As much as I’m bathing this game in loads and loads of praise, there is still one thing that bugged me with the gameplay. It took me until level 8 with all the unlocked abilities and experience for me to understand what they were getting at. Being able to combine different abilities, and even equip a few as passive enhancements, is a great idea that doesn’t come across as one until you’re forced to consider resource management. Which is fine, if you consider the start of the game as a tutorial. However, the recursion mode (a New Game+ sort of playthrough) feels like how the game is meant to be played.
The thing that struck me as very clever is how the combat is capable of both real time action, and turn based action-esque play styles. Turn based isn’t quite the right term- you basically freeze time and queue up actions and attacks, then unleash them all at once. Afterwards, you’re left vulnerable to enemy attacks while you’re unable to attack while your action bar recharges. I personally found the game plays best alternating between heavy attacks during the time-freeze moments, and lot’s of speedy and defensive tactics during the real time moments.
All up, Transistor is art. It’s a result of amazing music, voice acting, sound design, gameplay, level design, visual art and writing. The story is very straightforward, which allows you to focus on every other aspect of the game. It basically doesn’t try too hard to be anything other than what it is- it’s never pretentious, and comes across as smart and as a result of very deliberate game design. Just play it already!