Innovation in gaming is a beautiful thing in many cases. As with all things in life, the good and the bad come and go with each new concept that passes under programmers’ fingers. But in a world where most triple A titles are filled to the brim with the same chest-high walls and ballistic rifles, even the most unimpressive games can get positive attention if the concept behind them is original enough. Case in point: Goat Simulator.
However, Transistor is not Goat Simulator almost to the same extent that it is not another run of the mill FPS. From its vibrant, elegant artstyle to its multifaceted gameplay, Transistor spews
fresh content from every pore. The gaming experience Transistor provides is unique to the point where no other game on the market can accurately reproduce it. This is not to say that Transistor is the pinnacle of gaming. No, instead the point is that if a gamer is looking for a new gaming experience, Transistor can reliably provide it. Not only that, but it can provide a new experience that is smooth, polished, and decidedly nice looking.
The game is set after the self-destruction of a futuristic utopian-esque society, in which the citizens are able to alter the world around them to suit their fancy at any time they wanted through the use of terminals scattered across the city. It all falls apart, however, when a small group of the society’s elite members decide to try and take matters into their own hands and use a device to shape the world in a way that would benefit everyone the most. Predictably, their plan backfires spectacularly, resulting in a wonderful premise and setting to base a game off of. Funny how that happens.
“Beautiful” is the first word that comes to mind when asked to describe Transistor’s artstyle, but that’s probably just because doing the visuals proper justice with a collection of words is a challenge worthy of accomplished poets and smooth-talking used car salesmen. The colors are vibrant and every nook and cranny of the clean-cut set pieces are satisfying to ogle for extended periods of time. Each area of the city looks like it actually belongs in a sterile, high tech society. This gives a looming atmosphere to the city, which tiptoes on the line of being completely alien, drawing the player into the world with impressive effectiveness.
The soundtrack proves to be equally impressive, boasting a versatile combination of both calm, low-key pieces that capture the desolate feelings of the cities’ abandoned streets and high energy collections which give blood-pumping vitality to the game’s battle sequences. Transistor is noticeably proud of its soundtrack, having a button on the keyboard dedicated solely to making the main character stop all motion and hum soothingly alongside the background music at any given time. It is a nice little touch that couples well with the protagonist’s backstory, being a singer who has recently lost her voice.
Speaking of stories, the storyline of Transistor is elusive to say the least. Hints and snippets of information regarding the city and key individuals will be sprinkled sparingly via the Transistor’s one sided dialogue with the mute protagonist. However, small details, and even some main events, regarding the lore of the game can be easily missed or just hard to interpret outright when introduced in Transistor’s half-whispered lines. The Transistor’s voice itself can also get rather taxing due to the frequency with which the man speaks throughout the entire story. It seems as though the developer, Supergiant Games, was trying to recreate the same narrative that characterized Bastion, their first and only other entry in the gaming scene. Unfortunately, the narrator in Transistor failed to have the same amount of personality that Bastion’s, leading his constant quips to lose their charm after a point. Luckily, this creates nothing more than an inkling annoyance rather than anything major.
Tying all of the aforementioned components into one big neat bow, Transistor’s multilayered gameplay allows players to confront battles in a pleasantly large variety of ways. Combining turn-based and top-down shooting elements with an impressive arsenal of different “functions” that each perform a different… function in battle, the combat system allows the player to manipulate and adapt their play styles on the fly with great effect. Additionally, the difficulty of the game is determined by so called “limiters,” which each alter specific conditions in the game to increase the challenge presented by battle. They can also be turned on and off at will, giving players a satisfyingly large amount of control over the challenging aspects of their personal gaming experience.
Transistor is a gorgeous game with an absolutely wonderful soundtrack that often extends past the confines of the game and into players’ personal playlists long after completion. The gameplay gives players comprehensive control over the difficulties faced and allows them to feasibly adopt a number of different play styles as they please. As a whole, the game provides a refreshingly unique and well-polished gaming experience, which can be justly recommended to both new and veteran gamers alike.