When you float in certain circles, you’ll notice certain games, movies, comics and other media pop up on your radar time after time. Transistor was one of those games for me. Made by SuperGiant Games, I’ve heard various people I’ve associated with, be they gamers, artists or others talk about what a wonderful game Transistor is, and after hearing so much about it, I finally invested in it.
I got the Switch version, printed by Limited Run games when it was on sale at Best Buy. Admittedly, for all I heard about how great it was, I actually had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew is it had some genuinely stunning art, and a really unique aesthetic.
I’ll try not to give too much away for people who are also going into this blind, as the game has a kind of narrative that rather than dumping a lot of exposition or background info on you all at once, forces you to figure out what exactly is going on as you go. At times that’s this game’s greatest strength, though in terms of accessibility, it can also be to the game’s detriment. For one, the game doesn’t default to subtitles, and you can’t access the menu right away, so if your hearing is not spectacular or you tend to play the game muted because you’re playing it portable in a room with others, you are going to be TOTALLY lost for about the first hour or so of the game. Which can be a major problem as this game is actually shockingly short.
Though a lot of the game play and combat feels like a JRPG, you can actually beat this thing in about 8 hours or so. In fact, in my first run through, I was only on level 11 when I defeated the final boss. It was so short I even went online to see if there was another ending I was supposed to get while playing through a second time like Undertale or the Zero Escape series.
But if you’re prepared for those two facts, Transistor is a game that at least has a good deal of its hype justified. The look of the game is stunning, even my mom who doesn’t always care what I’m playing noted that the artwork was really beautiful. And the combat is interesting. Though on the surface it plays like an action RPG, it’s really a disguised turn-based system. As your turn gauge fills up, you can freeze time, plan your attacks and let your strategy rip as you tear through your enemies in the most efficient way possible. The techniques build up naturally so as the enemies get harder, you have more ways to fight them. As I said before the story also builds up that way, with the player character getting dropped into the action as a talking sword lodged in a corpse tells you to grab it and run for your life as you are being hunted. Slowly by slowly you learn who is after you and why, as well as the world around you and the people who had inhabited it. The story is largely good, but I do feel that even after playing through it I was left with a lot of questions about certain elements’ origins, and about how the town of Cloudbank is supposed to function.
It’s not your typical game, and though it’s not perfect in terms of presentation, I admire the ambition behind it.