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Transistor Review

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On 05/25/2014 at 12:00 PM by Jon Lewis

Red's Allure

For anyone who loves an interesting story, stylistic visuals and strategic combat.

Following Supergiant’s critically acclaimed game Bastion, Transistor comes off as a very similar game, initially at least. Transistor quickly forms an identity of its own, boasting a unique battle system and an intriguing story. I found myself getting wrapped into Transistor’s many layers, whether it was exploring the city of Cloudbank, discovering the motives behind the mysterious Camerata, or strategically managing my abilities to give me that extra edge in combat. Transistor is a riveting and memorable experience from beginning to end.

You play as a character named Red – a popular songstress whose voice gets trapped in a mysterious sword, along with the very man who saved her life. This sword, known as the Transistor, speaks to her throughout the game. The sword narrates the majority of the game, adding commentary on both story events and player actions. I found the narrator to be just as cool of an idea as it was in Bastion, emphasizing both the light and dark moments in the story. For example, later in the game, Red can use jump portals to get from place to place and if you use them too much, he makes snarky comments about her not listening to him. At the same time, there were many moments where the narrator was able to elaborate on the story and characters that really develop him in a great way, despite only having a vague idea of who he is throughout most of the game.

Much of the story is woven around discovering the motives of the Camerata gang and their robotic army, The Process. As they track down Red to regain the Transistor for unknown reasons, Red focuses on taking out the members of the Camerata and trying to find out what they plan on doing to the city of Cloudbank. The story is hard to dissect for much of the game, as the game is told in medias res. Through data terminals, exploring the city and reading the backgrounds of the games characters, you unravel the story piece by piece. The ability functions that you collect throughout the game also have bits of data that can be unlocked with extended use that give extra information on the characters that once inhabited the world of Cloudbank. While it was a little disorienting to be in a constant state of mystery, figuring it all out helped drive me to keep playing. The reward is a fascinating tale that ends in a simple, yet satisfying way.

Part of what makes exploring Cloudbank so satisfying is the gorgeous visual style. The game’s visual style is one that created many moments of ogling and awe. I found myself constantly taking screenshots of various locations, and set pieces. The city glows with different neon shades, but stays true to a very dark and dank look throughout with interesting mixes on locales that have a very cybernetic look.

As great as it is to just simply look at Transistor, playing the game is where it shined for me the most. Red wields the Transistor in her fight against the Process, and with it she gains various abilities known as functions. These functions are her attacks, and each function has various levels of usefulness. Players can assign functions to the face buttons as primary attacks, but they can also be used as secondary abilities, that give added effects to the primary attacks. For instance, one function’s secondary ability gives other functions a “pull” effect that sucks in faraway opponents. Functions can also be used in passive slots, which act as overall buffs to Red, like giving her increased movement speed or extended use of the very important Turn ability. Turn is one of the primary aspects of Transistor’s battle system, freezing the action and allowing the player to carefully plot out attacks in a strategic manor. Players are also given a meter which depletes as you preform those actions, so plotting out attacks requires efficiency and precision if you want optimal results.

Much of the fun comes with experimentation. Figuring out which abilities create the best combos, and which build off each other in the best ways creates engaging encounters. The enemies can be very difficult at times, and while I never felt vastly overpowered, there were a few moments where I had to take extreme caution. Death results in the loss of an active function, which can really hinder progress in battle. So, even though the penalty seems negligible, it does cause a feeling of loss and can really change the flow of a fight.

When I started up Transistor, and got a gaze of the awesome visuals and heard the jazzy, cybernetic soundtrack I knew I was in for a treat. What I didn’t expect was for the game to be one of the coolest, most interesting games I’ve played all year. While I was subtly bothered by going through so much of the game not knowing what exactly was going on, the game managed to keep me engaged, and it was always difficult to put down. Transistor is a game that most people should consider playing, as it offers a cool story with engaging gameplay that culminates in what is sure to be one of this year’s downloadable game highlights.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




05/25/2014 at 08:00 PM

I'm  very interested in this game but I'm probably not going to buy it right away and since I don't own a PS4 it will be the PC version.

Jon Lewis Staff Writer

05/26/2014 at 03:03 PM

yeah, if anything definitely get it on pc. It's very much worth it imo.


06/04/2014 at 08:11 AM

I'm getting this one next time it's on sale. I'm loving Bastion, so i'm sure Transistor is up my alley.

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