As the game begins, Red, the main protagonist is kneeling by a dead man and nearby the impressive sword, Transistor, which of course is the title of the game. Red’s voice has been stolen and here begins the journey against the Camerata to unravel the mystery of why she was attacked, why this man was killed, and also why this stupendous sword has a voice. Transistor is Red’s partner throughout this journey, a soul, if you like, within this sword which has the ability to speak and narrate us through the story. The narrative at times will leave you a little baffled and asking questions, and it leaves it up to you as the player to form your own conclusions in a way where the game is not going to tell you everything, but instead relies on your intelligence to piece it together. If you love Sci-fi, then this will keep you glued all the way through its 5-6 hour campaign and I am glad I had to use my brain.
Transistor is a mix of strategic planning and fast-paced action within the game’s battle sequences. You see, you can choose to battle your enemies in real time or you can slow things right down and plan your attack. As you plan each movement and each strike, a blue bar fills up and once full, you will need to unleash your movement and attacks. Some attacks use up less of the blue bar and more powerful ones use more. It’s always about finding the right balance of movement, placing Red in the right place to take as little damage as possible while also dealing as much damage as you can. It’s utterly compelling and will appeal to those who like to plan their attacks and those who just want to play in real time. Like to mix it up? Then the game gives you that opportunity.
This is a 4-year-old game, but it is one that feels as fresh today on the Switch as it did 4 years ago. It does not seem to have aged. Another difference is the way the game deals with your character’s health, instead, if you lose your health bar, you lose a skill which will then not come back until you reach a number of access points so it can be repaired. It can be a real blow at times and you will have to manage this in the battles you come across. There are 4 slots you can fill up with skills which will consist of a long range attack, crowd attack, a dash, and a stun – these can be changed once you unlock more skills, but the other great thing is each of those skills can be stacked with others and some are active whilst others are passive. There is a lot of depth added to the game, mixing these skills up. For example, I was able to turn my dash from a simple dash into one that sometimes made a copy of myself, so that enemies would attack that instead of me. Or turning my dash so that when I dashed from one area to another, I would leave a small explosion in my wake. This makes the game really interesting, as you have lots of ways of experimenting and finding your own play style. The great thing about this is you can respec to try new things whenever you reach a checkpoint in the game. This is especially good when you feel a spec is not quite working for you in the way you intended.
Traversing the world is fluid and I never felt bored while going from one battle to the next, due to the fantastically told story, the hook of the fabulous combat and diverse range of enemy types you come across. Some enemy types will have healers with them so you will need to take out the healing companion first, others will fire bombs from far away, and then you have those that will dash towards you quickly. Each enemy type will require thought in how you defeat them. When the game puts these enemies in one place together it becomes a game where tactics and strategy will win the day and I loved every minute of it. The bosses you come across are just as fun to fight and I never tired of the combat throughout, which for me is one of the game’s greatest strengths.
The audio in Transistor is nothing short of stunning. Not only are the vocals here some of the best I have heard for an indie game, but I would say they are some of the best full stop. Darren Korb has done an astonishing job. This is a soundtrack you will want to listen to away from the game - it's that good. Do yourselves a favour and purchase it because the vocals from Ashley Barrett is mesmeric in every way. The jazz playing throughout this game is superb and fits to bring this game and story to life. It just makes this game so complete and is an absolute joy. If you buy the soundtrack there are also alternative versions of the music. The voiceover and narration throughout the game are just superb and if you have not had a listen yet then why not watch the trailer to see what I mean.
The sound effects are all in keeping with the Sci-fi world and are, again, a perfect fit. There really isn't anything more to say than this is pure excellence.
Visuals & Performance
Visually, the game on Switch looks beautiful, especially in docked mode. Take a moment to look at the wonderfully designed cutscenes and the excellent executions of showing us what a futuristic world could look like. Everything oozes detail, from Red dragging the sword against the floor and sparks flying, to the constant movement of colours in the levels' backgrounds. Supergiant games need to be commended because their work with Bastion was great, but for me, this takes it to another level still. I love the clothes that Red wears and how they move when she walks, especially the yellow dress early on. The lighting is just incredible and I appreciated the design, and I am sure many of you will be completely absorbed into this world.
I was less impressed with the performance. Unfortunately, the game does stutter and I noticed dropped frames. While it's not the end of the world, it's a blotch on otherwise pure quality. The game also doesn't look that punchy in handheld and while that's to be expected, you will enjoy this more on the big screen.
This game is 4 years old and Supergiant games have another opportunity to sell this to people who may have missed it or have not had the chance to play it before. It's going to cost you 20 bucks or £15.49, which is the same price as on steam so at least, so there is no variance right now. Once the 6-hour campaign is complete, then you can play procedurally generated battles to keep it going if you want to.
Game stutters at times