Transistor: Insert() Hours of Practice for Maximum Fun

With summer comes the inevitable Steam Monster Sale, where the price of so many games on my wishlist gets slashed. A sparkling vista of puzzles, combat, and graphical adventures are laid bare before my hungry gaze.

I remember hearing about Transistor from my friends, who enjoyed it immensely. When it first came out, the first thing that caught my eye was the cyberpunk setting, merged with an impressive Art Deco detail. It sat around on my wishlist long enough, and once I bought it earlier this summer, I never looked back in regret.

You play as Red, a famous singer in the city of Cloudbank, who finds herself a target of the mysterious Camerata. After they steal her voice and send her across town with a mysterious sword called the Transistor, Red finds herself allied with the dead man’s consciousness now imprinted in the weapon. Together, they battle their way across the city, fighting a legion of robots known as the Process and chasing after the truth behind the Camerata’s plot.

Copyright © 2014 by Supergiant Games
Copyright © 2014 by Supergiant Games

Here’s what I got from my initial playthrough of Transistor.

An immediate launch into the action.

Unlike some other adventure games or RPGs, Transistor doesn’t waste time with an extensive prologue to introduce the world or the main characters. We start right away with Red getting her hands on the Transistor from a nearby corpse and then the player is thrown into their first fight with the Process. It’s a kind of tutorial by fire, which sounds horrible at first, but at least the game gives you plenty of chances after combat to test out new attacks or “functions.”

Smart game mechanics based around attack combos.

What really sold me on the combat of this game was the planning stage during each round of combat, known as “Turn()”. Once activated, you can select one or more targets, set up a chain of attacks, and plan an escape path. Of course, the only limit on this planning is the limited amount of moves you can make per Turn(). The game teaches you (through lots of trial-and-error) how to conserve your movement and use the surrounding environment to your advantage.

Copyright © 2014 by Supergiant Games
Copyright © 2014 by Supergiant Games

A beautiful cyberpunk setting and soundtrack.

Even when I was scared for my life outrunning enemy drones, I couldn’t help but admire the gorgeous blue and green lines of the city. And when you match that with a hip techno beat? It’s golden. I wanted to play this game on the look and sound of it alone. My favorite tracks are “In Circles” and “Vanishing Point,” both of which capture the ethos of the game.

Multiple rewards for persistence.

You quickly learn how to get past certain enemy groupings by running, taking cover, launching a sequential attack, and then hitting Jaunt() to escape again. Much like its fictional setting, this game rewards the user for being creative and testing out new attacks and defenses in real-time. Even better, the more you upgrade your attacks, the more info you unlock on the various inhabitants of the city and the overall plot.

I seriously love Transistor. It’s a fun, stylish and deep gaming experience. While I’ll admit that some of the combat rounds can be repetitive and the combat itself takes some getting used to, I enjoyed myself even while I was getting frustrated or making mistakes. Like I said, this game rewards trial-and-error, so it’s worth every cent (even though I got it on sale, don’t judge me).

Transistor is available for purchase through Steam, GameStop, and Amazon.


Bibliography: Transistor (game). Developed and published by Supergiant Games. Designed by Amir Rao and Greg Kasavin. Artwork by Jen Zee and Josh Barnett. Written by Greg Kasavin. MonoGame (engine). Original release date (PS4): May 20, 2014.

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