There aren’t many times where I feel as confused with a game’s intent as I was when I started Transistor. I’ve known about the game for quite some time and it has come to roost on the Switch, like so many other games that have been released on other formats years ago. The world of Red, a lounge singer by trade, is brought before your eyes in a colorful and beautifully drawn world. I definitely got a sense of anime with some of the bosses and characters you fight that remind me of mechs from RahXephon many years back. That series relied heavily on music and I can’t help but wonder if it was an inspiration for some facets of this game.
The battle system is really cool and relies heavily on experimentation because, honestly, the game doesn’t hold your hand in any respect. You are given very little to go on at the beginning of the game. You pull this clearly too big for Red to handle sword-looking thing from a corpse – making you think you’ve killed someone with it. As she walks/runs around areas she drags it along with her and the weapon begins talking to you. What it says starts filling in pieces here and there and does a great job of piquing your interest as to what the hell happened to thrust you into this strangely unique action-RPG.
I think my favorite thing about Transistor is the battle mechanics that reminds me a little of Deus Ex, where you can freeze time, allowing you to program your moves on the battle field. You are allowed only so many moves before you use up the gauge, which fills back up shortly after you execute your plan. Once your meter fills back up you can lock in another set of commands. You can also just run around and try to beat things up with your talking buddy, but success truly depends on your ability to use the time stopping function since everything seems to slow down as you execute each little program you appear to be writing.
In your downtime you can visit a beach where you could rest in a hammock, then kick around a beach ball that (in traditional gaming fashion) counts how many times you bounced it, or mess around with a jukebox to listen to songs that you can unlock by doing things behind the doors in this beach area. While not exceedingly useful, I found it to be an interesting way of recharging your batteries, so to speak.
The music of Transistor is top notch excellent jazzy stuff. Real songs, real voices, and a world that seems to revolve around the melodies that Red sings, hums to, and a score that just seems to get more excellent as you progress. I spent some time in the beach area selecting songs I unlocked and enjoying them without having to focus on defeating enemies that are all over you. The jazzy nature of the music did make me think of another anime series I was a huge fan of about 15 years ago called Cowboy Bebop. Some friends and I went and saw the movie in the theater way back then and I have no reason to mention that other than it being a fond memory that this game somehow dredged up from my past. Weird? Maybe.
If you like the action-RPG genre and don’t mind being a little confused by the story to begin with, then Transistor can definitely offer you several hours of entertainment that is worth the price of admission. I feel like $19.99 at launch is a fairly good deal if you’ve never played the game before. There isn’t anything new with the Switch version, so if you’ve played through it on another platform there may be no reason for you to get it here unless you just want it to play again on the go.
Final Thoughts: GREAT
With excellent music, beautifully drawn levels, and a story that jerks at the heartstrings, Transistor is a great game that will surely leave you satisfied and wanting to play through it a second time. Having been released on other systems it may have already found its way into your world. But if it hasn’t then by all means, pick this one up.
Jay has been an avid gamer since the Intellivision days. His hobbies include building PCs, 3D modeling and printing, and spending time with his children and dog.