Total Games Played
Played in 2023
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Transistor took me aback by how far more ambitious and grand it felt in comparison to Bastion. Had I first played it when it was released my jaw would have dropped by how far Supergiant came with only its second installment.
Transistor is ambitious, perhaps to a fault, but it's still a gorgeous, well-made work with a lot of heart and polish under its cyberpunk vistas and apocalyptic tragedy story. Housing some of Darren Korb's best work, it also has a stellar, intense soundtrack that defines the game's somber tone and hostile atmosphere.
Transistor IS darker than Bastion, maybe the darkest and grittiest of Supergiant's babies. While Bastion's fractured world was no sunshine and flowers, Transistor's post-cyberpunk setting is experienced in the final hours of its existence, and it's haunting. Your only allies are a mechanical sword with a voice and the remnants of a bygone population that powers your abilities, and the streets of Cloudbank are devoid of life. Save for a ruthless robotic force known as the Process.
It's a tragedy through and through, where it becomes clear that our protagonist Red can only soften the fatal wounds of Cloudbank. That is not to say it's constantly grim, though; Logan Cunningham's addictive, smooth narration occupies Red on her journey, and possesses the same dry wit his portrayal of Rocks in Bastion had. In addition, despite lacking her own voice, Red herself proves to be quite funny, usually shown through some subtle animations or the way she can responds to various texts.
At the same time, Transistor is notably more plot-driven than its siblings, and as a result it can feel rather distant. I never felt quite attached to Red or the Transistor itself as I did with the Kid or Zagreus, and the plot's main antagonists - while not one-dimensional - don't get enough screentime to become memorable.
Cloudbank is a fantastic setting and Supergiant's now-iconic aesthetics and art direction were perfected here. It looks crisp, sharp, every corner of the screen is touched with love and care to craft a visually-distinct sci-fi city. The animations and little details are a significant step-up from Bastion, and each ability and power look and sound fantastic.
Unfortunately, while Cloudbank is both simultaneously dazzling and melancholic, Transistor sometimes loses itself in it. Transistor both tries to unravel its world, and cling to it dearly from digging deeper into it. It's almost as if at some point Supergiant planned Transistor to be the first game of a a larger story, only for those plans to get shelved without properly fleshing out its setting and story.
That feeling of uncertainness also creeps to the actual level design. Transistor offers larger arenas for combat and in general a greater sense of scope, but it's also confusing and vague at times. Some routes don't telegraphs themselves well and you might end up locked into the next portion of the story, and this is in spite of the game being fairly linear, much more than its more open-ended but still straightforward predecessor.
But level design is just one aspect of the gameplay, and the combat system rocks. Its combination of real-time action and turn-based tactics work surprisingly well, despite a somewhat steep learning curve early on. Once it clicks, Transistor sings, and it's a sight to see complex attacks get executed to near-perfection. I'm also impressed at the ability (called Functions) selection, allowing the creation of devastating combos and provide solid customization options for your playstyle.
Transistor at once streamlines (by having a singular weapon) and expands upon (by establishing even more unique or versatile abilities) the foundations laid by Bastion, and it's a far more deliberate game than that title. I do wish Red could run faster though, it can get frustrating.
Like Bastion, Transistor is also built to be highly replayable. The various Functions and even specific challenges one can unlock beg to be experimented with, and the Process as enemies provide enough variety to help you push the combat system to its limits.
So, this is Transistor. I don't think I like it quite as much as Bastion, but my respect and appreciation for it know no boundaries. It's a vivid yet solemn journey, accompanied by phenomenal visuals and music. Like the people in the story it tells, its ambition can sometimes get the best of it, but Transistor still stands as an engrossing achievement for a studio that keeps solidifying itself as one of the greatest.
Wanted to review this for a while but some of my drafts just felt off so I'mma do a mini-review that sums up my feelings about it.
This game is great. Fantastic, even. It's so addictive and colorful and inventive that you can spend hours upon hours chipping at everything it has to offer and still ask for more. HAL Laboratory has over forty years of game development history under their belt, and Kirby: The Forgotten Land reigns as one of their best games ever, very very easily.
It looks pretty and full of expressions and little details. It's packed with fun mechanics to experiment or toy with, even if controls are not always up to par. And even its boss fights are incredible, unexpectedly intense and spectacular to see how they unfold.
When the Switch will be looked back, I hope Kirby's most prominent 3D adventure yet would be seen as one of the console's crowning jewels.