At E3 2013, Sony went out of its way to demonstrate its support of indie titles and developers, dedicating a large section of their booth area specifically to independent games. One of the games on display was Supergiant Games’ Transistor which I was able to play for a sizable chunk of time.
The demo of Transistor began with text, explaining that assassins had been silencing the important voices of Cloudbank one by one and that Red, one of the most famous and beloved singers in the city, was next. These assassins, who belong to a group known as “The Process,” fail to kill Red, but succeed in taking her voice. Red is saved by clutching onto the Transistor, a sword-like device that contains a sentient intelligence and can absorb other minds into its own. The Transistor whisks Red to safety on the other side of Cloudbank, where it explains to her what it is and who The Process are. Red sheds her impractical singer’s garb and takes off on the run from the homicidal machines of The Process.
As I progressed through the level, I encountered people who had recently died or were dying. The Transistor was able to communicate with them and convince their souls to come along on the adventure, absorbing them into itself. Each time this occurred, a new ability was unlocked to use in battle. After unlocking all the abilities in the demo, I was able to attack with a short-range shockwave, a long-range piercing laser, a devastating cluster bomb attack, and teleport dash through obstacles and enemies to use sneak attacks.
Much like Supergiant Games’ critically acclaimed Bastion, combat occurs in real-time. However, players can now freeze time and plan out their next few moves in advance before executing them in quick succession. This adds a very enjoyable layer of strategy to engaging enemies in combat. Players won’t be able to use this ability continuously. A bar at the top of the screen depletes after each usage, and players will need to wait until it fills back up again to unleash their strategic fury upon their foes. There are light RPG elements to the combat, as well. You can see how much life enemies have and how much damage you do to them. After a combo done in strategic mode, a small message will appear next to an enemy which tells you how well you did against it. I actually laughed out loud after I unleashed a flurry of attacks against a boss creature and the message progressed from “Great!” to “Overkill” to “Seriously, can’t you read?”
Transistor felt really at home on the PS4. The Supergiant team did a great job mapping the controls to appropriate and natural feeling buttons and creating a pretty self-explanatory HUD. Each attack was mapped to one of the controller’s face buttons, while R2 controlled the time freeze ability. There was just something intangibly satisfying about destroying enemies in both real-time and in the lightning strikes following the time freeze.
Given that Red has lost her voice, the Transistor becomes her voice. It talks constantly, explaining the world and monologue-ing about the state of affairs in which the two find themselves. The demo ends with the Transistor urging her to escape, but Red silently riding her motorcycle back into the heart of Cloudbank with the amazed Transistor in tow. I honestly couldn't wait to see what happened next and how abilities would be expanded and improved further along in the game.
Visually and audibly, Transistor impressed me. I even heard that someone (i.e. me) put the trailer for Supergiant Games’ next hit on loop in a YouTube playlist, just to hear its music and see the visuals. But don’t just take my word for it. You can watch the trailer below:
Transistor will release in early 2014 on PS4 and PC.