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E3 2013 Hands-On Impressions: Transistor

At the forefront of Sony’s massive push for indie titles on the PS4 is Transistor, the next game from Supergiant Games.  Transistor was playable on the E3 2013 show floor, and from the moment the demo starts, it’s very easy to see the elements Supergiant Games are carrying over from its first game Bastion, like the isometric camera angle and the beautiful hand drawn art style.  But actually playing it made me realize Transistor is striking out in some very exciting ways.

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You play as Red, a professional singer that through some unknown forces, had her voice taken away from her.  The beginning of the demo has Red walking around slowly after what appears to be a live performance, as she is wearing a formal dress.  Red soon stumbles across a man lying with a sword impaled through his chest.  The sword turns out to be the titular Transistor, and begins talking to Red, similar to the narrator in Bastion.

Once Red wields the Transistor, you initially have two attacks: a stab to the ground that hurts nearby enemies, and a stronger long ranged strike that takes a while to charge up.  These two basic moves are your best assets against the robotic foes you face early on.

But as the demo rolls on, you’re quickly introduced the strategic portion of Transistor that is undoubtedly going to be a huge part of the game.  At any time, a pull of the R2 trigger stops time, and you can control Red to do a variety of actions.  Whether it’s to run away from imminent danger or to sneak up behind a turret to attack a vulnerable spot, you can plan any sort of movement you want to do.  Another pull of right trigger will carry out your set plan, as Red instantly dashes around from point to point, performing the actions you set, while everything else is frozen in place.

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There are sometimes short descriptions of points of interest you come across. Some of these quips are pretty funny.

This strategy aspect of the game was the reason I enjoyed the Transistor demo so much.  Although the main use of this time freezing mechanic in the demo was mostly to attack mechs from behind to deal the biggest amount of damage, I can only imagine how much more creative and wild utilizing this gameplay element will get.  However, you can still use regular attacks during the normal speed of battle, but stopping time and planning our your method of attack was not only more satisfying, but also a more efficient way to eliminate the enemies.

Coming across more dead bodies gives Red new abilities to use.  One was a long range shot that eventually explodes into smaller pieces, and another was a nimble dash to dodge incoming attacks.  This dash was mostly used to avoid enemies as you wait for the time freezing mechanic to power back up.

The demo ends with Red hopping onto a motorcycyle and riding back into the heart of the city to find out what's happening, much to the dismay of the sword.

The demo ends with Red hopping onto a motorcycyle and riding back into the heart of the city to find out what’s happening, much to the dismay of the Transistor.

If you’ve played Bastion, then you will know how Transistor looks like.  Transistor takes the gorgeous hand drawn art style and imbues it with a science-fiction setting, and it couldn’t look more amazing.  The demo also sets the stage for what looks to be fascinating narrative, and I can’t wait to see how the story of this cyberpunk world unfolds.

Of all the games I managed to physically play at E3 2013, Transistor reigns supreme at the top of that list.  Combined with a unique strategy component and an excellent audiovisual package, Transistor is the game I’m most looking forward to on the PS4.  Transistor is slated to come out in early 2014 for the PS4 and PC.



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