Sunday, 30 August 2015

Work in Progress: DOTJ

I never really know my characters before I begin writing them. It must seem like a strange way of going about it. I know some writers like to spend a lot of time building a character beforehand, but I’ll often begin writing a character and not know anything about them. I’m not simply talking about a character’s physical characteristics, but rather who they are as a person.

It’s only as I write them, that they slowly begin to reveal who are they and come to life. And it’s always a great moment, when that character begins to take control of the narrative, shaping and taking it to places even I don’t expect.

This does make writing outlines rather tricky, as my characters sometimes decide they’re going to take the plot in an entirely different direction. That’s why I’ve never really liked writing outlines that are too in-depth. I try to keep my outlines flexible and loose. I need to know where my characters start, and roughly where they’re going to end up, but the stuff in the middle is all rather vague.

It’s a tricky balance to get right. I like to keep a story structured and tight so it doesn’t meander about without a lot happening. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing a game, watching a film or reading a book – there’s nothing worse than the feeling that your time is being wasted on meaningless tosh.

So where do we start with DOTJ? We begin with a rough notion of the type of setting I want. We then put together a list of names that feel appropriate for the setting. These are my characters, although I don’t yet know who they are. From here, I picture an opening scene, the moment everything kicks off. I’ll then write this scene, trying to establish the tone and style of the story.

Once I feel I have a grasp on those, I’ll begin to work on a rough outline and structure. I’ll focus primarily on the early stages of the story and leave the rest fairly open. I’ll then write the first few chapters. This is when you realise if the story/character is going to work or not.

I’m now at this point with DOTJ. I’ve written a few chapters to get a sense of my characters, tone and style. I’m pretty happy with it, but it still needs a lot of work. Now that I have these somewhat established, I can go back to my outline and begin to properly flesh it out.

I still don’t quite feel that I know my main character yet. It will likely take some time, but that moment will come. The moment they stop doing what I’m telling them and start acting independently. That’s when it really becomes their story and I’m just along for the ride.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Now Playing: Zombi

Zombi is a first person survival horror title set in London during a zombie outbreak. It originally released on the Wii U in 2012 as ZombiU, but it’s now been ported to PC. I’ve not played the Wii U version, so I can’t really compare and comment on how the lack of the Wii U gamepad functionality changes things.

You play as a random survivor, guided to safety by the mysterious ‘Prepper’. Beginning in your safe house, you’ll venture out to various locations across London in order to complete objectives and piece together a possible cure for the zombie plague. In terms of its story and characters, Zombi isn’t particularly engaging. I thought the ‘Black Prophecy’ and ‘Ravens of Dee’ stuff was interesting, but none of it is fleshed out to a satisfying degree.

The player ‘respawn’ mechanic is also at odds with its story focus. Every time you die, you restart as a different survivor, but your ‘new’ survivor simply picks up where the last one left off with regards to mission progression. It doesn’t really make any sense, but you won’t really care. The story and characters of Zombi successfully prod you from one location to the next, but you never feel particularly involved or invested.

So let’s talk about gameplay. The world of Zombi is broken down into several locations split by load screens. It’s a world you’re free to explore, but you’ll be limited by the necessity of certain upgrades or equipment which must be obtained by following the story. The locations aren’t massive, so there’s not a great deal of exploration or alternate routes. Each location is pretty much just a linear path from A to B.

In terms of movement, you can either walk or run. There’s no ‘stealth’ system in Zombi, which I was actually a little disappointed by. Yes, you can distract zombies using flares, but it’s often easier (and safer) to just clear them out as you go rather than attempt to bypass them. Which leads us onto combat.

You have a varied selection of weapons, all of which you can upgrade to a degree, and each survivor will ‘level up’ with each weapon type the more they use them – aside from melee weapons, strangely. The upgrade and level system is pretty basic though and doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference. Given that these skills reset with each new survivor, that’s probably a good thing, especially if you die towards the end and no longer have the necessary levels to progress.

Although the game recommends avoiding using guns due to the sound attracting more zombies, it’s not something you ever really have to worry about. There are a lot of times you’ll be able to use guns quite freely, which is something I quite enjoyed. That said, ammo is ridiculously plentiful. It was only during the final stages that I began to run short. I also had far more flares, medkits, mines and food than I ever knew what to do with. As a survival horror, Zombi is excessively generous, and this has a detrimental effect on the overall experience.

The game has a ‘barricade’ mechanic, but you’ll never need to use it, which is lucky, because the required planks don’t stack and rapidly fill up your limited inventory. Set barricades also seem to de-spawn whenever you reload the game, making ‘securing’ areas utterly pointless. Also taking up space in your inventory is your default pistol and bat, which either due to a bug or terrible design choice, I was unable to drop or store even when I had acquired superior weapons.

You do acquire bag upgrades as you progress, allowing you to hold more stuff, but the inventory/storage system isn’t very good and is fiddly to manage. Your safe house chest rapidly fills up, and attempting to drop items outside of it only results in them de-spawning. If you think you’ll be able to hoard supplies – you know, like a survivor should – then you’ll be disappointed. What you can’t cram into your limited storage chest or bag will simply vanish from the game.

Zombi’s major flaw, unfortunately, is that it’s far too easy. I’ve played both the Standard and the ‘one life’ Survival mode and completed both without any real trouble. I began with the Standard mode and only died twice. The first time felt a little cheap (I turned a dark corner and hit a zombie with my bat, only for the bugger to explode) and the second was simply caused by careless impatience. But once I knew what to expect and when, playing Survival mode was a breeze from start to finish.

Zombies in Zombi are only really a threat in numbers, but you’ll rarely be dealing with more than 2 or 3 at a time. There are ‘special’ zombie types, but these feel odd and out of place within the context of the game and don’t really add any additional challenge aside from taking a few extra shots to kill. Provided you don’t rush into more than you’re equipped to handle, you’re pretty much always in control of your situation, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to what should be a tense, unsettling experience.

Where the game does excel is with its atmosphere, at least at certain points Though not reaching the heights of say, Alien: Isolation, Zombi can become quite tense during certain moments – moments when you’re exploring new locations, or are suddenly and unexpectedly swarmed. It’s in those moments when you don’t know what to expect, when you don’t feel in control that the game really comes to life. It’s a shame the majority of the game is so straightforward and easy, because it has the mechanics in place to maintain a high level of tension throughout, but ultimately Zombi only delivers it in short, sporadic bursts.

Zombi isn’t a very long game. My Standard run took 8 hours, my Survival only 6. And now there’s nothing really left to see. If I sound a little disappointed by Zombi, that’s because it’s a game I feel has far more potential. As a survival horror game, Zombi is enjoyably competent, but aside from one or two moments of brilliance, it never engages the player to any great degree. It’s a little rough (the port is very bare bones), not very fleshed out, and far, far too easy. But if you’re looking for a zombie survival experience, Zombi is still worth checking out.

It’s a shame we’ll probably never get a sequel to Zombi, which could build upon this solid, if unremarkable foundation. Because this is a game crying out for a sequel that could turn an ‘okay’ experience into a great one.


Thursday, 20 August 2015

Fallout Shelter

Fallout Shelter is a mobile/tablet game based on the Fallout series. I thought it looked quite neat when it was revealed at E3 earlier this year, but because I don’t own a smartphone or tablet, it wasn’t something I was able to play. But now, thanks to the wonders of technology, it’s possible to play Fallout Shelter on PC.

I’m actually playing it right now, as I’m typing this. If there’s one good thing I can say about Fallout Shelter, is that it’s a nice little game to have running in the background when you’re busy with other things. Like most mobile/tablet based games, it’s not really designed for extended play, but short, productive bursts when you have anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to spare.

You play as an Overseer to your own personal vault. You begin small, with a handful of rooms and vault dwellers, but soon begin to expand. Rooms cost caps, the currency of Shelter which can be earned in various ways – but not, it should be noted, by an in-game purchase. Well, not quite. We’ll get back to those later. Your vault and its residents require and consume three resources – power, water and food – all of which are generated by the appropriate rooms. 

So let’s break down exactly how this works – expanding your shelter and increasing your population will generate more resources, but an increased population also consumes more resources. This creates a solid, if repetitive cycle of expand, upgrade, populate and repeat. It’s undeniably addictive – at least for a few days.

The primary limitation to your expansion isn’t resources, however, but caps. Every room or upgrade has a cap price. The prices are tolerable, but they can slow expansion down to a tedious crawl during the early stages of the game. Of course, it is possible to purchase more caps, but it’s not as straightforward as you might expect. You can purchase ‘lunch boxes’ which hold four or five random cards. These may be weapons, outfits, dwellers, or a specific amount of a resource type or caps.

I’m not sure if this is better or worse than simply selling caps in variously sized bundles. At least then you’re guaranteed to get the caps you want, but using this system, there’s no way of knowing exactly what you’re going to get. It feels a little insidious, the system encouraging people to buy ‘just one more box’ in the hope of getting what they need.

No, I’ve not bought any boxes myself, but I can’t deny the temptation is there. We’re not all immune to slick presentation. Every time you open a mystery box, it’s like a little pleasure button being pushed in your brain. And the game teases you with these boxes, tossing you a few free ones early on to whet your appetite.

And Fallout Shelter is very slick. It looks great, has nice sound effects and animations. Its UI could use some work though, especially when you want to examine dweller statistics at a glance, or sort through your inventory. And yes, it’s fun to play. It’s neat watching your shelter expand, assigning dwellers to various roles based upon their stats. Training them, levelling them up, sending them out to the wasteland to scavenge for supplies and hopefully return alive.

The game seems relatively bug free, but I’ve had issues with the random raider attacks – my assigned guards either ignoring the raiders, or running off to another part of the shelter. I also had an odd issue where I quit the game for a few hours, leaving my vault in good shape, only to return and find it in a terrible state with nearly zero resources and all of my dwellers suffering from radiation exposure. I still don’t know quite what happened but it forced me to restart.

My main problem with Fallout Shelter is that it’s all just too simple and repetitive. Like I said, it’s undeniably addictive for a few days, but the more you play, the more you realise just how shallow, limited and ultimately pointless the experience is. There’s no depth, challenge or complexity. I was disappointed by the dweller management, hoping to do more than simply equip them with an outfit and assign them to a room.

What about shift management? What about assigning supervisors to different departments? What about letting us f**k with the dwellers in weird and wacky experiments? And there’s very little in the way of random or exciting events aside from the same outbreaks of fires, roaches or little bands of raiders. There’s really not much to it at all, when you stop to think about it.

Exploring’ the wasteland is just a slow way of gathering random gear…to make it easier to gather more random gear. You expand your shelter to generate more resources…in order to expand your shelter to generate more resources. During the early stages of the game, increasing your stash of caps takes time, but you’ll eventually reach the point when you’ll be able to generate more than you really need.

This means that although the game opens up in terms of expanding and upgrading your vault, there’s also nothing really left for you to do but sit back, watch, and gather resources you no longer require. There’s no ‘end game’ as such, because Shelter only gets easier the longer you play. There’s no real goal, other than to expand until you’re tired of it. It’s just a mater of – expand, upgrade, expand, upgrade, get bored, start over, rinse and repeat.

Which isn’t actually such a bad thing. The structure, though repetitive, works. The problem is, there’s simply not enough variation to make it interesting. There’s not enough different types of rooms, dwellers or styles of vault you can build. Ultimately, every vault will operate the same, and once you figure out the most efficient method of expansion, there’s very little reason to deviate from it.

It doesn’t help that you can’t pick and choose what rooms to build regardless of the cost, as every room is ‘locked’ out until you hit a certain population. This means that your vault layout will typically always follow the same structure. It severely limits player creativity in terms of vault design. What’s even worse, is that if you decide to remove a room because you don’t like its placement, you only get back a tiny fraction of its cost, discouraging experimentation.

The ability to force your dwellers to have children offers some amusement, as you play a somewhat twisted game of eugenics as you attempt to selectively breed the best ‘stats’ in their offspring (although it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference). There’s something a little insulting about it though, as it basically reduces your female dwellers to baby factories. Not to mention, when pregnant, your women are utterly useless in a crisis – seriously, they just run about and wave their arms in the air.

Fallout Shelter isn’t a bad little game, but it’s far too shallow and simplistic to seriously hold my attention. I was hoping for more complexity and depth to the vault and dweller management. But ultimately, it only offers a simple and repetitive experience, one which begins to lose its appeal after only a few short days when you realise you’ve seen everything it has to offer. It’s a shame, because managing a Fallout vault is a pretty cool idea for a game, but Fallout Shelter sadly falls short of its potential.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Now Playing: Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is an action based 2D platform/puzzle game. It’s also one of the best titles I’ve played this year. Maybe the best. Yes, even more so than The Witcher 3. Ori may not offer a 120 hour epic, but it’s a game that strikes about as close to perfect as you can get.

You play as Ori, a cute little critter on a quest to restore the forest of Nibel. It’s a charming tale, with some surprisingly touching moments. There’s a Zelda style vibe to the world and story, but also to the way the game is structured. There are three ‘dungeons’ to complete, each themed around a natural element (wind, fire and water).

You begin with a basic skill and attack set but as you progress, these skills will evolve (jump – double jump – triple jump) or be enhanced (more powerful attacks). You’ll also unlock new abilities which allow access to previously inaccessible areas. It’s not exactly an original way of structuring player progression, but it’s perfectly paced and designed.

Some abilities are acquired as part of the story progression, but you’ll also be able to earn skill points by destroying enemies or by collecting those hidden throughout the world. These points are fed into three trees to enhance abilities or to gain advantages such as having hidden collectibles marked on your map.

The world of Ori isn’t massive, but it’s very cleverly designed. You move between several areas, many of which are connected by multiple paths, but many of these paths can only be opened with the right abilities. It results in an experience that isn’t entirely linear, because there is a lot of scope to explore, but it also forces the player to move in the right direction.

And as you progress, unlocking new abilities, and perhaps want to explore and seek out more upgrades (to say, health or energy), you’ll be able to open up more of these alternate paths, allowing faster access to the different areas of the map. It makes backtracking through areas you’ve already traversed far easier and far less tedious.

The combat of the game is very, very simple, but neatly combined with your abilities. You have a basic magic attack which you can spam until you whittle an enemy down, or you can charge it up and release it in a powerful blast. You also have a ‘slam’ attack, and you’ll also unlock other movement based abilities which can be used to attack – such as a ‘charged’ jump ability which you can use to tear through multiple enemies.

The real focus of Ori though isn’t the combat, but the platform/puzzle elements. The level design in Ori is fantastic. Initially, it may seem rather simple, but as your skill set expands, so does the nature of the puzzles put before you. As you progress, the levels become more elaborate, forcing you to combine various abilities in order to proceed.

None of the puzzles are particularly challenging, but they do make you stop and think. The real challenge comes from the platform segments, the ‘chase’ scenes in particular. I was worried Ori might be a bit too easy, but thankfully, it offers some pretty tense, exciting and challenging moments.

This is a game in which you’ll want to save regularly because death is very common. There are many areas where even a slight misstep can result in an instant death. There are also some fast paced, action based segments which may require multiple precision jumps, including rapidly combining various skills, or you’ll die and be forced to restart.

This may sound a little unfair and maybe even frustrating, but that’s never really the case. Yes, some segments can be demanding and unforgiving, but they really push the player to succeed, and when you do, it’s all the more satisfying. It’s been a long time since I can recall a game really having me on the edge of my seat, gripping my controller tight, but there are multiple sections of Ori that had me doing just that.

The game is incredibly well structured, varied and paced, always giving you something new, be it abilities, enemies or environments. Its gameplay is deceptively simple, but highly skill based (there’s achievements for a 3 hour speed and a ‘no death’ run which I’m not sure I’d want to tackle) and thankfully (and importantly, given the precision required) its controls are spot on.

Graphically, Ori looks gorgeous with fantastic environments, creatures and animations. It also has a great soundtrack and effects. My only real complaint about Ori is that it’s a bit short, clocking in at about 10 hours. That’s not to say it felt too short, because the game is extremely well paced, but rather, I was enjoying it so much I wanted more of it – more dungeons, more puzzles, more enemies.

With some ingenious level design, challenging, fast paced gameplay, amazing visuals and sound, plus a wonderfully touching narrative, Ori and the Blind Forest is a definite contender for my game of the year.


Saturday, 8 August 2015

Life is Strange

I can’t review Life is Strange yet because the final episode hasn’t been released, but I thought I’d do a post about the game and my experience with it. It’s an episodic, narrative driven adventure title, similar in style to the Telltale Walking Dead games. You play as Max, a teenage girl with the ability to ‘rewind’ time. As with the Telltale games, it’s a title featuring player choices which impact the unfolding narrative.

Without the fifth and final episode in place, how much impact choices really have still remains to be seen. I’m hoping it will tie together various choices made throughout the previous four, although I suspect, as with the Telltale WD games, it won’t be quite as complex a web of consequences as I would hope.

Choices in LiS fall into two categories – high impact and low impact. There are four to five high impact choices in each episode, with ten or more low impact. High impact decisions obviously alter the narrative in a more substantial way, but some low impact choices, when combined, can also play their part. There’s a wonderful/tragic moment at the end of episode 2 for example, whereby one or two high impact decisions are combined with several low impact choices to determine the outcome. It’s a great example of the choice based gameplay coming together in a meaningful way.

Of course, not every choice has such a fundamental impact on the plot, and even this moment in episode 2, ultimately, doesn’t alter that much going forward, aside from adding an additional scene. That’s not to say these choices, even the relatively pointless low impact decisions (will you water your plant?) aren’t effective at tailoring a unique, player driven narrative. In fact, after completing the currently released episodes and then watching a few other people play via YouTube, I was impressed how differently some scenes and interactions played out. 

And, it should be remembered, that until we have the final episode we won’t really know just how important every decision was - maybe that plant was super important, after all. Overall though, I was quite pleased with how the game handled decisions and consequences. I really hope the final episode ties everything together in a way that makes sense and doesn’t render too many of our decisions irrelevant. I’d love for multiple endings, perhaps even with ‘bad’ endings. I doubt they’ll go this route, and we’ll probably get a single ‘core’ ending with a few variations, but as long as they handle it appropriately, I won’t be too fussed.

Another interesting thing to note about the decisions in LiS is how the rewind mechanic plays into them. Using Max’s special power you get to see the immediate outcome of every choice, large or small. The long term outcome remains to be seen, but it’s nice being able to ‘undo’ a choice if you’re not entirely happy with it – and this ties neatly into the plot as Max struggles with her new ability and how to use it responsibly.

The rewind power can also be used quite cleverly in some situations. For example, in one episode I broke into a room, damaging the lock. I could have left the lock broken but instead, because Max’s position remains constant even during a rewind, I used the power to ‘fix’ the lock, but remained within the room. Now, I’m not sure it will matter later if people know someone broke into the room or not (and it probably won’t) but it’s a neat touch. And there are several similar situations where you can use your power like this to undo actions and cover your tracks. Or not, if you’d prefer.

Before the final episode drops, I’m probably going to set up a second run, but make as many different choices as I can, just to see how much I can alter the narrative. Hopefully, it will also impact a lot on the final episode too. But we’ll see. 

I’ve talked a lot about choices and consequences, but what about the game itself? How does it play? In terms of gameplay, it’s all rather simple, but that’s all it really needed to be. You move Max throughout the environments, clicking to investigate or interact. You can rewind at any point, and this power plays a big part in solving the various puzzles throughout the episodes. There’s nothing particularly challenging or hard to figure out, but the rewind mechanic is nicely incorporated.

There’s a lot to examine (posters, books, computers, photos etc) and the attention to detail throughout the environments is great. The game has a nice art style to it, especially for the interiors, although some of the exteriors do look a little bland. The animations, in general, are good, although the game does suffer from some horribly static facial expressions and lip sync. It’s strange, because at times the facial animations are really good and expressive, but at others, they look a bit shit.

The game makes good use of lighting and sound to enhance the atmosphere. I wouldn’t typically listen to the sort of music featured in the game, but it fits the style, tone and story. I liked the mystery aspect to the plot, especially the moment in episode 4 when you piece all your gathered clues together. Whereas the Telltale titles seem to be moving away from player exploration/investigation, I really appreciated being able to take my time and explore the environments or solve puzzles at my own pace. It’s not all just QTE cut-scenes and dialogue choices. 

Although the first episode is a little slow, it does hint at what’s to come, and thankfully it really kicks into gear during episode 2. By the end of episode 2 I was completely hooked and by 3 I was fully engrossed. I really, really got into this game in a way I didn’t expect and I can’t wait to play the final episode to see how it all wraps up.

In terms of the writing, LiS can be a little inconsistent. There’s a few dialogue heavy moments (one scene in episode 4 in particular) that get a little tedious, and some conversations feel less ‘natural’ than others. Some dialogue is a little dodgy or just, well…bad (STUPID GUN!). And there are some logical inconsistencies with regards to character reactions and the way certain scenes play out. It’s got its rough edges, without a doubt, but they didn’t stop me from becoming emotionally invested in the story.

Although I expected I’d like Life is Strange based on what little I’d seen of it, I didn’t expect to become quite so invested in the narrative or characters. Being the heartless bastard that I am, it’s usually hard to make me care. But LiS made me care. I just hope the final episode doesn’t f**k it all up.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Now Playing: Transistor

I almost didn’t buy Transistor in the recent Steam sale. I’m so glad I did. It’s an action-RPG, set in the futuristic city of Cloudbank. You play as Red, a singer without a voice, on a mission to save and restore Cloudbank from an aggressive transformation called the ‘Process’.

I won’t say much more than that, because I really don’t want to spoil anything. The narrative aspect of Transistor is handled superbly, slowly unfolding before the player as they progress. The world building is also fantastic and perfectly paced.

Though Red may not be able to speak, the developers inject a lot of personality into her character through her animations, and her interactions with various information terminals. The cast of Transistor may be small, but the two primary characters possess an engaging bond that drives the player through the story.

This is a game with a lot of lovely little touches and attention to detail. The aforementioned terminals are a neat glimpse into the world, but also to how Red responds to it. And then you have the ‘hum’ and ‘flourish’ buttons. ‘Hum’ certainly has a special context within the game with regards to the character, but it’s also wonderful to listen to. And though ‘flourish’ may seem rather pointless, it injects a little life into Red and the world about her.

In terms of visuals and style, Transistor is a gorgeous game. With a variety of environments and enemies, colourful effects and lovely character designs, Transistor looks fantastic. It also has a superb soundtrack which perfectly complements the action. So, as far as visuals, sound, character and story, Transistor hits every target. But what about the gameplay?

It’s a mixture of real-time and turn-based combat. You have four active ‘functions’ which are your attack abilities. There are 16 in all and you’ll unlock them as you progress and level up. You can attack in real-time, but due to enemy numbers and the speed of combat, you’ll need to use the turn-based system if you want to succeed and survive.

You can pause the action, allowing you to queue up a chain of attacks, or to reposition within the combat environment. You then ‘execute’ this planned turn. Once completed, you’ll have to wait for the turn-based pause to recharge. It’s a neat little system that adds a fair degree of strategy to combat encounters.

You’ll be facing a variety of enemy types, and although the game does a good job of introducing new enemies as you progress, it also upgrades existing enemies with new skills, always keeping you on your toes. As you defeat these encounters, you’ll level up, allowing you to select new functions, or unlock new upgrade/passive ability slots.

And this is where the combat system, though quite simple in practice, becomes a lot more interesting. Every function has a primary ability, but also an upgrade and passive ability. By combining different functions, you can build a diverse selection of offensive and defensive abilities. It allows you to enhance or modify every function in various ways depending on how you combine them.

It’s a lot of fun experimenting with this system, building different combinations and seeing what works best for you. The game also includes a small number of challenge style rooms to test your skills in various ways such as speed or efficiency. And efficiency is a key component of Transistor combat – finding the least number of moves to defeat an encounter. It’s a little puzzle-like, in a way, and if you want to make the combat even more interesting and challenging, there are 10 ‘limiters’ you can activate, with various impacts on your own abilities, or on enemy abilities.

Overall, I found the combat system fun, engaging and enjoyable to play – but it’s not without its problems. Some of the combat ‘arenas’ that you get locked into are quite small and restrictive, somewhat limiting your strategy. And because you can’t rotate the map, it’s sometimes easy to lose focus on where enemies are as they become obscured by scenery.

It can also play havoc with the targeting system, whereby you’ll often be told your attack will be ‘blocked’ even though there’s no apparent obstacle. As a result of all this, some fights end up being more messy than truly tactical. Battles, I must admit, can also get a little repetitive over time, but thankfully this isn’t too much of an issue as new/upgraded enemies are introduced.

I would have really, really liked to see more boss fights. There’s only a couple in the game, and your very first is great. It’s a shame there’s not more ‘big’ encounters like this, with multiple stages to fight through. I also would have liked a little more exploration of the city, as most of the time you’re pushed along an extremely linear path.

Transistor isn’t a very long game (I beat it in about 9 hours) but I’d say it’s long enough. Any more and it would have just been padding the experience. But though it’s rather short, it does have a decent degree of replay value. There’s a new game plus mode (which I’m already getting stuck into), allowing you to restart with all of your unlocked levels and abilities.

It’s an opportunity to play through the game a second time and appreciate all the details you didn’t pick up on the first time through, but also to challenge yourself by using the various limiters and facing even harder opponents.

Overall, Transistor was an enjoyable, intriguing and frequently touching experience. With fantastic visuals, style and sound, great characters, a superbly unfolding narrative, plus a solid and engaging combat system, it comes highly recommended.