A rather personal review of Transistor, a video game by Supergiant Games
I remember what it was like to play video games when I was a child. First there was the sense of controlling the character, of moving those pixels on the screen with just the pressings of buttons. And then there was the button for jumping, for running. And when entering a new area, a whole different world of colours opened up. There was the menus, too, and the buttons. And I remember, myself, when I was experienced enough with games to not be daunted by unknown buttons, I started learning what each of them do.
I don’t remember my first video games, though. But I do remember most of my childhood games are mostly action platformers like Zelda (but not Zelda) or turn-based RPG like Pokémon. The are a lot of simulation and resource-management games up too. SimCity and tycoon games and, ah, Age of Empires with my father. I also remember fighting games, when I can still go to my cousins’ every weekend, and so much hours on Guitar Hero.
It was the sense of discovery, anyway, that I’m trying to say. That process of learning the system, the feeling of wonder as the world inside the game opened up. But it’s not a feeling that can be made twice. Once you start getting it, you get it. And as you get older and understand more things, well, the world doesn’t feel very large any more. I play a lot of different games, and I noticed, as I become more familiar with the common genres and methods, as I grow out of being a child, that sense of wonder gradually disappeared.
But in playing Transistor, I feel something very similar to what I felt as a child. From the moment you started the game, in which you are immediately thrown into the opening scene with no main menu whatsover, Transistor refused to be understood with conventional eyes. On a whole, its system is known: Isometric action RPG where you move a character around and have to bang out attacks to beat up your enemies. But the way it turns its own system around is marvellous.