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Transistor is an unsettling, fun, and subtly cool action RPG for iOS

Chris Holt | Aug. 17, 2015
These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

transistor main

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play. 

Let's hear it for the villains. The bad guys. The nefarious forces you have to defeat to ultimately complete a game. It wasn't until I played Transistor, a cyberpunk action-adventure game from Supergiant Games, that I appreciated why I've found so many other mobile titles' world's lacking: They have forgettable bad guys. But Transistor, a lovingly-made and original vision of the future, reveals the parties responsible for stealing your voice and trapping your friend's soul in your sword in the first few minutes. All four conspirators share a similar bourgeois arrogance and white, black, and red color scheme--it makes them immediately identifiable and not just a little bit cool. As you soon as you meet them, the game is about stopping their plans for your city and getting revenge. Aside from the villains, here are three other reasons why you should play Transistor. 

Engrossing world: While you're off on your quest for revenge, Supergiant Games does little else in terms of telling you the story. Instead, by interacting with the green and orange cityscape, you begin to understand the world around you. While the gameplay is somewhat linear, you still feel part of a huge complex city. There are bars, skyways, backdoors, and secret passages. Just as the protagonist, Red, is confused by the state of things--why did the villain's attack her? Why does she have this weapon?--the player is similarly adrift in this mysterious world. You begin to get answers not through the silent Red, but through the sword speaking to you and the various clues you pick up along the way. 

Complex but unique combat system: The hands-off, "show, don't tell" approach also applies to the combat mechanics. Red has the ability to pause and plan her next moves (called "Turn" in the game's lingo) and can then deploy some of the attacks that have been loaded on her sword. Like any good RPG, a lot of these moves can be augmented or combined, and there's a great incentive for trial and error by learning the best combinations for the different attacks. As an example, it took me a while to learn that my dash attack was much more effective when it left cloned images behind me, confusing my enemies. It takes time for Turn to recharge, however, so you'll also need to stay alive or attack in real-time: You'll often be forced to choose which enemies are the highest priority targets and then use various maneuvers to outrun the surviving forces' attacks on you. 

 

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