Transistor — Supergiant Games' latest project since their incredibly compelling Bastion — is a sexy game. Not because there's any actual sex (or at least none that I know of!). And not because of any of the other traditional definitions of the word. This isn't a typical kind of sexiness where short skirts and muscular men automatically mean sexy, no. Transistor is sexy for much more interesting reasons.
It's Ashley Barrett's voice, which brings life to the singer-protagonist in a hauntingly beautiful way. The game opens with a confused-looking woman in an elegant yellow gown. She's holding her arm nervously as she walks towards a sword. The art style is immediately reminiscent of Bastion. Supergiant Games' work is some of my favorite: lush colours, artful shadowing, subtle detail.
It's also Logan Cunningham's deep voice narrating as the sword. He did a fantastic job narrating Bastion too, and the memories of journeying along with that voice are a perfect complement to the beautiful singing of our protagonist.
It's the graceful combat, a quicker-paced version of strategy combat. Actually the fighting plays a lot like how I remember Bastion. Fluid melee strikes. But once a gauge fills up indicating that a time-freeze initiation is ready, the action stops and a white sheen glosses over the visuals, letting you run your lady protagonist from point to point to list out attack commands while everything else stands still. You can alternate between a heavy strike, quick strikes, and ranged throws that look like futuristic spears being shot out from your sword/companion.
Transistor is also sexy in its mystery. Never have I been told so little about a game, and yet still come away so thoroughly enthralled by it. And what I know is indeed very little: there's a woman. Someone tried to kill her with the very sword she know wields. This futuristic city is being attacked — no, reclaimed — by an army of robots. This army of robots is being used for other aims, though. Aims that are carried out physically by the robots, but artfully planned by unknown masterminds — likely the same masterminds trying to kill the young woman.
Our centre lady also has a personal connection to whoever it is that's behind the sword. What is their relationship, exactly? I don't know yet. But creative director Greg Kasavin tells me that they were close. They have a history. And she can't let go of him.
Similar to Bastion, your journey is led by Logan's swooning voice. He narrates the context of the story as well as gives you hints about the game. He reads the simplest of lines in the most poetic fashion. It might be my favourite thing about the game so far.
My demo ended with a boss battle. It's obvious that the tougher enemies will call for more strategising, taking most advantage of the frozen battle strategy tactic. And as I scurry around to let the gauge refill, I realise that Supergiant wants you to take advantage of this new skill. It's not a super power that you feel like you need to save for the most important moments, like you might have in old school games. It's a neat trick that adds depth to the game. It's something you'll need to master, and it's cool to pull off once you do. So why not give players the most open access to one of the neater features? Transistor does just that.
Even though I played only roughly 15 minutes of the game, scratching at the surface of the combat and barely even touching the story, it left a huge impression on me. Transistor is gonna be one to look out for.
The game is slated for 2014, on... some platforms that have yet to be determined.