[Review] Metamorphosis – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Ovid Works
  • Publisher: ALL IN! GAMES
  • Release Date: 08/12/20
  • Price: £24.49 / $24.99
  • Review code provided by ALL IN! GAMES

INTRODUCING METAMORPHOSIS REVIEW

There’s no doubt the works of Franz Kafka have left an immeasurable impact on not only literature, but the media industry as a whole. From the timeless television series “The Twilight Zone”, to one of my own favourite films, “Brazil”, you can find a little shade of Kafka where you least expect it! Today, I present a game that takes the daunting challenge of adapting one of his works to video game form – one of his most famous, “The Metamorphosis”. Ovid Works, a relatively new independent studio from Poland has pulled all their punches in crafting a virtual world around the century old material. With great expectations to live up to, we’ll have to take a deep dive into this game to see whether it’s worth swatting or praising! 

WAKE ME UP BEFORE YOU GO GO

Although Metamorphosis is based on the story by Kafka, it chooses to tell an alternate narrative from the grim tale we’re familiar with. Like the original story, we play as a struggling salesman named Gregor who wakes up to find his body transformed into a bug. Left confused about the transformation and peeved to miss a day at work, Gregor seeks out the help of his roommate Josef.

After scuttling through the now enormous rooms of their flat, Gregor manages to find Josef. At that moment, he witnesses a couple of strange men entering his room. Through the vagueness of their conversation, Gregor discovers Josef is being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit! With nothing left to lose, Gregor follows the voices in his head towards a place called “The Tower”. It is up to him to discover the surreal circumstances behind his transformation, and save Josef from a peculiar fate.

PATHS ARE MADE BY WALKING

As you’d expect from the premise, the gameplay of Metamorphosis revolves around maneuvering your environment as an insect. Everything around you is huge, making the overworld a puzzle itself to solve! In a Super Mario Galaxy-like fashion, you can climb over objects 360 degrees, sticking to the surface with your adhesive legs. This may disorient some players (as it does for some playing Galaxy), so take this mechanic into consideration. Nonetheless, it makes for an intriguing visual component. A mundane and familiar room now turns into a treacherous toybox to explore!

Finding yourself slipping while climbing the ceiling of a room? No problem! Just search for some stray, sticky glue in your environment. With this, you can stick to anything. This made for an interesting puzzle early in the game, where I had to crawl upside down along a ceiling beam in order to fall on a music box. Here, you can also strafe in place to twist knobs. turning on objects such as this music box. Interacting with typically small objects such as these conveys the effort an insect has to go through to achieve certain tasks.

The controls overall feel quite loose and easy to grasp. This is important as controls are everything in these species-based platformers. I can recall putting down Snake Pass due to it’s frustrating controls, despite the whimsical art and sound design. Thankfully, I had no issue with Metamorphosis functioned, and I applaud the developers for successfully bringing all these elements together.

A BURTON WONDERLAND

My immediate thought when seeing the world of Metamorphosis for the first time was, “this looks just like a Tim Burton film – and it’s perfect!” I truly cannot think of a better art style to fit Kafka’s original story. Every object is finely detailed, as you would expect from a CGI animated film. I really love the harsh lighting of the environments. Even the world itself is full of tantalizing tertiary colours! The humans look slightly off-putting and sickly as well, the presentation reminding me off games such as American McGee’s Alice or Psychonauts

In comparison, the sound design is about halfway there. All the voice acting is top notch, one of my favourite details being the “insect language” Gregor gradually adopts. Humans will carry on with lengthy conversations in the background, making the world feel really alive. On the other hand, the game feels a bit barren with the lack of music. While key moments will be accompanied by ambient tracks, you’re mostly left to the sounds of the environment. While I wouldn’t expect a fully blasted Danny Elfman score, this is where I wish they went further with the Burton-esque inspiration!

SOMETHING’S BUGGIN’ ME

Throughout my journey I was pleased to come across little to no bugs (pun intended!). If anything, the only hiccup I noticed was some texture shimmering; a common graphical quirk in many Nintendo Switch ports. Performance between docked and handheld mode is also very consistent, keeping a stable 30 frames per second. To many, that may not be ideal, but for a slow paced adventure game, it doesn’t impede on the gameplay by any means.

Despite the stability of the game and the delightful presentation, there are still some issues that need to be addressed. Most evident is that the length of the game is dreadfully short, at around 3-4 hours total. The game leaves a lot of potential untapped with it’s unique premise and gameplay concepts, ending almost as soon as it begins. While I wouldn’t want Metamorphosis to overstay its welcome, the price tag at $24.99 seems a tad bit high for what it has to offer. 

A MODEST ANT-IDOTE 

Overall the presentation of Metamorphosis was something delightful to behold, but I simply wish there was more of it. It pays great respect to Franz Kafka’s original work, while adding something new with the game’s original narrative. I hope to see more quality titles like this from Ovid Works in the future, as I recognize their potential as a developer even from this brief experience alone. 

PROS

  • A fresh adaptation of a classic
  • Excellent visual presentation
  • Great vocal performances

CONS

  • Dreadfully short for the retail price
  • Very little music to accompany the visuals

Verdict
Metamorphosis reimagines a classic tale through the modern video-game medium. As imaginative as it may be, the experience is as short-lived as a bug’s life.

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