[Review] Transistor – Nintendo Switch

Transistor Radio

If someone had said the words ‘cyberpunk’ ‘Orwellian’ ‘dystopia’ to me I’d say:

“Yeah the new Muse album is pretty good.”

But I’d be a fool because they’d probably be talking about the new Nintendo Switch title; Transistor, by Supergiant Games.

And if they weren’t they should have been.

That developer name should ring a bell, as they’re the team behind another recent switch port; Bastion, a delightful isometric action adventure game.
There are many noticeable similarities between both titles, the aforementioned isometric view point, a beautifully narrated story and an excellent soundtrack composed by Darren Korb but other than a few game play nuances (which we’ll get into later) this is where the similarities end.

Something, something Bastion

Whereas Bastion has you take charge as “The kid” trying to resurrect a dead land in a post-apocalyptic western setting, Transistor takes place in a cyberpunk infused sci fi city taking control of a singer turned fighter Red. Armed with her trusty sword come USB stick; Transistor, Red must find a way to stop the antagonists, a hive mind of robots know as the Process and uncover the mystery behind their partners/creators the  elusive Camerata.

Most of the story is narrated to the player during game play by the titular character, Transistor (yes the sword can talk,) and is a brilliant example of the “show don’t tell” method of story telling. Let the player wander around fighting enemies whilst the story and history of this world is told to you without info dumps or long winded cutscenes, blending story and gameplay neatly into one package.

Play the game

Speaking of game play this is where Transistor really shines. The fight sequences appear out of nowhere, wandering down a desolated promenade when suddenly the Process appear and before you know it, the area is boxed in.

Now it is  time to bash up some robots!

Starting with just two miserly skills, referred to as functions, assigned to B and A it’s time to bust some AI ass. Now, the option is there to run around using your functions as you want but you’ll quickly be out classed by the enemies speed and fire power. This is when you need to rely on the key game play aspect; planning, or Turn().
Planning: a quick tap of ZR  freezes time and gives you a certain amount of moving time and attacks to use against the enemies whilst everything is locked in place. Once you’ve used up your moves and function quota, execute the plan by pressing ZR again and Red zips around the battlefield dealing serious damage to your adversaries.

Then you have to wait for your turn() bar to recharge before using anymore functions, but believe me, it feels great to have perfectly executed turn() come together.
With every successful battle you get experience points and a new level up grants more functions to try out, or upgrade slots to existing functions and unlocking passive slots. Each function has three separate uses, either use it as an attack function, upgrade an existing function with it’s effect or use it’s passive mode for varying effects.

There is a ludicrous amount of different play styles to chose from depending on how you set up which can be very daunting early on in the game but once you’ve nailed down a play style it’s very easy to see which functions you should put where to complement your person play style.

Risk VS Reward – Limiters; because Idols are so 2011

Another similarity with Bastions see’s the return of the Idols, however in Transistor they’re referred to as Limiters. Limiters are debuffs that give the Process even more advantage over you in battle. For example the cells that you must catch after a Process is defeated to stop it respawning may have a shield that first needs to be broken, or you may have less time during your turn() to use functions. This can make the game significantly harder but the more Limiters you have on, the more experience you get once the battle in completed and there is always the option to turn them off is a certain wave is giving you jip!

Although the fight sections are a lot of fun and the perfectly executed turn() makes you feel like a complete boss, towards the tail end of Transistor, around the 6 hour mark it does start to get repetitive. Yes there are a good variation of different Process enemies and yes they do slowly get more powerful with different gameplay changing attacks and debuffs and yes (again) there are challenge rooms which test you against waves of enemies with set functions or forces to beat a certain amount of Process in a set time. But after a while it does turn into, ok walk here, fight some dudes, get XP, move along, fight some dudes, rinse and repeat.

However, when the fighting is over you get to phase back into Red, walking exceptionally slowly, through the recently abandoned Bladerunner-esque city and enjoy the exquisite design of Transistor. It’s so quintessentially Cyberpunk, from the neon graphics to the heavy references to programming jargon all set in front of Darren Korb’s phenomenal soundtrack makes Transistor really stand out.


All in all, Transistor, is an absolute showcase of a team almost thinking the word “Cyberpunk” and hitting a design aesthetic, gameplay and a soundtrack that completely fills that brief.

Overall Transistor is a tonne of fun, the fighting aspect is super fun and diverse, and the design is sublime. Much like the inescapable Bastion, Transistor is an experience that must be enjoyed by everybody, and the Nintendo Switch feels like the perfect home for it.

Verdict – Must Play Title


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