Status: One jaunt() through story completed
Most Intriguing Idea: Making the player lose abilities rather than die outright
Best Design Decision: Total freedom in arranging and boosting abilities
Worst Design Decision: Red’s essential helplessness while turn() recharges
Transistor follows the pattern of Supergiant Games’ previous release Bastion in that it’s essentially narrated by Logan Cunningham and viewed from an isometric perspective, but it shies away from the real-time nature of its predecessor to mix continuous and turn-based action in a way I didn’t much enjoy. The protagonist, Red, can attack in real time but is much more effective when she uses turn(), which pauses time while she lays out attacks. However, she’s then basically helpless (only jaunt() can be used) while waiting for her turn() meter to recharge. This leads to a rhythm of attacking with turn() and then running away which ultimately just bored me.
Transistor’s story is a little tighter and more focused than Bastion’s, but it gets there by having even fewer major characters and leaning even more heavily on its scenario for support. Sadly, the backstory of Cloudbank is a lot less interesting than the world of Bastion. Though it was clever to have more of the world revealed as the player uses abilities, the world itself just wasn’t a big draw. As for the principal characters, the only standout was the antagonist Royce; the game really slacks on developing Red and the Narrator and the revenge plot seemed like the least interesting thing possible to do with the setting.
I’m griping a lot but Transistor isn’t bad by any stretch. It’s just a little disappointing after how much I loved Bastion.
Verdict: Cautiously recommended