I've always wondered how players of beat'em ups like Street Fighter 4 and all of its variants can count the frames of animation and react to what needs to be done to launch counter moves in a blink of an eye.
I'm not the only one who has thought this, as the people behind the creation of Transistor have created a method of combat that negates the need to have near super-human hand to eye coordination abilities. They have done this by allowing the player to freeze time...
But before I delve into this facet of Transistor, allow me to expand on exactly what the game is. Like Bastion, Super Giant Games' previous title, Transistor is a third-person action adventure that takes place in a dystopian future world that is being taken over by an unknown force called The Process.
Red is the name of the main protagonist who has been attacked by The Process and while she tried to defend herself lost her voice. Soon after the attack she stumbles upon a large sword called Transistor, who is sentient and guides Red through her quest to regain her voice and ultimately vanquish The Process.
Presented in an isometric viewpoint, the visuals are imbued with a neon glow that pervades the styling of Transistor. With clean lines and circuitry on display throughout the game, the oppressive nature the game world is set it never lets up. If anything it acts as a reminder to the player that all is not well with the world and something needs to be done about it.
Red is relatively small on the screen but even in the Alpha build I played at PAX East 2013 she is exquisitely animated as she wields Transistor against the seemingly relentless and brutal attacks from The Process. From the time I had with Transistor, it became very clear that Red and Transistor are acting as a single entity and they make for quite a formidable one.
But it's not just Red and Transistor who are along for the ride, fallen foes of The Process join the pair by imbuing them with new powers that make them an even more potent force. This story mechanic creates a neat method of introducing the player to new skills without breaking the forth wall.
It's this kind of integration between story and game mechanic that sets Super Giant Games apart from many developers as they are willing to fuse these two very different entertainment mediums together.
The most powerful aspect of Red and Transistors combat abilities is their ability to carry out a series of attacks at lightening fast speed. So fast that when they enact them, they are immune from attack.
There is a cost fighting at such speeds, however, and as such Red cannot lay waste to The Process forces entirely in this mode. Every time these actions are invoked a certain amount of energy is depleted.
Once this energy has been drained, no more actions can be added. So while they can be used to weaken enemies, it is usual to use them in combination with attacks that occur at normal speeds..
Transistor manages this process of ultra-high speed attacks by allowing the player to freeze time. Once they do the screen changes to a type of vector based hologram like style that strips the area down to just Red and The Process forces.
They player then selects various actions, which Red then proceeds to carry out at blisteringly fast speeds. It's very empowering for the player as it enables them to execute complex combinations by simply selecting a series of actions outside any kind of time constraints.
I've said much about the visuals of Transistor, but an equal amount of attention should be paid to the sound design of the game.
Narrated by Logan Cunningham of Bastion fame, he takes on the voice of Transistor as he helps Red try to make sense of what is happening and what The Process are up to. The music is suitably atmospheric as it is excellent. So much so that I would quite willingly listen to the sound track, just as I do with Bastion.
Transistor was a welcome surprise at PAX East 2013 and my only disappointment with it was that it's not due to appear until sometime in 2014. I'm somewhat loathed to advise anyone would wish their life away in anticipation of a video game release, but in the case of Transistor, I'm willing to make an exception...