Review: Transistor (PlayStation 4)

Reviewed by Thomas Hugh, posted May 20, 2014
Having played through Bastion on the Xbox 360, I was excited when Supergiant Games announced Transistor back in 2011. With a SciFi setting and the ability to freeze time during combat, Transistor sounded like the perfect formula for the studios next foray into the RPG market.
May 20, 2014
  • Release Date (NA): May 20, 2014
  • Release Date (EU): May 20, 2014
  • Release Date (JP): May 20, 2014
  • Publisher: Supergiant Games
  • Developer: Supergiant Games
  • Genres: Action RPG / SciFi
  • Also For: Computer
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
Transistor is the second title to come from Supergiant games. The development teams previous game 'Bastion' was well received by both critics and gamers back in 2011. Transistor is currently available on PC and PS4.
Thomas Hugh



Transistor is one of the most beautfiful games I have ever played. The art style is gorgeous and the scenary is very subtlety animated. Protagonist Red is a singer who has lost her voice and at the beginning of the game finds the Transistor, a talking great-sword that communicates with Red throughout the adventure. Every time the sword talks, its voice is projected through the Dualshock 4's speaker, an excellent effect that really immerses the player into the experience. For some strange reason this feature is disabled by default, so if you decide to pick up the game on the PS4, be sure to switch the speaker on right away! At one point through the jouney Red enters an empty opera house and as the swords talks, it's voice is echoed from the Dualshock 4 and out of the TV speakers, an amazing effect that brought a real smile to my face as I played.


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The story is hard to follow as you have no idea what is going on and it is left to unfold via the Transistor's voice and through terminals you access throughout the game. The information found in these terminals lets you slowly piece together what is happening in the world of Cloudbank, a scifi-esque landscape that like the studios previous title, Bastion, is viewed and played on at an isometric angle. As you level up and progress through the mostly linear adventure, you will come across the souls of defeated NPCs which grant the Transistor new abilties called Functions. There are 16 abilities altogether that can be equipped as a stand-alone attack or buff, an upgrade to another equipped Function or as a passive ability. All of the Functions can be interchanged this way, leading to a ton of customisation allowing the player to find out what works best for them. Playing around with the system and discovering different techinques is extremely satsifying and is perhaps the games best strength.


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These abilities can be used in real time or on the field, but Red simply isn't powerful enough to take on most enemies head on, and this is where Transistors hook kicks in. Red is able to freeze combat altogether and activate Turn, a useful feature which allows the player to plan out a range of moves before resuming battle. The mechanic is a lot of fun and planning your movement and attacks then watching Red whiz around the arena destroying the bad guys doesn't get old. I've seen some people describe the combat as being similar to XCOM - Enemy Unknown, not a bad compliment, but not a fair one either. To me the combat plays out like Frozen Synapse. Replace the guns with a great-sword and its abilities and you will have a good idea of what to expect from Transistor.


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If you feel like you are steamrolling your way through the game, you can use the special item Limiters. Similar to the Idols found in Bastion, you can turn these on to activate special rule-sets which make the combat and enemies harder in return for extra experience points. This adds replayability to the game and it's been a long time since I have wanted to delve straight into a new game plus and carry on playing after finishing the initial run-through. There is also a training area where you will take on tests such as Speed, Performance and Planning. These tests often require precision and some even have a puzzle like quality to them, such as defeating all of the enemies on screen within one turn with limited Functions available.


Transistor is hard game to not like. Everything about it is heavily stylized from the excellent soundtrack to the beautiful artwork that is consistant throughout the game. My only issue with it is that it's quite a short game considering the genre, but is what it's offering enough? Ultimately, only you can decide that.  Personally, I didn't want it to end.


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+ Beautiful world
+ Excellent combat
+ Robust Function system
- A little on the short side
- Map progression is linear
10 Presentation
Both audio and visuals are of exceptional quality. The mood and setting of the adventure create an ambiance that any gamer will appreciate. Transistor is a real contender for the games are art debate.
9 Gameplay
Stringing together combos and discovering new Function abilities is the meat of the game. World map progression is linear but you do get a choice of Functions to choose from when you level up.
8 Lasting Appeal
Transistor is a short game but a refined, quality experience. There is little else like it on the market and seeing all the game has to offer will require more than a single play-through.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Transistor is a rare breed of game where there is not much else to compare it too. It is a shortish adventure but is so well designed that you will most likely want to jump straight back in and unlock that last trophy (yes it has a platinum!). I enjoyed it more than Bastion and can only hope it will lead to a sequel from Supergiant Games.

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