Transference

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Transference Game Poster Image
Warped tale of abuse feels confusing and directionless.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Deals with very dark themes, including depictions of physical and mental abuse, how that abuse affects others directly and indirectly. It's heavy handed, emotionally disturbing.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As game progresses and players experience events through consciousness of the Hayes family, it becomes hard to see characters as anything beyond tragic in nature.

Ease of Play

Navigation is simple, both in and out of VR, with players mainly tasked with uncovering clues and solving puzzles to progress the story through to completion. Some puzzles are trickier than others, with some having blatantly obvious answers and others with head scratching solutions you're more likely to solve accidentally than through deduction.

Violence

Although other games may show violence in a more graphically explicit manner, Transference's portrayal of its subject matter and use of live-action video paints a more disturbing picture of abuse and the descent into madness on a deeper, more realistic, more personal level. Some blood shown in some scenes.

Sex
Language

Occasional use of strong language, including "goddamn" and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Certain parts of the game and clues left throughout the apartment can imply some substance abuse by one of the characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Transference is a psychological thriller adventure game available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows-based PCs, with VR support for PSVR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. Players enter a virtual environment searching for clues to the fate of a family brought into that world and the events that led up to it. While there's not much explicit violence shown, there are many disturbing scenes of implied violence and abuse. There are a couple of scenes that also show some blood, and some of the game's dialogue does include profanity, including "f--k." There's also some implied substance abuse in some scenes.

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What's it about?

TRANSFERENCE is a game about an experiment gone horribly wrong. You've been called to the home of Raymond Hayes, a scientist working to unlock the secrets of the virtual world and the potential of the human mind within it. Something has happened with Hayes and his family, and the only way to uncover the truth is to dive into the corrupted experiment and separate the memories of Raymond; his wife, Katherine; and their son, Benjamin. Players will explore their virtual apartment for clues, switching between each character's perspective, entering their innermost thoughts and feelings to piece together events and fill in the story to discover their ultimate fate.

Is it any good?

This adventure game focuses on a disturbing tale, but its confusing take on the lives in this situation makes it extremely hard to want to understand the full story. Transference is, at its core, a story about perspective. You enter the virtual world of this seemingly normal nuclear family, and it's not long before you begin to see that normalcy falling apart at the seams. Flipping a light switch in the game shifts the environment to another character's perspective, opening up certain paths while closing off others. While viewing things in Raymond's consciousness, everything seems like just another normal day. Shift to young Benjamin, and you can hear the muffled sounds of his parents arguing in the background, see his sketches on the wall of him and his lost dog, and feel his fear being alone. Katherine's world, meanwhile, has been painted through a veil of depression and detachment, of suffering the anguish of abuse while trying to pretend everything is fine for the sake of her son. It's a complex, disturbing mosaic of emotions that quickly spirals downhill the further you go down the rabbit hole.

As quickly as you see the family's veil of stability begin to unravel, you'll notice the gameplay falls apart even faster. Transference plays almost like an escape room, sticking players in a small section of the apartment, unable to progress without the solution to certain key puzzles. But these run from ridiculously simple to the insanely obscure that are solved through pure guesswork or brute force rather than keen observation. The most frustrating part of the game is that there never seems to be any real direction to it. You can find items to interact with, but many feel like little more than red herrings. Or, maybe there's a key piece of the story you overlooked, but you can't ever backtrack to make your way to it. Transference is a game that begs to be played more than once to guarantee you find all the clues and nuances in the story. Unfortunately, that story is such a warped, confusing, and disturbing mess, that coping with it more than once is a challenge unto itself.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about dealing with abuse. What are some signs of abuse (physical, mental, etc.)? What should you do if you suspect abuse or if you are a victim of abuse?

  • How can different people view the same event in different ways? How important can it be to take perspective into account when listening to others?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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