Transistor

Common Sense Media says

Cryptic story hinders cyberpunk RPG.

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 

Learning(i)

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The cyberpunk story touches on ideas concerning technology's impact on society and could get kids thinking about the role technology plays in their lives. It also encourages players to contemplate whether there's such a thing as necessary evil and whether acts of cruelty can be justified if they result in a greater good.

Positive role models

The lead character doesn't talk, but through her actions (and occasional texts) it's evident that she's working on behalf of the citizens of her city. She's brave and loyal and even loving. Her companion, a man whose soul is trapped in a sword, acts as a caring and thoughtful advisor. 

Ease of play

Combat is generally pretty forgiving; an experienced gamer can make it through the entire story without dying. Players interested in a greater challenge can apply unlockable game modifiers that make the experience more difficult. But the complex battle system is poorly described and lacks adequate tutorials. It could prove frustrating for some.

Violence

Sword-based combat is focused almost solely on robotic enemies. But players occasionally find dead human bodies in the street and, in a couple of instances, witness people impaled by a large sword, though it's without blood or gore.  

Sex
Not applicable
Language

Infrequent language such as the word "hell."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Spoken dialogue references a neighborhood famous for its bars.

Privacy & safety

No privacy or safety concerns.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Transistor is an action role-playing game viewed from a raised, three-quarter perspective. The player's character frequently engages in combat with her sword, but, except for a single battle against a human late in the game, she only fights robots. Narrative sequences depict humans being fatally stabbed -- though it's without any blood or gore -- and players will run across the occasional dead body lying in the street. The game's cyberpunk story touches on some interesting ideas to do with technology's role in society, which could get players thinking about the application of technology in our world.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • cultural understanding

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • strategy

Emotional Development

  • persevering

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

Teens who are fans of cyberpunk culture will probably eat up the game's cool aesthetic and techno-talk from start to finish. But some players may not find it quite as engaging due to some cryptic storytelling, hidden plot points, and certain facets of the game design.

Learning Approach

The time-stopping combat mechanic allows players to formulate inventive strategies, and the cyberpunk theme could get kids thinking about the intersection of technology and culture.

Support

Poor in-game instructions will leave some kids flummoxed. No official supports exist outside the game, leaving struggling players to search for help on YouTube and other websites not officially associated with the game. 

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • cultural understanding

Skills

Thinking & Reasoning

  • strategy

Emotional Development

  • persevering

Kids can learn about strategy, and the story -- which revolves around an artificial entity running amok in a futuristic world that relies on technology -- could get kids to think about technology's impact on our own world. The combat system allows players to freeze the battlefield and then set up a series of movements and attacks before starting time again, encouraging smart strategizing. It's a bit too cryptic for its own good, but Transistor is nonetheless a clever game that encourages players to think about interesting ideas.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

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What's it about?

The hero of TRANSISTOR is Red, a famous musician in a cyberpunk city who carries a sword possessed by the soul of her recently slain lover. In this downloadable action role-playing game, available for PlayStation 4 and PC, Red uses the soul-imbued weapon to hack apart hordes of robots under the control of something called "The Process." She needs to find out what this artificial entity is, who's behind it, and why the once-thriving techno-metropolis she called home is now almost completely devoid of life. On her journey she'll acquire and master various "functions" -- abilities, upgrades, and passive powers -- that enhance her fighting prowess. Transistor was designed and written by the same folks who created Bastion, a critically acclaimed and award-winning RPG released in 2011.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Transistor gets off to a fast start, thrusting players into an engaging story without so much as even a title screen. Set in a beautifully rendered quasi-futuristic world complemented by a lovely score driven by soft, meandering vocals, it makes for a memorable sensory experience. And it has action to match, thanks to an innovative time-stopping mechanic that lets players occasionally pause the real-time combat and plan out their attacks in advance, adding an appealing element of strategy. 

Unfortunately, this promising and original adventure is partially undone by the story's stubborn resolve to remain cryptic. Although it's captivating to start, the narrative proves obstinately vague and even confusing, relying too much on the player to search out and read long blocks of text buried within the game's menus to learn crucial plot and character details. Complicating matters is the techno-babble dappling the combat system. It forces players to wade through layers of unintuitive jargon-laden terms and descriptions. Luckily, battles are generally easy enough that most players should be able to push through without too much trouble, even if they're having difficulty understanding it all. 

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about technology and how it's used in the world around them. What was the world like before computers, phones, and mass communication? How do you think technology will change our world in the years, decades, and centuries to come?

  • Families also can discuss loss and heartbreak. If someone you loved died, would you like it if his or her consciousness remained and could speak to you from within an inanimate object? Would that be fair to the person you loved?

Game details

Platforms:PlayStation 4, Windows
Price:$19.99
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Supergiant Games
Release date:May 20, 2014
Genre:Role Playing
ESRB rating:T for Violence, Mild Language (PlayStation 4, Windows)

This review of Transistor was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Adult Written bySybilReisz February 9, 2015
AGE
12
QUALITY
 
LEARNING

Beautiful game for teens

This game is one of the most beautiful games I have ever encountered. It has strong role models for characters. Even though Red doesn't say anything, you can tell she cares about her city and her friends. It has a lot of battles against robots, but those are the only enemies you face. Parents may be concerned by The "cryptic" storyline and introduction of gameplay that CommonSense mentions in its review, but it eases you into gameplay mechanics easily with no problems. The storyline is one telling of a game by SuperGiant games, who tend to dump players into it almost immediately, but trust me, this does not take away from comprehension at all. It is a beautiful game, but I would suggest it for teens because it is a little bit complex. I would even suggest you play it, parents who are so inclined. I believe the music, art, and story will capture you as much as anyone else.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Easy to play/use

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