Transistor

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Transistor Game Poster Image
Cryptic story hinders cyberpunk RPG.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

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.

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 & Representations

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
Language

Infrequent language such as the word "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Spoken dialogue references a neighborhood famous for its bars.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byzachs1 July 22, 2016

Challenging strategy and experimentation

Transistor is a hack and slash real time strategy with a pause function. It gives the player time to think about their combat strategy and execute for success.... Continue reading
Adult Written bySybilReisz February 9, 2015

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 c... Continue reading

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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?

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. 

Talk to your kids 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

For kids who love role-playing

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