Traverser

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Traverser Game Poster Image
Physics puzzler has great female hero but feels incomplete.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about puzzle solving in this physics-based puzzler. Players draw upon the power of the game's gravity glove as well as their own understanding of how things work in the real world to figure out solutions to contextual problems. They might work out that a stick of dynamite can be lit by holding it over a flame and that it then can be used to blow up rubble blocking a path, or they might figure out how to direct the flow of toxic goo into a tank by finding and connecting lengths of pipe. Many puzzles allow kids a level of freedom in working out solutions, which means one player's solution won't always be identical to another's. Traverser's story gradually weakens and its interface needs some work, but its physics puzzles draw from real-world concepts and will make kids feel smart as they work out solutions.

Positive Messages

Encourages healthy skepticism of entrenched authority. Puzzle-solving play rewards thoughtful, creative approaches to many problems. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Valerie is a loving, loyal daughter interested in doing what's right for her father, herself, her community. She stands up to bullies, shows courage in the face of danger while figuring out plenty of non-violent ways to solve problems, overcome obstacles.

Ease of Play

No option to alter difficulty, request hints, but puzzles are generally pretty straightforward, often allow players some freedom, creativity in their solutions. Kids may get stuck in a few places, but a short break, fresh perspective will likely see them through. 

Violence

Exploding robots, missiles, gun turrets, laser walls, other dangers can injure, eventually incapacitate Valerie, at which point she falls, screen fades to black. Valerie occasionally fights back by using her gravity glove to place dynamite, other objects in explosive range of enemies.  

Sex
Language

Infrequent mild language, including "hell" and damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A character smokes, comments on his habit, noting how bad an idea it is to smoke in a world with terrible air quality.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Traverser is a downloadable physics-based puzzle game with moments of more traditional action. The majority of the game is spent controlling a resourceful girl named Valerie who solves puzzles by using a gravity glove to manipulate objects within the environment. These conundrums are occasionally punctuated by scenes with mild violence in which Valerie may be hurt by giant monster tentacles, missile explosions, or robots. There's no blood or gore. She encounters characters who smoke and lightly cuss but engages in neither of these activities herself.

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What's it about?

The sun has gone out in TRAVERSER. Humans live in Brimstone, a city set below the surface of the planet. It's a strange place where half the population lives in the upper city, where clean air is readily available, and the other half lives in lower city, where air is toxic and townsfolk are sick and slowly asphyxiating. The halves are separated by a crust of rock and traveling through it switches the pull of gravity so that upper-city dwellers are effectively standing on the feet of lower-city denizens and vice versa. Valerie is a young upper-city woman about to begin a career as a traverser, a sort of special agent equipped with a gravity glove that allows her to easily pick up and manipulate objects. She sets off on a five-hour journey through several zones of both cities, using her gravity glove and wits to solve many contextual puzzles, avoiding patrolling bad guys, and learning more about the mysteries of Brimstone along the way.

Is it any good?

Traverser has plenty of elements that ought to appeal to puzzle lovers and fans of indie games. Its physics-oriented conundrums frequently allow a degree of creativity in their solutions, letting players work out how to stack or join various movable objects in their own way. The narrative, meanwhile, has an appealing rebellious bent that promotes a healthy skepticism of authority and the courage required to stand up and ask questions when people tell you not to. Plus, it sports a beautiful aesthetic that mixes hand-drawn elements with precise computer rendering to create a unique look and feel.

Sadly, it never quite manages to form a cohesive whole. The gravity-glove puzzles, which are enjoyable but not particularly original, are interspersed with sequences that require accurate movement and jumps -- activities made frustrating by unforgiving keyboard controls. An option to use a gamepad could do wonders for playability. Though the story and world are strange and compelling, the characters and mysteries are only partially developed. Players aren't provided with enough information or details to really care about anyone or anything -- which is perhaps for the best, since the game's cliffhanger of an ending is hardly satisfying. Traverser was probably a great idea on paper, and maybe could have been a memorable puzzler in the vein of Portal or Quantum Conundrum if properly executed, but it needed a few more months in the oven to expand the story and smooth over its rougher edges.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the role of Valerie. She is a resourceful, capable, non-sexualized hero who unfailingly acts in the best interests of those for whom she cares. Can you think of other female game characters who fit a similar description?

  • Talk about screen time. Traverser takes about five hours to play from start to finish, so how many play sessions should a game of this length be broken into? How long can you play a game before feeling the need to stand up, stretch, and do something more active?

Game details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love puzzles

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