Note: This product was reviewed on a PlayStation 4 with PlayStation VR and two PS Move controllers. It is also available for HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. A code was provided for review purposes.
Transpose is a VR puzzle game set in a strange world with impossible architecture and scale that enables players to shift perspectives in ways not possible in any other medium. You are a mysterious being with the power to manipulate time giving you the ability to create multiple copies of yourself to solve puzzles which become increasingly difficult and complex as you play. Record and layer these past “echoes” yourself to traverse different, sometimes unfathomable paths and work together across time.
Though it borrows some ideas from other games, Transpose is a puzzle game like no other. You take control of a being, reminiscent of a hologram traveling through portals to different worlds while collecting and sacrificing energy to power an ancient machine that will reveal the mysteries of the universe around you. By placing cubes into sockets, you power the heart of each level. Once the heart is fully powered, it feeds power to the ancient machine and unlocks the next portal into the next level. To power the machine, though, you must solve the puzzles using echoes of your past self, defying both time and gravity to do so.
Before I get into how wonderful Transpose is as a puzzle game, lets talk about the game’s biggest downfall: a complete lack of a story. There’s no explanation given for the being you control and it’s abilities, nor information about the world. While it’s nice to see a more traditional approach to a puzzle game, it’d also be nice to have even just a bit of narrative to draw me in more.
With that aside, if you look beyond that, or purely don’t mind games with no story, but love puzzle games, and Virtual Reality, I can’t recommend Transpose enough. By enabling you to manipulate time and gravity, Secret Location has created a new approach to the puzzle genre that is immersive, intriguing, and challenging. The gameplay may take a few goes to get used to, but is fairly simple once you have the concept down. Each portal you enter starts you off at a spawn pad. From the moment you leave your spawn pad, any action you perform is recorded. You can choose to end these recordings at any time, as well as whether to keep or discard the recording. If you keep the recording, the next time you step off the spawn pad, an “echo” of your recording will follow the path you took and perform any action you recorded before ending. Using these echoes, you’ll cooperate with your past selves to power the heart of each level, and unlock the next.
Often, you’ll find that in order to progress, you need actions with your echoes to be synced up, so you’ll need to manipulate time. A slider on your left arm will allow you to fast forward time so you can reach certain points in your recordings and sync up new actions with them. Your right arm has multiple bands that allow you to keep track of your echoes. Using a color coded system, you can tell which echoes are available to record, which are currently playing their recorded action, and which are deactivated. It’s a fun mechanic that allows you to play with the boundaries of puzzle games. By playing around with it, you might find an unorthodox or even accidental solution. I appreciate that level of freedom, as opposed to a puzzle only having one real solution.
In some levels, you’ll encounter inactive red echoes. By grabbing and pulling out their core, you add them permanently to your pool of echoes, and another band on your right arm. It’s not long before levels have multiple spawn pads as well. With multiple spawn pads, you can record echoes on entirely different paths, manipulating the environment in different ways to work together. Its intriguing to see your echoes playing out from an entirely different position and trying to figure out how to work best with yourself to accomplish your goal. The puzzles grow more and more complex at a reasonable pace, sometimes requiring you to use as many as 7 or 8 recordings of yourself. Given that, some solutions obviously have a bit of set up time, but it’s gratifying seeing your echoes working together and solving the puzzle in front of you.
In the later levels, gravity itself will become a new form of help(or hindrance). These later levels feature multiple spawn pads that will literally turn your world upside down. Not only does this amp up the awe factor of watching your echoes, it adds to the complexity of the puzzles. The challenge and satisfaction of completing these levels gives Transpose a “just one more” kind of vibe. Once I started, I had trouble putting it down. While I praise the game for how it amps up the difficulty of the puzzles, though, its important to note that the increase in complexity of puzzles never feels overwhelming. Secret Location has created a well balanced puzzle gaming with brilliant gameplay elements.
The dreamlike world of Transpose features wiry architecture that is interestingly designed, but not highly visual appealing. In fact, none of the visuals are anything we haven’t seen before in VR, but this doesn’t feel like a bad thing. The game looks good enough for what needs to be accomplished, and it’s clear that more focus went into making sure the game was mechanically sound. While the odd visuals may be appealing to some, they’re nothing special.
I want to say that my feelings about the sounds of Transpose mirror that of the visuals, but there’s something calmly appealing about the games music. While it isn’t music I’d listen to under any other occasion, it flows perfectly with Transpose’s gameplay. More than a few times, I found myself just staring off into the distance, listening to the somber soundtrack.
Transpose is one of the best puzzle games out there that no one is talking about. It may be one of my favorite puzzle games ever, and it’s the only one in a long time to scratch that “Portal itch”. While it isn’t too visually appealing, Transpose uses Virtual Reality to make one of the most intriguing, complex puzzle games on the market.Follow Us On Social Media