Welcome to Mechanically Beautiful, where we look into the widely debated topic of whether or not video games are considered art. I’m here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today we take a look at Supergiant Games’ second masterpiece, “Transistor.”
“Transistor” is the sci-fi, action, adventure game by Supergiant Games where you play as Red, a singer who lost her voice and is under attack by a strange group. This group, called the Camerata, has sent a hive mind of dangerous robot after you called The Process to try and get back the sword you wield, The Transistor. The Transistor is your companion as you fight through the The Process to try and save your city of Cloudbank.Much like “Bastion”, “Transistor” is a feast for the eyes that really is a treat to look at. The game has amazing set pieces, enemies, and effects.
The main character, Red, is a young women who was a popular singer until she was attacked by The Camerata and lost her voice. She looks like what you would think for a futuristic pop singer. She is a slim women with short Red hair and striking blue eyes. She wears a gold dress that she cut short to make fighting easier. She also wears over her dress, a large black jacket with a upside down yellow triangle on the back that doesn’t appear to be hers. She is not an over sexualized character. She is a fairly normal looking, fit girl, who is only still wearing a dress because she got caught in a bad situation and didn’t have time to change. I think Red’s overall design and color choices are very good, she looks reasonable but also still attractive and cool. She looks like she belongs in the world they designed and not like she was added in as a separate thought from the setting theme. Red is one of my favorite female protagonists I’ve seen in awhile and she doesn’t even talk. Now The Transistor she carries is a character in his own and also a interesting looking sword. When you think of a sword, you think of a long sharp piece of shaped metal that can slice through things. The Transistor looks nothing like this, at all. The Transistor is a weapon made from technology and uses technology as it powers. To keep with the theme of the setting, The Transistor looks like a large computer part. It is a very big weapon and it glows a teal color with gold chips on the end of it. It is a long rectangle shape and doesn’t come to a point but rather a blunt edge. In the dead center is a large red eye that looks a lot like the eyes on The Process. This eye seems to be where the power of the weapon comes from. In any other game The Transistor would probably look ridiculous but because this game has a setting that is a very colorful and vibrate sci-fi world with many odd looking shapes to it The Transistor really fits in. The funniest thing about the weapon though, is that it really looks like you could plug it into the computer. Even as Red drags the weapon along the ground (she is barely strong enough to carry it), it makes these yellow and blue sparks that fly off on the floor in the shape of data streams making hard right angles as they snake along and disappear. Aside from The Transistor itself, the particle effects of all the attacks also look very cool.
The Transistor isn’t a sword you cut someone with. It fires off attacks like laser shots and explosive data packets to defeat The Process. Due to never really swinging the sword, the attacks coming out of it have to look really awesome to give combat that good feel. The first two attacks you get are laser shots that lance through enemies and have amazing colors to them. There are 16 moves in total all of which look amazing. Even something simple like the Jaunt ability, which is just a dash, leaves a cool looking trail of light as well as after images of Red dashing. The best part to the visual aspect of the abilities however, is the fact that they can all be changed. Because every ability can be combined with any other ability you want, you can get some crazy attacks. The abilities, however, when combined change the way they look all together. As an example, your ability called Breach is a long laser shot of blue light, but if you combine it with the ability, Switch, it will become a pinkish blue laser that has little heart particles that come off of it. One of my favorite combos was when I combined Tap with Void. Tap alone is a large AOE burst of a teal colored ring but, when combined with Void, it turns into a chain of red, black, and teal explosion rings. This particular combo looks very menacing.
The Process are strange robot creatures that run off of a hive mind which tells them to take over everything in sight. They don’t look like rough metal beasts that are trying to rip through everything in sight. Their exteriors are smooth and vary between the colors of white, black, and gray. They don’t shine or look like a Transformer sort of metal they look almost like a robot combined with organic life. Every process looks different but they all share one similarity which is the red eye or eyes being somewhere on their bodies. The only exceptions are the Clucker and Cheerleaders, which do not have eyes of any kind. They all seem to share a look, similar to the Transistor. It is a very weird but interesting design that I can’t really compare to anything else. My favorite looking Process is the Man. The Man don’t look like robots at all really they look more like these sort of phantom people. They stand up on two legs and have heads that look like they’re made of smoke and they’re hands and feet have the look of black claws. The Young Ladies are also strange as they have bodies like a women but they have three heads that seem to have little minnie cells attached to them. Each of The Process look like they come from the same place but with different adaptations. They fit very well with the design of the world, just like The Transistor. But the big difference is that they are not colorful like everything else. They are purposefully a dull white, black, or gray. This lack of color in the enemies is to give a stark contrast and show that they are not alive or kind creatures.
It is very hard to really explain the city of Cloudbank as it really has no comparison that I can think of. It is a city with a very artistic theme to it. It has a look that reminds me of old painting styles like Hard Edge painting and Cubism. the colors are very vibrant and alive but everything has hard edges and hard angles to them. Everything looks and feels like a futuristic design style. The buildings and plaza are very serine and look like they could be in Paris or Tokyo but the architecture is flat and has edges on everything. Even stuff like a water fountain is created with squares stacked up rather than something like the circle and elegant designs of a water fountain you would see by a church or a park. The city is very nice to look at and also strange to look at which makes it really stand out in terms of a setting. It is a lot like the outside world of “Metro 2033”, where it is both beautiful and ugly. I am not a huge sci-fi fan and I really don’t like the hard edge look of stuff like modern housing design but I found Cloudbank to be very nice to look at.
“Transistor” is an amazing piece of art and genius, much like “Bastion” was and I would pay good money if they came out with a art book for it. The entire game is hand drawn and every detail nicely thought out and the hard work shows. Supergiant Games are not only master of gameplay and story telling, but they also have an art team of absolute geniuses. I hope to one day have in my artwork the skill and technical genius that the art team in Supergiant Games has.