Transmogrify Review (PC) – Shapeshifting Puzzling
Developed by Odyssey Entertainment, Transmogrify is one of those little indie games that’ll charm you into submission. It takes a simple idea or optional mechanic in other games and morphs this into an entire video game puzzler.
That mechanic is transmogrify – turning an object, or in this case a creature, into an entirely new form. A clever and ingenious concept for crafting devilish puzzles to overcome. While it has a few glitches that muddy the transformation to a degree, the attention to detail and lovely aesthetic will carry you through this hidden gem of an indie.
Transmogrify has your little avatar worker attempting to escape an experimental factory where Portal guns have been made reality. Only, instead of bending teleportation to your will, you’ve been provided the means to change matter and form itself. You won’t be having to change yourself to escape and contain the now unleashed alien threats however, you’ll need to change them.
You’ll have an AI bot that’ll accompany you through the adventure. She’ll overreact when things are going awry, make light-hearted humour efforts as you plod along and will emote frequently as you work your way through the labyrinth puzzles you encounter. There’s not a whole lot of characterisation but there also doesn’t need to be – it’s charming and silly without being overbearing.
Things progressively become worse as you solve one issue only to have another rear its slimy head, but its in-keeping with the lighthearted tone and easy-going nature of Transmogrify. I wasn’t especially invested in the so-called stakes of the world, but I found myself sort of rooting for the duo, so that’s something at least.
Spread across 4 worlds, each with dozens of levels to complete, you’ll be required to use your wits and your critical brain matter to succeed in Transmogrify. The core idea is simple: you need to reach point B from point A. In your way are a series of traversal obstacles you’ll need to figure your way past. There’s also aliens, a wide variety of them, no less.
Each creature has unique properties, therefore posing a different threat, but which provides a new means of progress. Your initial basic slimy worms can be morphed into boxes, useful to push down switches or provide that extra step of height for a jump. Flying critters can be switched into handy platforms that’ll move you up levels, while a plant-like muncher can suck you up Kirby style and launch you where you need to go.
Transmogrify is all about you understanding what each creature can do normally, and the opportunities that present themselves when they’re transformed. The game does an excellent job at slowly introducing you to new types of aliens in more simplistic levels before ramping up the challenge and the expectations on how you use the tools at your disposal to succeed.
Even by the end of the first world I was having to think pretty carefully about positioning, multiple alien types and finding the right combinations of actions to move forward. The wealth of variety in enemy types and strong level design foster a nicely balanced, pleasantly challenging gameplay gradient.
Beware Of Hazards
Escaped experimental creatures aren’t your only biohazard you need to be aware of in your daring escapes, either. From bubonic corruption emanating out of every surface, acid puddles fumigating your path and even lasers hindering your movement, there’s plenty you’ll need to be on the lookout for. If you want to survive, that is.
I’d be lying if I said there weren’t moments where it felt like Transmogrify wasn’t gleefully attempting to make me rage. Whether it be a corruption source blending in beautifully to the environment, making me walk into it without a moment of hesitation or a finnicky section trying to juggle multiple enemies in tight quarters, there are frustrating beats littered throughout.
Thing is, that’s kind of the nature of puzzle-platformers. It’s all about the finest of margins. The jumps that just barely make it. The inch of space between you and instant death. Plenty of people lap-up that perfectionistic kind of gameplay. I traditionally do not. Yet despite this, the gameplay functionality and diversity of puzzles presented kept me enthused and fresh throughout, even when I did want to slam my controller for walking into that acid pit again.
Transmogrify will introduce wrinkles of depth as you progress – a one-use armour plate or a one-time double jump – to keep your creative brain areas firing on all cylinders. There’s no upgrade system or anything like that, but the layers of complexity gradually increase to ensure the challenge keeps pace with your knowledge of the systems, which works well even when you suffer what feels like an unfair demise and have to start the level over.
Forgive Me My Failures
Checkpoints are a little inconsistent – some levels have an abundance of them, while others feel like gauntlets owing to you being ended in one hit by any hazard and there being a complete lack of progress-saving machines. On the whole the balance is okay, but some missions in particular stuck out for grinding away at my patience.
Should you wish to master Transmogrify and get the most out of your purchase though, it certainly has some excellent additions to keep you motivated. Levels all have specimens to collect (usually 1-3), typically involving going down a more complicated side route or solving an added puzzle to acquire. You’ll be marked from 1-3 stars for how many shots you fire and how quickly you complete each level, incentivising repeat attempts for alien transformation mastery.
There’s no external reward (from what I gathered) for achieving 3 stars on everything – though admittedly I wasn’t especially good enough to achieve such a feat either – which feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Even just some extra cosmetics or a little icon or something as a reward would have probably gone a long way here.
Even so, if you’re one of those that loves to 100% games and enjoys a platforming challenge, you’ll certainly have your work cut out for you here. It’s nothing Super Meat Boy esque in terms of raw rage-inducing difficulty, but there’s a decent skill ceiling involved to fully complete the game.
If the game does become too frustrating at times, you can at least take solace in its creatively lovely art style. There’s an old-school kind of animation going on in Transmogrify that reminds me of those Miniclip-type games I played in primary school. I mean that in a hugely complimentary way, as it evoked some great feelings of nostalgia and it just flows smoothly when you’re playing.
The environments feel well detailed to mash up superbly with the excellent level design, while the effects and colour schemes are vibrantly rendered to bring it all to life. There’s a certain simplicity to how enemies move and how our hazmat-wearing protagonist bounces around which is endearing and I just found myself easily caught up in the atmosphere of the locations, even if it was at times lacking a bit of energy owing to the static backdrops.
Transmogrify ran beautifully at 120fps with almost no hiccups whatsoever, which was very nice. However, it has a few technical problems and glitches that mar the experience somewhat. In one level, an enemy ate me at what must have been a frame-perfect moment as it then never released me and I was left watching it roam back-and-forth until I restarted. Another level had me restart at a checkpoint but undid my progress from before the save, effectively locking me into that place and leaving me unable to progress.
Additionally, I had some issues with the menu not registering button inputs and a clipping problem on a level that just had me stuck. Every problem essentially made me restart the level given how puzzle-platformers like this work, which was a bummer. Thankfully, most levels are short so you won’t lose loads of time, but there’s enough bugs in this to make you question if you’re overcoming the extraterrestrial ones or just the technical ones.
Portal Of Transformation
As I mentioned earlier, puzzle-platformers aren’t usually my kind of thing. They typically annoy me to no end and have me wishing to be put through a Saw-like trial to vent my anger. However, while Transmogrify certainly had its infuriating moments, the overall experience was chilled and enjoyable.
It takes what is a simple concept and turns it into an entire game, building out a diverse range of enemies to experiment with and understand, while still maintaining an accessible and easy-to-play appearance. With the opportunity of up to 3 stars to gain across dozens upon dozens of levels and an impressively creative aesthetic to keep you entertained, there’s a lot to like. Even for someone who should hate it…
Transmogrify is a Portal gun that’s been remodelled to transform your expectations of a typical puzzle-platformer. It has the occasional issue with bugs (literally and metaphorically) and the usual frustration that comes hand-in-hand with the genre, but its an earnest and delightful little game that’ll keep enthusiasts hooked for a good while.
Transmogrify is available now on PC via Steam (review platform).
Developer: Odyssey Entertainment
Publisher: Odyssey Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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