It’s refreshing when, two and a half years into the life cycle of consumer VR, I can still come across games that catch me by surprise. Transpose is the type of VR game that can’t really be explained or shown very well, as it needs to be experienced to really be experienced. However, I’m tasked with trying to articulate my time with this otherworldly adventure nevertheless.
In Transpose you’re an ethereal being with the ability to clone yourself and create Echos. When you create an Echo, that avatar will carry out all of the actions you did — exactly as you did them — like a pre-recorded version of your past self. The trick to Transpose is that solving its 30+ puzzles is all about synchronizing your Echos in the correct order to complete the level. In practice, it feels a bit like Braid meets Portal with all of its time-bending and creative puzzle solving.
Typically when a game developer shifts gears dramatically and follows up a successful project with something dramatically different, it’s a mixed bag. Vertigo Games knocked it out of the park with gory zombie shooter Arizona Sunshine, but fumbled its execution on MOBA-lite strategy game Skyworld, for example. Coming off of Blasters of the Universe, a bullet-hell action game, Transpose is something decidedly different. In fact, if I had to compare it to anything I’d seen before, it’s most like Form, an excellent VR puzzle title from Charm Games. It’s actually a much better successor than Charms’ own follow up, Twilight Path. Fans of Transpose and Form will likely find a lot to love in Bounce as well.
I’m reminded of Portal once again in the way that Transpose slowly introduces concepts and builds upon them to establish a deep and robust system. Some of the later levels even involve walking along walls and ceilings, defying gravity, all while replaying Echos to navigate levels and produce increasing complex solutions. Over the course of the entire experience (it took me about six hours total, but you could spend more time in some levels or beat it more quickly) things build quite nicely. It’s quite meaty for a puzzle game.
The Echo system works extremely well and forces you to really think outside of the box. Not only are you reaching out and interacting with the game world using your hands and full spatial awareness as a VR title, but you’re manipulating time and interacting with both your past and future selves simultaneously. Good luck getting through this one and not having to take a break and scratch your head a few times.
The premise and game mechanics feel distinctively “made for VR” in a way that many other VR titles do not. Rather than simply porting over a game that could very easily exist on a flat screen with a gamepad, Transpose feels like it only unlocks its true potential because of the immersive medium. In some ways, it’s a meta experience that puts you inside your own head and makes you analyze the world in brand new ways.
I would have appreciated a clearer story with a more tangible narrative, but the esoteric presentation works well for the setting. Plot points didn’t stick with me as much as the moments of awe and mouth-gaping wonder. Visually, it’s a treat to behold and the music elevates things even further.
Transpose is a stunning VR puzzle game that elevates the genre and delivers an out-of-body-like experience about manipulating gravity and bending time. There isn’t much of a story to follow and not all of the puzzles are as satisfying as the rest, but fans of the genre would be doing themselves a disservice to not play this excellent adventure from Secret Location.