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Transistor Review

  • First Released May 20, 2014
  • Reviewed Oct 30, 2018
  • PC
  • PS4
  • NS

Ghosts in the machine.

Editor's note: Transistor remains an absolute joy to play on Nintendo Switch. The system's screen has no issues with readability, though the game is best enjoyed in docked mode, where its visuals--which remain striking nearly five years after its original release--have room to flourish on a big screen. Its turn-based combat and relatively brief encounters are well-suited to short bursts of gameplay in handheld mode, though the strong writing and pacing are likely to pull you through extended sessions. The loss of the PS4 version's DualShock gimmicks, such as your sword's voice coming through the controller's speaker, are missed, but this port nonetheless represents a fine way to play what is still a gorgeous, terrific game. -- Chris Pereira, October 30, 2018

A dead man. A weapon. A dress, torn and discarded on the ground. A voice says, "What a night. You're still in one piece; that's all that matters."

Transistor begins with remarkable confidence, throwing you right into the life of nightclub singer Red at what might be her lowest point. There's no immediate explanation for who she is, or what this world is, or what happened the night before, and all this mystery only makes your journey more captivating. Transistor asks you to trust in it, to come along on the journey even though you have no idea where you're going. And it rewards your trust, weaving a beautiful and unconventional sci-fi tale with a human heart, and empowering you with a wonderfully flexible combat system that fuses real-time and turn-based action to create something that feels unique.

As you move through Cloudbank, the world of Transistor, you encounter manifestations of the process, a force that's seemingly running rampant, annihilating Cloudbank as it goes. With the help of the transistor--the strange weapon you pull from a dead man's body when the game begins, a weapon Red drags along behind her as if it's a sword that's too heavy for her to wield properly--you fight the process. You can run around fighting your enemies in real time, but you're outnumbered, and you're just not quick enough or strong enough to overcome them this way. Thankfully, you have a trick up your sleeve called turn, which enables you to freeze time, plot out your upcoming movements and attacks, and then carry them out in rapid succession.

As you progress, you collect more and more techniques, called functions, each one the essence of a fallen resident of Cloudbank. There are 16 functions in all, including straightforward attacks, movement abilities, a function that spawns a doglike helper, a function that temporarily turns enemies into allies, and others. Each one can be slotted as an active ability, or to upgrade another function, or to give you a passive benefit. There are a remarkable variety of ways in which these techniques can be combined, and hitting on particularly effective combinations and putting them to use in battle is immensely satisfying.

Transistor's combat makes you feel powerful by giving you an edge on the process, but it also encourages you to think carefully about what you're doing, because the process is no pushover. It has tricks of its own, sometimes obscuring your vision, sometimes pulling you out of your turning phase without warning. It's a clever foe, which makes matching wits with it all the more enjoyable. And, much like the idols of Supergiant Games' earlier game Bastion, Transistor has limiters, optional modifiers that make your life more difficult but reward you with more experience, so if you want a more challenging experience, you can have it.

You can upgrade any function with any other function, making your skill set extremely customizable.
You can upgrade any function with any other function, making your skill set extremely customizable.

But what is the process, really? And what has happened to all the residents of Cloudbank? Red is driven to get to the bottom of it, and she's not alone. From inside the transistor speaks a man's voice, bringing life to your quest as it responds to your actions and slowly helps you piece together the story of Cloudbank. The always-present voice also puts a relationship at the heart of Transistor. Red can't speak--the events of the night before have stripped her of her voice--but her wordless actions reveal her fierce determination, and as the voice speaks from the transistor, and Red finds ways of responding to it, a connection between the two becomes clear.

Also shedding light on the world and its people are the files accompanying each function. To reveal more about these people whose essence has been trapped in the transistor, you have to use their functions in different ways, putting them in active slots, upgrade slots, and passive slots, which gives you an incentive to tweak your build and try different techniques. The files are so well written and paint such vivid pictures of Cloudbank's fallen residents that you naturally want to uncover all the details they contain.

There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

What slowly emerges in Transistor is the story of a clandestine organization called the Camerata, working behind the scenes in Cloudbank for its own purposes. And while the answers to the plot's questions about who the Camerata are and what the transistor does are interesting, they're not what makes Transistor's story special. Cloudbank is a technological world, but not a cold one. It's not a place of pure ones and zeroes. There's a touch of magic, even of spirituality, to Transistor's story, a sense that there are things within the world of Cloudbank that transcend our understanding of what's possible.

Red has a good set of pipes. Or she did, before last night.
Red has a good set of pipes. Or she did, before last night.

And Transistor's artful presentation has some magic of its own. There are a few astounding moments in Transistor, like the moment when you step up to a microphone and press a button to sing, and Red's haunting voice comes in and carries you back to what had happened the night before, the visuals communicating in shorthand what words would take too much time to say. Or the moment when Red, silhouetted against the city, speeds across Cloudbank on a motorcycle, hunting the people who are responsible for everything that has happened.

Transistor is always a good-looking game, but in these instances, it demonstrates a rare knack for combining its visuals and music to powerfully convey both narrative information and tone, driving the story forward with Red's own unwavering resolve. So in the end, yes, Transistor is a fun action role-playing game with a neat combat system, but beautiful moments like these make it more than that. They make it a game with a soul.

Back To Top
The Good
Fascinating and unconventional narrative that exudes confidence
Empowering combat system that fuses real-time and turn-based action
Visuals, music, and writing combine to create some terrific moments
The Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Carolyn played through Transistor's story twice on the PlayStation 4, using the new game plus option to go through it a second time. She also tested out the PC version a bit. In the interests of transparency, she'd like you to know that she was an avid reader of GameSpot when Supergiant Games' creative director, Greg Kasavin, wrote for the site, and she has had friendly chats with him on a few occasions.
637 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for CyberEarth

I get that it's on Switch now, but at least post a new article about the Switch edition. Some of the comments on this one are literally YEARS OLD.

Lazy Gamespot...

Avatar image for jbreez00

Not that I'm upset by the score or anything, but how does a game with no listed cons get an 8? Lol, even the games that I've seen get 10s have at least one con.

Avatar image for Combathobo

@jbreez00: I wouldn't give minesweeper any cons. It does what it aims to do, and does it well. Minesweeper is most definitely not a 10/10 game. Probably not even an 8/10 game. Even though it does what it aims to do, what it aims to do is not exciting enough to merit a higher score.

Avatar image for lolifofo

Incredible game. I still listen to the soundtrack to this day.

Avatar image for RaveNRolla

@lolifofo: me too. you got both the original and the "hummed" score? i thought it was a great idea to release the latter as well.

Avatar image for JustPlainLucas

Never did get around to getting it on the PS4 but now it's out on Switch, and now I'll get it. Yet another example of if you wait long enough, it will arrive on Switch.

Avatar image for Pyrosa

If you loved Bastion, chances are you'll also love this. It's got that same general "feel" (narrative structure, design, vocal music -- maybe even the same female singer, and isometric real-time combat) with a fun ad hoc turn-based combat mode thrown in. I'm only about 2 hours in and have that same "can't wait to see where this goes" vibe that I had while playing Bastion a few years ago.

Avatar image for pedram007

Good story bad game, would be better as a book...

Avatar image for LeMental

What a boring game.

Avatar image for pezzott1

I;m on my second playthrough and I think I haven't used the same configuration twice. I love this game!

...And love the music.

Avatar image for elessarGObonzo

could be cool. gameplay seems a little like mobile games though. glad to see a resurgence in isometrics.

Avatar image for dametreusp

does anyone know whether or not this will come to the ipad? I have a ps4 but would love to play this on my travels as well.

Avatar image for advocacy

Considering this is a downloadable game, and in comparison to other downloadable games this year (including Child of Light), I think this game is really terrific and deserving of more praise and greater sales.

Avatar image for false6hepherd

@Maverick6585 Yep, I would tend to agree with you. There are no points in "The Bad" column, where is the reviewer arbitrarily taking away points? Although nothing is ever perfect, this game is nearly there. I would judge a game to be near "perfect" if it succeeds in realizing the potentials and doing good in what it sets out for itself in its design and narrative. In other words, this game does not bite off more than it can chew - the combat and customization is extremely fun, the narrative is just right for a roughly ten-hour playthrough experience (which you can elongate by recursion mode and doing the challenge rooms in the rest areas of the game) the music is brilliant, and Red and the Transistor should be held up with all the other great male / female duos of the last year or so - Joel and Ellie, Booker and Elizabeth. This game is a neo-noir masterpeice, and it is successful in all of its gameplay facets, which is more than most contemporary triple A titles can say (*cough* Watch Dogs).

These huge 300-person studio titles that jam their game worlds with content, of which only a small percentage is fun, will have serious stylistic (if not economic) competition from these smaller studios in the coming years.

Avatar image for RobDev

@false6hepherd @Maverick6585  "where is the reviewer arbitrarily taking away points?" not sure how many times this needs to be explained. they don't start at 10 and take away points.

Avatar image for Maverick6585

I've never disagreed with a review before, but this deserves at least a 9

Avatar image for Dr-No

@Maverick6585: I totally agree. I played through it twice and could do it again.

Avatar image for alkimome

This game is so beautiful, it has one of the best starts I ever seen in all games I ever player!

Avatar image for Pyrosa

@alkimome: You should also play Bastion, the game they made before this one.

Avatar image for saint311

How is the combat empowering when you're forced to use certain skills just to unlock aspects of the story? And the balance of recovery and certain enemy attacks isn't balanced? The skill system overall is great, but the force of use, and w/ so many cheap enemies/fights (looking at you multi-Man fights) causing you to just lose skills temporarily, I can only say Bastion is superior, both in gameplay, philosophy/story, and miscellany/tertiary features.

Avatar image for Pyrosa

@saint311: For others having this issue, don't forget that you can hit ESC and reload the most recent checkpoint if you don't like how things turned out during a battle.

Avatar image for penpusher

@saint311 I'm only half way through it but I think you're exaggerating a wee bit. For one thing the info you unlock by using functions are hardly essential plot points, they're just there if you fancy learning a bit more, not everything has to be handed out to you on a silver platter. As for unbalanced combat? I haven't come across unbalanced, or cheap enemies, it all seems quite well balanced. Perhaps maybe you just need to be more careful with your planning. I also see no problem with losing skills temporarily. It's not like they're gone all that long, and waiting for them to return encourages you to investigate the other functions, and to be careful in the planning stages to minimise your loss. If there was no punishment for lousy planning the game would be too easy.

Avatar image for JBLAZE916

How is this a game an 8 when you can't name any negatives?? Please give us the reasons why it's only an 8! Gamespot has turned into a joke when it comes to reviewing games.

Avatar image for seanbrandowen

Gr8 review as always,Turn based strategy not every ones cup of tee.....

Avatar image for tbstage1968

...and another 8. this is getting ridiculous.

Avatar image for McGuirex3

So if I want to play this game on a console then I'll have to buy a PS4? I think Not cuz this & the other games that are out for the PS4 & or the X1 for that matter are just not, what's the word I'm trying to find... right now to buy a next gen. con.! May in about a year or so, maybe!

Happy gaming all!!!

Avatar image for gokartmozart89

@McGuirex3 Was this English?

Avatar image for McGuirex3

@gokartmozart89 @McGuirex3

Yes it is smart ass and if I could have edited it after 5min. I would have!

Avatar image for gokartmozart89

@McGuirex3 @gokartmozart89 Calling me names won't make your previous post any more legible.

Avatar image for darmarian

I was really hyped up for this game, the visuals were top quality, the story was engrossing (to a point), and the combat system was really intuitive... for the first 2 hours. I don't know what happened- a switch sudden;y turned off and it was just repetitive combat with the same drones and different colors, tougher enemies were just bigger enemies or had a prefix/suffix to their name, and the whole story about the people you 'meet' (the dead's back story require far too much reading- and I'm an avid reader) was not as stellar as the hype. I might be of the few that would give this a 5/6 score, but to say that there are no bad points to this game is a little blind (maybe bias due to friendship with Kasavin of SGG? Probably not). But hey, that's my two cents. To all that enjoyed it, I'm glad that you found something more worthwhile in it than I did- happy gaming.

Avatar image for leikeylosh

Just finished this game last night. I would give it a 5 or 6 at best. The narration doesn't have the same weight as in Bastion, the story is dull and the ending was supposed to be emotional, but it ends up being an overused twist and one that doesn't make any sense.

And I still don't understand the combat system completely, it's confusing as hell. Though I have to say the last battle was fun, albeit short.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@leikeylosh A quiet story isn't a dull story, and just cause you aren't given much information on the events make it dull. The man in the transistor hasn't been revealed and how Red lost her voice is still a mystery as well as why she was targetted for assassination and why the city is empty is another mystery. It's a game that lets you do the thinking to fill in the gaps. The ending wasn't supposed to be emotional, it was emotional. The ending made no sense to you because you didn't know the relationship between the characters.

Combat system is it's strong point, extremely customizable and lots of variety to how you can fight make it interesting. The only true down part to this game was that length wise, so much more could have been revealed (mostly story wise).

Avatar image for vmiki88

@Sound_Demon:"It's a game that lets you do the thinking to fill in the gaps."
Bad robots or programs came and killed everybody in sight / evecauted the city. / another commentary about dictatorships in general and about individials power.

"you didn't know the relationship between the characters."
Not really i actually cried just yesterday because of the Lost Odyssey, but i feelt here nothing.

"how you can fight make it interesting"
Use the weakest abilities, thats how you make it interesting. :D

Avatar image for rogeralamode

Reviewer's voice is grating and unpleasant. Also not sure I can trust this review. Is this game really the equivalent of Watch Dogs which also got an "8"?

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@rogeralamode In a sense yes, I'd say Watchdogs didn't have the "feel" I was expecting from it. But this game captures it's atmosphere (art music and camera style) and takes it account into the gameplay and it all fits in perfectly. It doesn't mean you would enjoy it more or less but it's something that you would notice about the game which is a great plus. The biggest downside to this game is it's too short and the story is shrouded (and i mean shrouded) with mystery. Nothing is truly revealed even at the very end but it makes it interesting. Why is the city evacuated, who is the man in the transistor, why was red targeted for assassination, how did she lose her voice? so much remained a mystery but hey, maybe one day there will be more info.

Avatar image for sambucca

Hey, I didn't know Carolyn Petit was a tran....errr....sistor player...

Avatar image for kleefkikker

@ESPM400 @kidflash2000 they should cut the review scores already tbh; it never makes sense

makes a lot more sense to say "this is what is good about this game, these are the things that are bad. then a personal opinion for example "I don't like shooters, but I had fun with this" and personal gripes "if you don't like shooters, this might not be your kind of game"

Avatar image for kleefkikker

@Sound_Demon I see this come up a lot on GS, 'are you a boy or a girl?' - it hardly matters what sex/gender the person writing a review is.

Don't know thise other games, but I thought the review on this was well-written and informative - looks like it will be a lot like Bastion; nice gameplay, but the game will be more memorable for the visuals and especially the audio.

Avatar image for klugenbeel

@kleefkikker @Sound_Demon Exactly, doesn't matter if Carolyn is male or female...her reviews and opinions are terrible male or female. I'm not sure who's voice is more annoying, Carolyn's or Jess's. Thank god Gamespot got Lisa Foiles...what a breathe of fresh air to hear a female that doesn't make my ears bleed.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@klugenbeel @kleefkikker @Sound_Demon This man knows what he's talking about, those reviewers (if we can even call them that) have the worst reviews ever. How did they even get this job?

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@kleefkikker @Sound_Demon I wanted to know because I couldn't tell, the reasons I gave had nothing to do with her gender.

Avatar image for Evil_Saluki

I love this game, it's like a modern day Amiga classic.

Avatar image for hitomo

@Evil_Saluki no one likes Amiga games ... if people would have actually needed to pay for (Amiga games) the System would have been dead after a few month ..

but the comparison to something old and limited like an Amiga classic game, says more then a lot about this games


Avatar image for gamefreak215jd

Looks stunning.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat


If you don't like "hipsterism", that's your problem.

Also, if you want Carolyn Petit fired, you should be boycotting her articles - by coming here to b*tch about her reviews, you are already contributing to the views which her articles get.

Avatar image for Sound_Demon

@Ailurusf @Sound_Demon I'm saying she based her score on her hipsterism which is ridiculous. She gave gone home and KRZ3 ratings of 9 and 9.5. The other reviewers had no comment on the situation but that it was her review and she gave her take on it. I don't trust the basis of the ratings nor their value anymore, unless it's Kevin. I personally loved this game.

Avatar image for Ailurusf

@Sound_Demon It's "her". Carolyn is transgender and female identified. Not sure what's so hard to understand about that.

Avatar image for CoRiNi

Great game, the world is beautiful, a world that I always imagined as something we will see in the future. Amazing soundtrack as well. the gameplay is fun and the fighting doesn't get repetitive due to the many possible skill combinations.

My only disappointment is the exclusion of the "hummed" versions of the soundtrack in the original Soundtrack, which I had to record myself from the game to listen to them.

Avatar image for hitomo

@CoRiNi but the game Looks like something we know from the past

Transistor More Info

  • First Released May 20, 2014
    • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
    • Linux
    • + 4 more
    • Macintosh
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • PlayStation 4
    Transistor is a science-fiction-themed action role-playing game set in a futuristic city where you will take on the role of a young woman who gains control of an extraordinary weapon of unknown origin after a mysterious group of assailants nearly kills her with it.
    Average Rating206 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Transistor
    Developed by:
    Supergiant Games
    Published by:
    Supergiant Games, Limited Run Games
    Role-Playing, Action
    Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.