I’ve played a lot of Match-3 games. I’ve also played a lot of twin stick shooters. Never once though have I thought about combining the two genres. I’ve thought even less about putting them together and then dropping a fairly complex, but well told, story in for good measure.
But thankfully Alkemi Games have. And that’s why we are now seeing Transcripted arrive in our lives.
First released back in 2012 on PC, if you hadn’t already guessed Transcripted is a twin stick shooter that has been fully entwined with some brilliant Match-3 ideas. The two genres work hand in hand to form one utterly brilliant game, without either of the two focuses ever taking the glory over the other.
But there’s also a story included in Transcripted, something which is a rarity in both twin stickers and this type of puzzler. It’s deep, very deep in fact, brilliantly scripted and well narrated, pushing twists and turns out on a regular basis across the 25 levels included. It’s all about corruption, infection, DNA, crazed professors and the annihilation of the human race. But it is well done, has a bit of humour in it and, on the whole, is very cleverly executed. I’m not going to tell you anymore than that about the story that has been integrated into proceedings though, because even though it’s not essential to the fun and enjoyment found within the Transcripted walls, it would be a travesty to spoil what is told.
I will however tell you more about the brilliant mechanics, super smooth gameplay and clever ideas that Transcripted comes with.
So, throughout its entirety, you will find yourself spending time controlling a probe. It is with this small delicate little ‘ship’ which you need to use your twin stick shooting skills to take down enemies. As you do so, you’ll find the majority of them drop coloured cubes, which need to be grabbed and then shot off towards a strand of other, constantly moving, coloured cubes. Get three or more of the same colours in a row and you’ll magically see them removed from the field of play, increasing your score and pushing your progress bar towards full. It works pretty much exactly as any Match-3 puzzler has worked before it, but instead of finding your shooting apparatus tied to a specific section, or stuck in a left to right movement due to rails, you are completely free to whizz around to your heart’s delight – much like you’d do in something along the Geometry Wars lines.
You’ll need to move quickly too, as the enemies which fill the screen are huge in quantity, happily heading your way in order to take your shields down and end your small probe’s life. Thankfully every time you pick up a cube all enemies will instantly ignore you, instead thinking you are one of their own (you’ll find out why via the story), giving a little respite in the action. With brilliant visuals that explode with colour, and a tricky test awaiting you with each stage, you’ll probably find that Transcripted is an addictive little time eater.
It’s not all about just trying to shoot things, grabbing cubes and matching colours though. Again, without spoiling too much, there will be times when you’ll find yourself defending your strand of colours, instead of trying to rid yourself of it, whilst what can only be described as ‘boss’ levels pop up every now and then to keep your skills on point. All stages work with the same gameplay mechanics structure, but what you need to do in each one changes ever so slightly, ensuring that not once will you ever find a hint of boredom creeping in.
A decent skill tree which, although cumbersome to navigate, allows you to pick and choose upgrades and new weapons as and when you want them is also in place. Whilst I have to admit to finding myself just unlocking as much as I could prior to heading off to a stage, with little care in the world over exactly what each one did, those who wish to pick specifics can do so. Want to make your probe a little stronger towards oncomers? You can do that. Prefer to speed up your movement when you’ve got a cube in hand? That too is possible. It’s a deep tree that allows Transcripted to deliver a bit of a tactical hit should you so wish.
To be able to unlock stuff though, you’ll need to earn XP and each level you complete sees you rated on numerous aspects, with the time taken, the number of chain reactions you’ve actioned and the amount of damage taken all seeing you rewarded with XP and medals. Now, once a stage is completed, you’re free to head back into it at any point in order to try and better your ‘score’. There are no leaderboards as such, but personal pride and the promise of further XP is more than enough to warrant a little look at previous levels – especially once you’ve managed to equip your probe with all manner of upgrades to make things a bit easier.
Aside from the 25 story levels, a number of Challenge stages have also been thrown in. There is no real end to these – except for when you take too much of a beating that your probe disintegrates – but you will find your weapon types and skill sets limited. They are all great little time wasters, and ensure that even when the story is told, and you’ve had a think about life itself, there will always be some Transcripted action awaiting you.
It has to be said that Transcripted isn’t going to be a game you are still playing weeks and months down the line. For those bingers out there, it could probably be completed in a solitary evening, but throughout my time with the game, I’ve not once seen a stutter or glitch, have hugely enjoyed taking in everything it is able to deliver and have been left wondering why the mix of twin stick and puzzling action hasn’t ever been seen before. Massive credit must therefore go out to the team behind it.
But there has to be something I don’t like? Well, the early stages can occasionally come across as a little frustrating as you struggle to really understand the flow which is required for success, and a huge ramp up in difficulty mid-way through has seen me occasionally having to drop down in difficulty, to then find that the easy mode is just too damn simple. But other than those two slight indiscretions, there’s not much you can dislike about the cleverness of Transcripted. Even the audio that accompanies your time with the game is brilliant, with sound effects doing the job intended and musical background tracks varied in their deliverance.
With a price point that is so low, a story that will keep you playing for a good few hours, and then the draw of the Challenge mode to keep you going back for more, you’ll struggle to find any other game that allows the same joy to both shooting fans and puzzle fiends alike.
Go and buy Transcripted now. It would be a travesty if you didn’t.