From the makers of Kamiko comes a brand new Metroidvania on the Switch. Kamiko, you say, what’s that? Kamiko was a neat little 2D Zelda clone by Skipmore that was about 60 minutes long. It came out around the Switch launch period as one of the first new Indie games on the system. Fast forward one Fairune Collection and five years later, and we have Transiruby. A game in a different genre and much bigger in scope. Really, this was meant to come out in 2019 according to this old trailer, but it’s only just come to Switch in the last week and the PC a few months ago.
To be quite honest, the delay didn’t bother me because I only just found out this game existed. So let’s check it out!
If you’ve played any Indie 2D platformer ever, you can probably guess how this controls. You have very basic movement, but it’s very responsive like a stick figure with lots of energy. You play as the cyborg protagonist Siruby, equipped with a sword to whack things and a stun gun to freeze things. In classic Metroid-style progression you will slowly get more abilities throughout the game that will open up more of the world.
This game provides a lot of gameplay variety with a somewhat limited set of abilities, compared to say Metroid, Hollow Knight or even Axiom Verge. You only really have a few simple upgrades here, for jumping, shooting, traversing water and some I won’t spoil. Seriously, when there’s only a handful of upgrades, something needs to surprise you. I will say, it’s something I’ve never seen before in a Metroidvania and found it very fun. Don’t worry, there’s more to talk about.
Without a huge list of abilities, there’s quite a few moments where progression is tied to keys, teleporters and locked door puzzles instead. That makes the progression feel a little less natural, but it’s still a very cleverly designed game. You can freeze enemies with your gun and that mechanic is used a LOT, with some creative design I hadn’t seen in a game before. They really pushed the limits of what you can do.
The music doesn’t have a huge amount of variety, but the songs here are absolute bangers. Like the graphical style, it’s 8 bit “inspired” but not completely constricted, with its own chunk of modern flair and energy. The game looks fantastic in some areas too, with a good use of colour and background scrolling. In all aspects of its design (gameplay, visuals, music) it accomplishes an impressive amount of creative depth using very little. More of a throwforward than a throwback.
Something that surprised me was the game’s length, it took me about 7 hours to beat. That might seem “short” compared to some games, but for an Indie Metroidvania this is above the benchmark I’d say. Any longer, and a game of this style would start to drag. The story isn’t too engaging or important, it’s very much a “gameplay first” kind of game. That said, I found some of the dialogue amusing and it introduces some new ideas and themes I haven’t thought about before. What is consciousness, really? Can a robot obtain it? What if a robot doesn’t want to be a robot?
The writing does have a few grammatical errors and typos, but I can forgive it since the game is made in Japan by a small team that doesn’t speak English. More importantly, the game itself is held together very well, and I found zero glitches or technical problems. The gameplay and level design is extremely polished.
One of the most important parts of a Metroidvania game is the pacing. I think they really nailed it, as evidenced by the fact that I streamed the game for 4 hours straight without getting bored or stuck for too long. I got immersed and addicted to exploring, one of the best feelings in gaming. The map gives you just enough information without really spelling out what to do.
That said, I feel I got a bit lucky solving some of the “puzzles”. There’s a couple of things that are very obscure and I can imagine a lot of players getting stuck in this game. While I do appreciate the new ideas, it just feels a liiiiiiittle bit forced at times, like the developer was thinking “what puzzles haven’t been done before ever?” and made some huge leaps of faith, trusting that gamers would think outside the box. They are right on the limit of what I would consider intuitive, but maybe that’s something we need every now and then?
The game also has a handful of boss fights which I found to be a lot of fun. Nothing too challenging, just refreshing and original designs. Overall the difficulty of this game is quite relaxed, something that was apparently intentional by the developer. It’s a cozy 2D Indie Metroid-lite that focuses on exploration.
Some ambitious Indie games tend to punch above their weight and fail, but Transiruby just found the sweet spot and actually turned out to be a lot of fun. It’s a very huge game for what it is, choc full of design and creativity. I wouldn’t call it a top-tier Metroidvania just due to the simplicity, but it’s very close. The term “Metroidvania” isn’t even that accurate here because the vania part isn’t really there, with no leveling up or stats. Just pure gameplay, an interesting world to explore, very good level design, and a cat computer named Necom.