First Impressions: Transistor and Remember Me

Last month, I had the chance to check out a few upcoming games at PAX East. Since the lines for everything were quite long, I prioritized two that featured playable female characters: Supergiant Games’ recently announced Transistor, and Dontnod’s Remember Me. Both games are futuristic sci-fi adventures starring women, but beyond that, they have little in common.

Transistor (Supergiant Games)

“Red was a star,” the demo begins, a few short sentences over a painting of a red-haired woman singing into a microphone. She’s teleported into the streets somewhere, wearing a glamorous yellow gown that trails on the ground. Soon, a voice begins speaking to her; it’s coming from a futuristic blue sword impaled in a body. Red’s outfit changes to something more practical when she picks up the sword.

“That’s not me. Not any more,” the voice says of the body. The narrator in this game speaks in the dry tones of a noir detective. When I tried to picture what he might look like, the protagonist from Hotel Dusk came to mind. Rather than telling a story that happened in the past, the narrator is speaking directly to Red, in the present. When he’s teaching you how to fight, he’s teaching her as well.

Red has two attacks available to her at the start: one that deals damage directly in front of her, and one that fires projectiles in a straight line. Both have a bit of a windup, making the giant sword feel appropriately cumbersome, but this is mitigated by the pause mechanic that is introduced not long into the game. Pulling the right trigger allows the player to pause the action and set up a chain of movements and attacks, adding an element of strategy to the combat. For example, I was able to set up an attack on one of the larger enemies, and then line up a projectile attack that would strike multiple enemies in one strike, something that would be difficult to pull off without pausing, since the enemies–white and red robots called the Process–move around so quickly. Pressing the right trigger again sets off the chain, which Red executes while the world moves in slow motion. Later on, this mechanic is put to use outside of combat in a situation that requires Red to hit two switches almost simultaneously.

I’m intrigued to learn more about Red, the Process, and the world they inhabit. Combined with beautiful art and music and a combat system with a lot of potential, Transistor is definitely a game to keep an eye on. Supergiant says the game will be out “probably” in early 2014, with platforms to be announced. You can watch a video of the demo here.

Remember Me (Dontnod Entertainment)

I only first heard about Remember Me recently, and I was immediately intrigued. It is a third-person sci-fi action game starring a woman, with gameplay involving manipulating peoples’ memories. It’s the first major game to star a woman of color in a very long time. The game was prominently featured at Capcom’s booth at PAX East, and I was very excited to try it out. I’m sorry to say that I was disappointed with what I played, but I’m still hopeful for what the final game will be like.

The demo consisted of the first fifteen minutes or so of the game, which sets op the setting–Paris 70 years in the future–and the protagonist Nilin, a “memory hunter” who has lost her own memory. Now she is being hunted, and she doesn’t know why. The tutorial consisted of platforming and combat segments. The platforming feels distressingly similar to Uncharted, but climbing pipes and ledges in order to navigate a dystopic future city rather than remote mountaintop temples. It all felt too much like something I had played before.

The memory remixing and the more advanced aspects of the combat system were not present at all in the demo, so what I played felt like a standard action game that didn’t really bring anything new to the table. However, the demo may not be reflective of the entire game; it all hinges on how the memory gameplay is used, and how the story is executed. So far, though, Nilin is an intriguing protagonist, and I’m glad Dontnod both designed her in the first place, and stuck to their guns later on when faced with pushback from publishers.

Remember Me is out on June 4th for consoles and PC.

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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16 Responses to First Impressions: Transistor and Remember Me

  1. GarrickW says:

    I really hope that Remember Me isn’t disappointing, as some early reviews suggest it might be. If the game doesn’t sell well, publishers, developers and cynics will hold it up as yet another example of a game with a female protagonist “proving” that such games don’t sell, alongside the (IMO excellent, but financially less successful) Mirror’s Edge and Beyond Good and Evil. That irritates me to no end.

    For someone who has never played Uncharted, do you think Remember Me would be more interesting or engaging?

    • Alex says:

      I have that same worry.

      Yes, I think it will feel a lot fresher to folks who haven’t played many current-gen action games such as Uncharted or Arkham Asylum (some have said the combat is an evolution of that of the Arkham games, which I didn’t mention in the post because I haven’t played them myself).

    • BourneApprox says:

      Pleasedontpleasedontsuckpleasedontsuck.

      *Puts all her cyberpunk and female protagonist eggs into Transistor’s basket instead.*

    • Laurentius says:

      Thing is that I recently replayed again Mirror’s Edge and while I like this game quite a lot for many reasons (graphical design ! ) and Faith herself being one of them it’s far far from perfect game with many rough edges ( oh pun ) that just beg to be polished in sequel to make things kohser. Unfortunatley while new IP with male lead can turn even mixed reception into succes and build upon it into succesful series (Witcher ), new IP with female lead is likely to receive cold shoulder from publisher:” meh, didn’t sell” and bing shuffled into shelf for quite decay.

    • Samster says:

      I’m horrified by this prospect myself. I liken it to an interview I saw with a random older male bystander about the late Iron Lady, who used her (and his disagreement with her policies) as an example of why women shouldn’t be politicians. Meanwhile, male politicians are hated and despised all hours of the day, but that’s okay.

      For every Call of Duty and Uncharted pumped out by the games industry, there are dozens of derivative, straight white male-led games of poor to mediocre quality getting the OK from publishers all the damn time. But apparently female protagonists need to star in excellent and bestselling games, or they’re not justified at all.

      You can almost understand why few game developers want to be that studio steaming ahead with diversity in games, clashing with outmoded publisher and marketing assumptions, when in doing so they are bound to become a benchmark for how successful women or people of colour or non-binary gender and sexual preference are in the medium. The pressure on them is so much more than your usual derivative white male-led game-developing studio has to tolerate, where the worst that can happen is poor sales instead of perpetuation or creation of a deeply embedded and harmful marketing stigma.

  2. Kimiko says:

    I notice that both games have a male voiceover that keeps telling the PC what to do. My first reaction was like “shut up and let me play the game”. Not interrupting the visual action with text popups may be a good choice, but the guide just going on yakking your ears off is also annoying. And there is of course the gender interaction in that it is a male voice telling the female PC what to do. Mansplanation in your games?

    • Alex says:

      I didn’t get a “mansplanation” vibe from either game (or from Mirror’s Edge or Tomb Raider, which both have female protagonists and male guide characters). It’s actually an inverse of most games (eg. Halo, Gears) which have a male hero and a female guide. At the end of the Transistor demo there was actually an interesting moment where the narrator is telling Red to get out of the city and go somewhere safe (and not in a gendered “you can’t handle this” way, but in a sensible way), but it’s clear she’s actually going *toward* the danger in order to do something about it.

      • Fonbella says:

        Agreed with Alex. The first thing that came to me was Ocarina of Time and Enslaved which both feature a male lead and a female guiding figure. And technically speaking, none of these guiding voices seem to forcing them into follow what they’re telling them to do, but giving them the best advices to keep on going (this reminded me of the PSP game Jeanne D’arc – which I highly recommend – when Jeanne gets guided by God).

        I’m excited for both upcoming games (played Bastion for a while and liked it a little, but Transistor seems to have improved the gameplay a lot from the trailer alone), but itr’s a shame that it will still be a looong time until Transistor’s release.

      • BourneApprox says:

        Also agreeing with Alex. I get more a sense that the voiceover is a character in its own right, and a potentially unreliable narrator (a la Bastion) than a supervisory figure.

        I’ll actually be curious to see how it compares to the Narrator in Bastion. The voiceover pretty much makes that game, and it’s the same guy (Logan Cunningham).

      • Samster says:

        It’s slightly tangential, but as a TR fangirl from the very first game, I ~hated~ it when Crystal Dynamics added vocal guides to Tomb Raider, disrupting the solace and immersion of isolated, magnificent locales with annoying radio chatter and removing Lara’s agency as solo tour de force. It would have been annoying even if they’d been female.

        But then I’m a grumpy oldskool fan who got mad when Core Design decided to add a love interest to their very last, and very worst entry in the series, too. Blegh!

        • Laurentius says:

          To be perfectly honest as far as i remember two frist TR games from Core have male voiced tutorial section in Lara’s home and garden.

        • Jellyfish says:

          Zip and Alister.

          Their names and voices still haunt me to this day. o_o

          I’ll never forget that part in the Kazakhstan level of Tomb Raider Legend where you have to work out how to move a large, electrified piece of machinery along rails and when you get there Zip is all ‘Hey Lara! The cable on your grapple is insulated. Use that!’

          x_x

          Ugh. *mutters expletives under breath*

  3. Matt says:

    “It all felt too much like something I had played before.”

    Given the plot of the game I found this unduly amusing.

    (6/4 never forget is also a surprisingly simple mnemonic for the release date)

  4. Rakaziel says:

    I guess Remember Me will stand or fall with the memory gameplay and the game balance. So far it looks solid, though the effects are a bit distracting and the sets and monsters look pretty standard.

    Transistor looks really good.

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