Transpose is an innovative puzzle game from Secret Location, the team behind the brilliant Blasters of the Universe, which I reviewed a while ago. However, instead of creating another stationary wave-based shooter, the developers have created the most unique and challenging puzzle game I’ve seen so far on the PSVR. Unlike anything else I’ve seen on the platform to date, you’ll be tasked with solving puzzles by manipulating time and creating clones of yourself, like in the hit indie title ‘Braid’.
So, is it fun to play with yourself in VR? Let’s find out.
Blasters of the Universe was different to the other wave-based shooters out there at the time because visually it looked really impressive, you had to actively move your body and head to dodge the oncoming onslaught of bullets, and it had a cool little story to go along with the wave after wave of enemies. Transpose is similar in that it has taken a well-known genre, puzzles, and applied a unique twist on it with the time manipulation and clone facility. However, the story appears to be little to non-existent from what I’ve gathered – you pick up small snippets here and there of what’s going on, but ultimately it appears to just be a string of approx 36 puzzles which are tied together by nothing more than the path you walk along.
Is that a bad thing? Not really. It’s a shame there isn’t a strong narrative guiding your motivation as you work towards solving the fiendish puzzles, but it’s not a negative either as it’s a genre which isn’t best known for it’s exciting and deep storytelling. Just to throw this out there, I’m on the final puzzle of the second area, puzzle 24 out of 36, so there could be narrative presented upon completion but I’ve not accomplished that yet.
Let’s do the time warp again…
I love the mechanics which are in place within Transpose. The first time I actually realised what you could do, I had a lot of fun with it! There are two main mechanics in play which you’ll be using to help you overcome the dastardly puzzles set before you, Echos and Gravity. Before we take a look at those though, let’s talk about the controls and common mechanics between the two core features.
Transpose has you utilising two move controllers in order to move around and use your hands. I never experienced any loss of tracking or felt like I was drifting off and unable to pick up the objects – which I didn’t expect, to be honest, as Blasters of the Universe had great tracking as well. You also have two movement styles in play at all times – holding the Move button on the left controller has you walking forward in whatever direction you are looking at, with the Square and Triangle serving as small snap turns. If you press the Move button on the right controller, this initiates a short teleportation mechanic. You don’t have both purely so you can pick which you want to use, the teleport method is basically your jump mechanic – which is why it’s quite limited and not got a massive distance.
At times you may actually need to jump long gaps and appear on the other side of large chasms, this is achieved by seeking a secondary ‘regeneration pad’ and holding Cross to make that your default respawn point. Then, when you die by committing suicide or choosing the option to keep or destroy the clone you’re currently playing as, you’ll appear at the last pad you activated. This will not only allow you to travel distances but it’ll also alter your character’s gravity based on which way up your feet land on the pad.
So, about those two mechanics…
These are amazing. From the moment you step off the initial regeneration pad, you’re being recorded by the universe (or the strange structure you currently reside within). You move about and try to figure out what you need to do in order to overcome the puzzle before you. The end goal is to obtain a small cube-like object and place it within a control panel to re-open the portal back to the level select screen. This is easier said than done as the majority of the time the cube is too far away to teleport, behind a forcefield, on the ceiling, or even high up a tower where the platforms aren’t moving.
As your initial ‘echo’, you need to figure out what needs doing and start an action, this may be as simple as crossing a collapsible bridge and throwing the cube back to where you started, or as tricky as making your way to a control panel and operating a switch which moves platforms around so you could ‘technically’ use them if you weren’t up there pulling the switch. Once you’ve done everything you think you need too, it’s time to ‘rewind’ and perform part two of the mechanic.
You can either kill yourself by jumping to your death or hold down the Circle button and choose to either Keep or Dispose of this ‘echo’. If you dispose of it then everything you’ve just done will be undone and you’ll reappear at the last set regeneration pad – if you choose to keep it then this is where it gets interesting. As soon as you step off the pad (which you’ll appear on), you’ll see another you going about its business. This is the recording of everything you’ve just done! So, if you decided to do a little dance, wave your arms about, wave to an imaginary person, or just play bongos on a broken beings head, then you’ll get to see all of this play out once again.
This is basically how you solve the puzzles in Transpose. You go about your business of moving around and throwing things, then keep that clone and become a new you. Now, you can get a lift on the platforms the previous you is moving or you catch the things being thrown to you. Then, you can create more clones if needed in order to get the cube to the position it has to be so you can put it in the control panel and open the portal.
In Transpose, you can only go forward in time unless you kill/save a clone and return to the beginning of the timeline. However, as you’re working with yourself a lot and possibly waiting for the old you to catch up, on your left arm is a slider, sliding this with your right hand will allow you to speed up time. As I said though – no going in reverse or pausing here!
Gravity is by far the trickiest part of the puzzles in Transpose. As such, you don’t get introduced to it properly until the middle of the second area. Gravity is set to your current orientation. So, let’s say you have a square world – this has sides A, B, C, D (if looking from a 2 dimension point of view). When you’re on side A, gravity is normal, what goes up must come down – so if you throw something up, then it’ll fall back down a few moments later. However, if you keep this echo and then jump to the generation pad on side C (which in this case is the opposite side), then as you watch the echo, you’ll see the item being thrown down to you but its own gravity will pull it back to the ceiling.
If you grab the item, as it comes into grabbing distance, your new gravity rules will be applied to the object and dropping it will cause it to now fall on the floor of C rather than the ceiling and land on A like it was just doing. this means that in various puzzles you’ll be throwing the object up walls, towards the ceiling, just holding it up, and even throwing it off into the void of nothingness. Then, as you create an echo, you’ll be taking the role of a secondary being who is now trying to catch the item or reaching out and grabbing it off the previous you’s hand!
It’s a really interesting mechanic and the developers have used gravity in a fun, yet original way. I’ve recently reviewed Neverout which is a PS4 and PSVR title in which you manipulate gravity within a cuboid prison in order to solve puzzles and find a way out. Transpose takes things to another level as it ramps up the difficulty whilst introducing these Echos and it’s own rules in terms of gravity.
From what I gather, there appears to be a possible 36 puzzles withing Transpose. You have three areas which you unlock one by one upon completing the previous one, each of those has two sections which both contain six puzzles within each of them. So 6 x 2 x 3 = 36. I’m on puzzle 24 at the moment and the difficulty is quite intense so I’m dreading to see what the third area is like! One of the recent puzzles had me starting a platform in motion while jumping to another pad and placing the cube on it as it went through laser beams. I then had another me grab the cube on the other side and throw it to an area I had to regenerate myself to and then finally shove it into the console. There were about seven versions of me running around like a well-oiled machine as I worked with myself to solve the puzzle.
This is the games biggest appeal and unique feature, yet I also feel it could be its Achilles heel due to its difficulty and complexity. Transpose isn’t a game you can go into and expect to whiz through within an hour or two and call it a day. It’s a puzzle game in which you have to think like a chess master and plan three or four moves in advance in order to ensure everyone is doing as they should at the right time and in perfect harmony. Once an echo has done it’s recorded job they shut down, this means you can go over to them, rip out their heart and effectively delete that playthrough and re-record it. But, if you rip out the heart of one which then allowed other versions to progress for their part in your process (for example if that one was pulling a switch or throwing an item at some point), then the whole process will fall down and pretty much stop working.
It’s a bloody amazing game when you get your head around the mechanics and you can start to see what goes where and how it’ll all come together in the end to achieve your goal – but, some people out there may become confused and a bit overwhelmed with the game, especially when you have eight versions of you running around doing their own thing! The opening levels are nice and easy though, and when you learn a new mechanic the game gives you a few ‘tutorial’ levels where a ghost version of you shows you how it’s done and what the game expects from you. However, expect to spend a long time on later ones. I have a playthrough below of six levels, that took just under an hour. The puzzle I was talking about before, with the lasers, that took me about 30 minutes to figure out.
Transpose both looks and feels great to play in VR. Sure, it’s not the sharpest image I’ve seen on the PSVR, but everything in front of you is super sharp with jaggies coming into view the further back something is. Even then though, you can make out what everything is and easily spot yourself waving to future you in the background. The puzzles themselves are often made of simple geometry, floating platform, lasers, forcefields, blocks, and rectangular pillars, yet the actual environments around you look amazing. It looks like you’re in some sort of alien spacecraft, or a futuristic world which was created by robots, for robots.
The music is very calm and relaxing, as it should be in a stressful puzzle game like Transpose as it keeps you concentrating on the problem at hand whilst keeping you from getting frustrated at the difficulty in later levels. There’s no voice acting or dialogue within the game and the sound effects are quite minimal with just a few noises for picking up items and throwing them about. It all works really well together.
I love Transpose and I would say it’s one of my favourite VR Puzzle games I’ve played this year – it’s also one of the hardest. I didn’t know what to expect when I was given the game for review as I loved Blasters of the Universe, so I know this game would be good, but the premise for the game sounded rather new and unique. All I could think of was Braid on the Xbox 360. Once I jumped in and tried it out, I was in love after just one puzzle as the concept was simply amazing. The fact you can create up to eight versions of yourself, all doing their own thing as you work towards solving gravity and time-defying puzzles, is awesome!
Personally, I would say Transpose is best suited to gamers who like to get their hands dirty and experiment as a lot of the levels will rely on a lot of trial and error as well as planning many moves in advance. Chess players and those with a logical mind will most likely get the most out of this title whereas casual gamers may get a little confused at some of the later puzzles. However, I really like the mechanics which are being used within Transpose and it’s nice seeing Secret Location being intuitive once again and taking a well-known genre and adding their own spin on it in order to create something new.
Six puzzles in the first area:
Transpose is an innovative and unique puzzle game which is further enhanced through the magic of Virtual Reality. Take control of many parallel versions of yourself as you operate them all individually, yet at the same time, in one of the most mentally-challenging and interesting VR games of the year. The puzzles begin nice and easy but soon become rather tricky and advanced. There’s a lot of trial and error involved and I wouldn’t recommend those with a short attention span or no patience play the game, as it will only frustrate you. However, those out there who love a good mind-bender in which you have to plan multiple moves in advance so you can create an army of robots working together to create a single solution – you’re in luck!
Transpose is a special game. It shows that when a developer focuses on the VR aspects and builds their game around that core mechanic, it really helps enhance the overall experience. You’ll be playing for at least 5+ hours as you logically try and work out where you need to be so that future-you can progress a little further. If you have a VR headset, you need to try this game out today!
- Innovative and unique mechanics for VR
- Very cool aesthetic on the items and surrounding environments
- Nice and calm music to help with working out the solutions
- Can have up to eight versions of yourself running around!
- Very challenging yet fair
- Some people may find the later levels a bit too hard
- No game narrative/story (not really a negative but would have liked a little story to explain why I'm there)