Transistor is the next game from the makers of Bastion and there are certainly some stark similarities. You have a mute protagonist, a hypnotic narrator, and some of the most haunting and beautiful music in gaming. That said, there are some definite differences as well.
My demo started with the main character, Red, who was about to start a show. She's one of the best singers around but after being attacked by assassins she becomes partially “processed” and mute. The only thing that saved her was a strange sword called the Transistor which teleported her clear across town. Sadly it killed someone while doing this, a man that Red apparently knew very well. At this point I noticed something I love about the presentation: every object has a little stat along with the name. So the Transistor has a stat underneath that says “Kills: 1” and a poster says “Posted: 45 days”. These give little tidbits about the environment that I really enjoyed.
The man wasn't dead, though, instead his consciousness was put inside the sword, and thus you have your narrator for the mute main character. Bringing new powers into your sword by downloading people into it somehow becomes a common theme and was used twice in the relatively short time of the demo. Whenever you come upon someone that has been partially processed you'll see their name and then your sword guy will have a one sided conversation with them (you can only hear his half) and they'll join him in the Transistor.
Once I came upon some enemies that were affectionately named creeps by the man in the sword I got a taste of the battle system. Normally you can run around using your abilities with the face buttons with a cool down involved, but your enemies can do quite a bit of damage during that time and I didn't notice any way to dodge or block. Instead, each room has little walls you can use for cover and to get out of cover without getting hurt you can use a time stop mechanic. Basically it converts this action RPG into a strategy RPG.
You have a meter which depletes when moving or performing an attack, and time is stopped while you do this so you can take as long as you want to set up the series you want. If you do something you regret you can undo it and figure out something better. Once you're happy you can restart time and Red will go through all the actions you set up for her while time comes back but stays slowed down for everyone else. So theoretically you could hide behind cover and then when your meter fills up you can stop time, run out, attack, and run back into cover without the enemies being able to counter. Personally I always love adjusting my character's attacks just right so they'll hit as many people as possible so I found this very enjoyable.
Stopping power isn't just useful for battles, though. You can also use it to press two switches at the exact same time and accomplish a cooperative goal all on your lonesome. That's probably a bit sad if I think about it too long... so I won't. Hopefully the full game has more of these puzzles because I think they're a great way to break up the action for a while.
Near the end of the level Red found a portal to the world that the monsters were coming from and found a root process that greatly leveled up her powers. Suddenly my attacks cost less to use while time was stopped, did more damage, and I had a larger time meter.
Red and Sword (that's what I'm calling him now) got a bit of time for one sided conversations as well. At one point Red comes upon a poster of herself and Sword apologizes for not being able to stop the process in time to save her voice while that wonderful song from the trailer plays in the background. Near the demo's end they come upon a motorcycle and Sword tells Red that she can use this chance to run away from the process to safety. When Red instead turns toward the process he's initially concerned, but then thanks her and thus the demo ends.
This is probably one of the most compelling demos I played on the show floor because it left me with so many more questions than answers. What is the process? What does being processed mean? Is there a hub? I love me some hub towns. Who are the assassins that tried to take out Red? That's where you want to be with a story driven game though; curious and yearning for more. I can't wait to find out the answer to all these questions and more when Transistor releases on PS4 and PC early next year.