I have always loved adventure titles. They allow the developers the freedom to create a land of fantasy. The restrictions of the real world need not apply; Fish that walk and talk, people being able to time travel, the opportunities are endless. When developers Ovid works created their latest title Metamorphosis, I was instantly intrigued. It has been influenced by the German author Franz Kafka’s novel The Metamorphosis. Fans of this book must know the game doesn’t follow the plot, but uses it as an inspiration. It contains a similar philosophy, and uses the same ideas and protagonists, but runs its own plot. If you are not familiar with his work, this will not impact on your enjoyment of the game.
Publisher All In Games have coined this title as a puzzler. But I’d say it was closer to a platform-puzzle adventure. The action revolves around Gregor Samsa, a man who wakes in his friend Josef’s bedroom. After a heavy night of drinking, he’s a little worse for wear, and must solve the opening puzzle to unlock the door to find his friend. From here the surreal nature of this title takes off. Pictures hanging in a hallway change from human to bug portraits. The furniture grows, and you see black legs in your peripheral vision. Things are no longer as they seem, Gregor has somehow changed into a bug.
The familiar room that you’ve just exited is now alien to you. You must now think across a 3 dimensional plane. Gregor the bug can run, jump, and climb walls (with the aid of a sticky liquid). But, he is vulnerable to falls, liquids, and like all bugs, being squashed by humans. The game helps to push you towards each area objective with letters that must be read. These help to explain the situation you find yourself in and give some clarity to what is an unusual title. The plot revolves around Yosef and Gregor’s relationship. Yosef is arrested as you try to get his attention, you now must decide whether you save his life, but stay as a bug. Or cure yourself of this curse, but leave your friend to rot in jail. It’s a tough decision, and the answer to either can be found at “The Tower” it’s at the centre of everything wrong with Gregor’s life.
Every area that you visit will have you clambering over and exploring all the obstacles in your path. This was where it excelled. These platform experiences were great. Finding the correct path was not always as obvious as it seemed. There were moments where you needed to move objects to proceed. I found this trial and error, and exploration much more taxing that any of the puzzles I had to solve. Climbing over books and using pencils as bridges was great fun. Covering your hairy black legs with a sticky liquid to get to a higher point wasn’t always as straightforward as it could be. As you fell to your death for the nth time, you soon realised that you needed to change your approach so you could proceed.
This leads me nicely onto the puzzles. For a game that labels itself as a puzzle title, it wasn’t particularly challenging. Most combined bug parkour with platform elements. Your goal was to flick switches or find hidden objects. Items with moving parts required you to operate them, but this wasn’t much more than holding down a button on the controller. It was fun to take part in, but it will not push that logical area of your brain. Like most adventure titles, the characters you meet en route make or break the game. Metamorphosis has an eclectic mix of bugs who are charming (in a bug sort of way) and whimsical. They all need your help and this is where the puzzle element combines perfectly with the linear storyline.
Playing out in a first-person perspective, the larger than life world can be a little disorientating. The darker tones create an ominous atmosphere, and the bug world that you explore is grimy. At times I found it hard to navigate around obstacles as I fell into desks and off chair legs. It was a little frustrating, but it added to the charm of the surreal nature of the game. The bugs you encounter during your adventure were well detailed. And the environments were immersive, it’s a shame that I found several bugs (pun absolutely intended) while playing. None of them were game breakers, but they took the polish off an otherwise pleasant viewing experience.
One element I enjoyed above the others was the audio. The sound of scuttling feet as you moved around, the ominous music, and excellent acting. As Gregor’s transformation to bug furthers, his voice becomes more raspy and animal-like. It has a classic insectoid feel, much like the aliens in vintage Sci-Fi programmes. The music gave it an oppressive undertone. It felt that the protagonist was fighting a losing battle. A well delivered script, with a high standard of acting, moved this title away from the usual ham acting. It was a pleasant change from most of my indie ventures, and places Metamorphosis at the higher end of the scale.
What I struggled with was the sensitivity of the controls. The developers have allowed the use of both the keyboard and mouse and controller. Everything is well mapped out, and the set up is easy to understand and follow. However, the movement felt very twitchy. At times precision was required, and this was almost impossible. It made the gameplay frustrating and added to the aforementioned “dying for the nth time comment.” Using the mouse and keyboard overcame this issue, but I have concerns with how this will work on the console port.
With a linear approach, you may be worried about the replay value. It is fair to say that there is a limited appeal to play the title again, but this matters not. The platforming aspect and surreal imagery make this one stand out from other games in the field. A wide range of achievements are available to be unlocked, but most are gained through natural progression. With around 5 hours of story to muddle through, you are left both confused and wanting more in this disjointed bug inspired tale.
Having spent many hours crawling on my extra legs. What are my closing thoughts on Metamorphosis? First, it’s a game I recommend. It has its shortcomings, but these are outweighed by some spectacular surreal images. Light on challenging puzzles, but this is made up with some entertaining platform elements. The narrative may be too disjointed for some, and the requirement for trial and error may not be to everyone’s taste. But, I enjoyed this, it added to the adventure, and kept me guessing what was happening. Will you put yourself first, and lift your bug curse, or does friendship mean more than your own happiness? Release your inner bug and revisit the world through the eyes of an insect.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 4/10
User Review( votes)
It’s a bug’s life, or at least it is now for Gregor. Aim for “The Tower” and overcome all your problems.
- Beautiful and surreal imagery.
- Excellent and atmospheric audio.
- The platform and adventure elements excel.
- The story may be too disjointed for some.
- Puzzle elements aren’t challenging enough.
- Several graphical glitches.