Transpose Review

I think I’ve said it on this website before but it bears repeating: time travel is cool. When used properly, it makes for a great plot device that lets you experience things from a unique perspective. It’s also a cool game mechanic. From Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time to Life is Strange, messing around with the fragile fabric of the time-space continuum never gets old. Transpose is a virtual reality game that offers a really interesting take on time travel as a means to help you solve puzzles. Developed by Secret Location Inc. for the PlayStation VR, the game offers some really fascinating and mind-bending scenarios that will have you feeling timey wimey in no time.

Transpose is built around the mechanic of making recordings of yourself flipping switches and moving platforms intended to help clones you produce to reach inaccessible areas or active special power sources. At the behest of a disembodied entity, it’s your job to restore a broken world to life by powering up a large, abstract device. Completing this task involves activating three crystals by restoring their hearts which is done by powering up them through a series of standalone puzzle stages, filled with moving platforms, force fields, pedestals in need of power, and other troublesome obstacles. There’s a lot going on there but to the developer’s credit, the game does a great job of easing you into its way of thinking.

Puzzles are explicitly designed to be completed by more than one person, which is a problem because there’s only one of you. What makes Transpose cool is that the game is recording your actions, whether it’s moving from one platform to another or activating a switch or two. At any point, you can choose to keep that recording, which will respawn you inside the consciousness of a clone that can work with and around the “recording” of your previous self in real-time.

It’s a little surreal at first to see your past-self as a ghostly visage moving around and miming your actions but spend enough time with the game and you’ll grow to appreciate them. The farther into the journey you go, you’ll have more recordings at your disposal to help get you through larger, more complex mazes and dense areas. Transpose goes out of its way to make you think in four dimensions. Sometimes that’s easy while other times can almost be hair-pullingly tricky. It’s funny, just when you’re feeling good and confident about making your way through each puzzle stage, the game likes to throw new elements at you, like gravity and shifting perspectives, to keep you humble.

You’ll learn to develop a mentality similar to chess as you catch yourself thinking two, three, sometimes four clones ahead. You’ll even grow to become your own worst enemy as you try to coordinate maneuvers, like having one clone toss you a power cube, only to watch in annoyance as you come face to face with the realization that you can’t throw for beans. One of the smarter control mechanisms is the ability to speed up time with a device on your left arm so you don’t have to wait long for your clones to get in position. But the more you play the game and understand its philosophy, you’ll easily get the hang of how it all works.

There is a story that drives your actions, however, I didn’t find it necessary to enjoy the game. The philosophical interludes that espouse on the nature of concepts like time and gravity are pretty much window dressing and don’t really get in the way, which is fine. To put in another, more positive way, I found the gameplay and mechanics so engaging that I didn’t need a story to keep me moving along. Even during the game’s most frustrating and devious puzzles, I really enjoyed my time with Transpose. It looks great, with its dream-like atmosphere and abstract art skyboxes. And for as potentially confusing as the gameplay can sound like on paper, it’s easy to settle into a rhythm and really get into creating multiple copies of yourself running through different routines and movement patterns. Transpose is an attractive and creative PSVR puzzler that’s easily recommended.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.