Transpose is the new VR-exclusive puzzler from developer Secret Location, who previously gave us the excellent Blasters of the Universe. Releasing on Steam this week as well, we checked out the Playstation VR version of the game.
As with Blasters of the Universe, Secret Location has taken a concept that’s worked before in 2D and created an excellent VR equivalent that makes good use of the medium. This time, they’re tackling the puzzle platformer and taking notions like gravity, time travel and perspective changes – and it all comes together quite nicely.
Transpose allows you to walk up walls and ceilings, changing your outlook on the world when you go. It’s a neat visual effect in VR that we also recently saw in the Cube-inspired Neverout, but indie games like In Between have also successfully used this in a 2D setting. It’s the time travel aspect of Transpose that is at the heart of many of its 35 puzzles though, and it’s a neat mechanic that evokes memories of games like Braid and the lesser known Gateways, who played with this notion in 2D already.
The way Transpose implements time travel is by allowing you to record your actions up to a certain point, after which you start over with a new avatar. Your “old you” will perform whatever steps you previously undertook, and it’s up to you to be in the right position at the right time when “old you” opens up a route or throws something your way. Easy enough to grasp at first, you quickly learn that timing and planning are crucial if you want to tackle the later levels.
Rotating the level and walking up its walls and ceilings can also shift puzzle elements or make them come into reach, which just looks a lot cooler when viewed from a first person perspective in VR. The same can be said for cooperating with your clones (or “echoes”), especially because it feels like encountering another “living” person in VR, which is still a very rare thing.
Control-wise, Move controllers are used to manipulate the world, throw stuff to clones or catch them and to move around. Yes, that does mean that click-turning is involved, as you’re not using a thumbstick to get around. Though this feels like an obvious limitation, it’s never too bothersome because the rest of the controls are extremely smooth and function well. It also helps that Transpose is relatively slow-paced, and the nature of many of the puzzles is that you’re looking at how to solve them “step-by-step” anyway.
Visually, Transpose is somewhat similar to Blasters of the Universe. It’s not technically stunning and realistic in the sense that Robinson: The Journey is, but it’s pretty close to how we pictured VR would look back in the nineties. As with Blasters, this creates a kind of retro-futuristic look that gets more elaborate as you progress through the game’s levels, spread across three themes/worlds. As with Neverout, there isn’t really a narrative that helps push you along – so I’m still waiting for my Portal-like experience in VR.
Transpose is one of those “easy to learn, hard to master” puzzlers that works extremely well in VR. Thanks to the use of VR, piecing together the actions of different clones isn’t only satisfactory in itself, it also looks awesome to see a plan come together this way. Its concepts may not be super original if you’ve played a lot of 2D puzzlers already, but if you enjoyed those then you’ll definitely get a kick out of Transpose as well.