Inspired by the works of Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis is a surreal platforming adventure from All In Games developed by Polish studio Ovid Works. It’s out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 – we tested the PS4 version.
Even if you haven’t read any of Kafka’s works, they’re influential enough that many have heard about his affinity with the surreal and absurd, and that alone makes it interesting to see how Metamorphosis takes those concepts and turns them into a videogame.
When Metamorphosis starts, you assume the role of a regular guy called Gregor, waking up with a pretty bad hangover. You decide to pay your friend Joseph a visit, but before long you see him taken away (unjustly) by the police. While that doesn’t sound especially surreal by itself, this all happens with Gregor gradually turning into an insect himself.
This has major ramifications for the gameplay, as your tiny new body size means you now see the world from a completely different perspective, and this means traversal suddenly becomes much more akin to a 3D platformer rather than the first person adventure game you thought you were starting out with. It’s not just about jumping though, as your little bug self can also clamber onto vertical surfaces and reach new places that way.
Your quest, which should last about six hour or so, is to find out what happened to Joseph while also doing your best to regain your human form. There’s a fairly linear narrative to help you through this journey, with plenty of others bugs to “speak” to, so the replay value for the game is limited as a result of that. If you prefer open world structures that might be an issue, but for a game priced at under 25 Dollars/Euros I thought this was no problem at all.
Metamorphosis, with its surreal setting, looks like a mix between A Bug’s Life and Arkane’s Dishonored series. It may not have the same kind of production values and some of the animations for character models can feel a little wooden in nature, but the world looks great and exploring it with the changes in perspective you get as a bug is visually fascinating.
Much of the appeal of Metamorphosis lies in its audiovisual presentation. The visuals are striking, and the music is excellent as well. The sound effects are mostly just functional, but for a small studio this is certainly a high quality project. There’s some unfulfilled potential in the narrative though, which feels like it could have expanded on some (potential) themes along the way and feels understated as a result.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for something a little different – at least in terms of presentation – this is worth checking out, especially considering its budget-friendly price point. The gameplay and narrative aren’t earth-shattering, but the way Kafka’s notion of the surreal is handled makes this a solid choice if you’re in any way intrigued by the source material.