Ah, Bejeweled. The match-3 that started it all.
2001 was a wild time for video games. They were back in the mainstream, and with the pedigree of titles heading out then, you needn’t ask why. Grand Theft Auto 3, Silent Hill 2, Pro Skater 3, Smash Bros. Melee, MGS2, SSX, Ico, the list goes on and on. And with that mainstream rush comes the greedy. The bringers of casual gaming to attract unaware newcomers and baby boomers. And thus, Bejeweled was born.
Bejeweled was a weird puzzler at first, something deceptively simple but almost always engaging. And with that, plenty of other successful clones have come and gone with bangs and whimpers. Zuma, Candy Crush, Jewel Quest, Luxor, all of these were more of the same within different framing. But it’s not until now that the puzzler and twin-stick have combined in order to create such an, err.. Experience. This is Transcripted.
This ill-fated mesh of genres comes to us from Alkemi Games, a team of four based in France who’ve been sitting on their thumbs and figuring out Unity for a while with today’s test. Transcripted was their first release on PC & Mac, with it being bought to the Xbox One by Plug In and Seaven Studio just recently.. Wait, what’s that? Plug In bought Neurovoider to the Xbox One? Right, that’s it, just by proxy, Transcripted gets a 10/10 and i– No, I’m kidding, this game blows.
Aside from the fact that Alkemi imply that Transcripted was merely a failed experiment in order to understand the in’s and out’s of Unity, I think that the mish-mash of genres simply doesn’t work. You are Adam, an annoying nerd who manages to create an abrasive AI and an atom-sized ship that is able to travel through the human body in order to intercept the diseases before it’s too late. But now there’s a disease that fights back and so, Adam and his buddies go on to save humanity.
Right from the bat, I had an issue with this title, and that issue was Adam, and his posse, being the ponciest ponces to ever ponce around a poncing parlour. He sounds like an unfathomable douche and the way he treats everyone around him makes you pray for a silent protagonist more than anything. The AI, despite talking like a super serious computer most of the time, will become gaudy within a click of your fingers, making weirdly sexual implications. And your doctor friend is a selfish ass who merely exists to be a red herring.
Gameplay-wise, there’s nothing to talk about, it’s just Geometry Wars if you sucked all life out of it, like an indie vampire. There’s no weight to combat, to strategy to battle, and the puzzle element Alkemi boasts to have fused with the twin stick genre seems more ignored when it comes to actual mechanics. It wasn’t bad at first, it was mildly engaging and the upgrades and abilities did seem to have some sort of effect in combat. But after a while, the odds kept getting progressively higher for no reason, when only the story called for it.
If you’re old enough to remember watching Seinfeld on a TV with rabbit-ears, then you might remember a 1993 release by the name of Microcosm, Psygnosis’ attempt to tackle the FMV boom. Microcosm is exactly what you would expect from a FMV-obsessed gaming industry at the time, and Transccripted follows the path it took beat for beat. However, I think Microcosm beats it in terms of overall quality because Psygnosis knew what they were doing here unlike Alkemi.
The match-3 element is exactly what you’d expect. There’s no frills to it, no attachments, no upgrade to the formula, it merely exists to continue your playtime. It works competently with the battles, as when you grab a piece to shoot and cause a cluster to disappear, you are unable to be attacked until the piece inside your ship has been disposed of. It’s there and exists with some iota of purpose but still comes off as token instead of making a mark with integrity.
But the biggest flaw of all was the soundtrack, or lack thereof. It’s all elevator muzak, that sounds like it should be in a life insurance advert. Where’s the beats?! The body-jumpin’, blood-pumpin’ and block-bumpin’ EDM?! This is a crime. It needs that punch, like the intricate sounds of Geometry Wars 3, or Feral Fury. I would’ve settled for the last two minutes of Enter Shikari’s “The Jester”, just give me something other than a lullaby, please.
Beyond all that, Transcripted can only be described as a “just because” title. Why are we facing several different variants of monsters at the same time which call for different styles of movement and attack? “Just because”. Why has the structure of missions changed, and we suddenly have to defend the match-3 lines? “Just because”. Why does the AI want to touch my disgusting mortal body? “Just bec- Actually, that’s a little bit weird”.
The defence missions in particular were ones that caused severe frustration for your debonair delegate. All of a sudden, everything is against you and the line you have to protect is far too long to be watched from every angle at all times. You might be asking yourself, “Well, maybe this is a game that I have to experience with friends in order to get a balanced experience?”, to which I would respond “HAHAHAHAHAHAH-”
There’s no co-op. The game pushes you out on a little row-boat and if you need help, it chuckles and tells you to go back to Demon’s Crystals for such slander. And it makes Transcripted such a dull journey through some body that’s about to flatline. Between the bad excuse of progression, the unnecessarily intricate skill tree that doesn’t change much in the way of gameplay, and the cringe-inducing dialogue, all of this creates a concoction of criminally claptrap crap.
Upon further research, I discovered that since 2012, Alkemi and the property of Transcripted were in a legal dispute against Topware Interactive, a German publisher behind even bigger crap (And Jagged Alliance 2). The dispute ended last year and, since my discovery of the information, the question that’s playing my mind like a fiddle is “has this legal dispute stopped Alkemi from working further on Transcripted?”
This philosophical conundrum would excuse a lot of the problems that are present throughout Transcripted, the lack of anything and whatnot, but then that brings up another question entirely. “If this legal issue HAS stopped Alkemi from working on their debut title, why did they release it without any improvements or additions?” Bear in mind that this still feels like the Flash Game fodder that the team of Alkemi were making before Transcripted, and if they had just ironed out the many dull creases in their game, it’d be fine.
In the end, I came in expecting Transcripted to be a solid but scuffed twin-stick, and left with a harsh taste of pointlessness. I suppose for the price that came with it, I shouldn’t be expecting something along the lines of Geometry Wars meets Dr. Mario, but Iron Crypticle is around the same price and offers me kitties selling confectionery instead of Zuma. So where’s your cats with Skittles and M&Ms, Transcripted?
An illegitimate son of two genre-definers that comes with some extra birth defects.