A few years ago, I bought a game titled KAMIKO on a whim for my Switch console. While not the longest or most detailed title, it left a nice impression on me for its tight controls, cute aesthetic, and lovely soundtrack. Some time later, I discover that its developer, Skipmore, was making a new game. A metroidvania adventure of a much larger scale, featuring a very similar aesthetic and obvious ambition. Awaiting patiently for news of a release date, I was thrilled to see that a demo of Transiruby was to be featured in Steam’s current Next Fest. And here we are.
Given that the Metroid series is my favorite game franchise of all time, anything with a “metroidvania” tag is bound to receive some of my interest. The slow build of weak to strong—a natural progression of events that grow along with the player’s skill and capabilities. I live for that manner of gameplay, which only adds a substantial amount of immersion and replayability. Transiruby certainly has fierce competition at play if it wishes to stand out amongst other modern metroidvanias that have ravished the gaming community. Its demo leaves this feeling… somewhat resolved.
Transiruby is available to play as a free demo between October 1-7 during Steam’s Next Fest. An “Autumn 2021” timeframe has been provided for a full release.
Story – Just Do As the Cat Says
With a quick opening sequence that serves mostly as a tutorial for the controls, we meet Siruby and her AI companion called “Ne-com.” (Neko + Computer.) They’re alerted to a certain disturbance from a nearby area in space, which Siruby takes upon herself to investigate. Upon landing, however, she loses roughly 70% of her internal capabilities due to a variety of bluntly explained logical reasons. Classic metroidvania. Unperturbed, she quickly begins her investigation around the planet(?), meeting a variety of creatures and characters along the way.
The duration of this demo took me roughly 50 minutes, so not too much is on display here. I will comment on the writing thus far, though, which is refreshingly self-aware. Ne-com is basically an exposition machine, serving as a floating tutorial device for new players. When elaborating on a “new” item acquired, it explains to Siruby what it does, to which she replies, “I know what it does. It was part of my internal design.” Snappy comments like this allow for some incentive to actually read conversations between them, instead of zoning out due to filler text. Simultaneously, it gives credence to seeing these two as characters with distinct personalities.
While some fanfare applies, as for how short this demo is, there isn’t much of it. Throughout, you meet up with two additional characters that both have some amusing banter to offer. You only encounter them once, however, and a (large) majority of one’s playtime will be dedicated to basic exploration and combat. Metroidvanias tend to lean more on atmosphere and discovery, and Transiruby is little different. A bite-sized morsel of cute dialogue ends up being a nice motivator to continue further, but otherwise lacking within the demo.
Gameplay – Grind for That Sweet Ammo
I don’t wish to compare this too much to Skipmore’s prior works, but wow, playing Transiruby reminded me a lot of KAMIKO. A different level of freedom, sure, but many aspects from that game return here. A combo system that rewards more collectible… sparkles(?) for quickly offing enemies, which serve as collectible ammunition. Collecting little trinkets to use as currency to progress further. Close-range swordplay with some meat to it. While definitely adjusted more for the genre it’s attempting to embody, I couldn’t help but think, “Oh, I feel I’ve been properly prepared!”
Most of what one will do over the course of the demo is platforming and searching for new items. The map is quite big, and many different things to interact with lie in wait for the player. A pretty standard adventure with some quirks to satisfy the appetite of those metroidvania aficionados. You’ll slice up dark creatures, use your arsenal to manipulate the environment, and collect a whole bunch of shiny trinkets. Even a sliding puzzle makes an appearance at one point. And shoot a lot of things—so much shooting.
In general, the gameplay was smooth and responsive, with no issue of framerate or bugs to speak of. Controlling Siruby is just as tight and intuitive as one would expect from Skipmore’s other titles. Quite simplistic, though not as a fault. Things are communicated via text prompts, mostly, though some experimentation is advised just to see what all is possible within the control scheme. I know I did. One such thing is the downward thrust, which is, at this point, Siruby’s most powerful move and one very easily accessible. It kills most things in one blow and the execution is quite fast—felt like Yoshimitsu from Soulcalibur using his sword as a pogo stick. If you want my advice, use this attack early and often.
Working through the world of Transiruby over the course of its demo ended up just a smidge on the repetitive side. Though this could certainly be due to how little one has to work with at that point. Traveling around the world has some merit early on, though at some point I grew tired of the same old formula of shooting at things to unlock progression, then grinding enemy fodder for further ammunition. At the end of the demo, some video is shown of what more to expect of the game at full release, and some of the things look incredible, which was a great marketing tool. Unfortunately, even with that specific showcase, there’s not much gameplay-wise that would satisfy those in the first hour.
I also believe that a lot of things are kind of left on the table without any elaboration. Collecting some special objects throughout will yield a “Oh, this looks neat. Keep collecting these just in case,” from Ne-com. It’s collecting for the sake of collecting at this point. Some are fine with this as bonafide treasure hunters; others may not bother to further explore without some reason to do so. Something that Grapple Dog‘s demo provided was a succinct feeling of completeness, like playing that demo provided you with everything you would need to know going into the full game. This feeling did not transfer quite as well here.
Graphics & Audio – Robotic Symmetry
What it lacks in detail, it makes up for in color. Such gorgeous displays of scenery and natural structures, designed in a simplistic pixel form. Character models such as Siruby aren’t all that impressive by comparison, though they stand out enough through vibrant color schemes that polarize the overall setting. A nice sheen shows through with every new room, new enemy, and particularly with the demo’s sole boss fight.
Even the design of the world has some little trinkets of clever visual display. Little passageways can be spotted through slight indentations in the wall; the boss’s weakpoint is shown through a heart during a certain attack; some enemies will vibrate rapidly to signify a coming attack. These particular aspects allow players to evaluate the situation and learn from patterns to better themselves for future encounters. Transiruby has enough visual detail to keep things balanced and fair, along with just being really nice to look at.
As if I haven’t brought up KAMIKO enough in this post, the sound effects present are practically the same. Once again, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of beeps and boops and “punts” and “brrs” are almost used as a developer stamp. Not that I’m complaining—the game has a delectable crunch to it that keeps things exquisitely alien. Just about as expressive as the overall visual make-up, the sound effects are well-established and translate well into the atmosphere of the game. Though in terms of what people consider a “standard metroidvania,” it’s maybe a tad too poppy.
The demo’s soundtrack is not particularly packed, either. Overall, it’s okay, though doesn’t seem to really bust out the best tracks possible. It goes for more of a combination of ambiance and beep-tuning, which, for what it’s worth, has some charm to it. Though other Skipmore works have fared better; maybe future areas will do better? With only 50 minutes, not much in terms of soundtrack sticks out.
Transiruby was previewed through a demo available on Steam.