Transference Review — More Questions Than Answers
Transference tries to do many things. While one of those things was done fairly well, the others are poorly executed or mind-numbing.
Since the first reveal of Transference, I really didn’t know exactly what the game was trying to be. Was it just a VR experience? Was it trying to be a puzzle game? A horror game? What made Frodo want to create this? Well, after my two-hour playthrough of the game, I think I left with a lot more questions than answers. Transference is a culmination of all the things listed above. However, most of them were executed very well.
This title tells the story of a family that is slowly being torn apart by an overly obsessed scientist name Raymond. Throughout the game, you will collect live-action videotapes that will reveal more and more about what all is going on. Well, sort of.
One of the problems I faced was that the story was all over the place. As in I had no idea what the heck was going on most of my playthrough. All I knew was that Raymond was obsessed about creating something and it was ripping his family apart. Now, I didn’t collect all of the tapes in the game but that was within reason.
Most of the gameplay, if you even want to call it that, is practically a scavenger hunt. There are a few actions in Transference that you could technically describe as a puzzle, but many times I was just mindlessly wandering around until I found what I was looking for. There was an hourglass that I could interact with, so I meandered around until I found some sand to fill it. I found a board with five letters missing, so I explored until I found those five letters. I did technically have to “solve” the riddle on how to arrange those letters. However, the solution was practically screaming right at you so I wouldn’t consider this a puzzle in any way.
What was frustrating about my experience was that I wasn’t having much fun exploring the environment. In great horror games like Resident Evil VII and the short-lived P.T., they handled exploration a bit differently. In Resident Evil VII, I particularly don’t mind wandering around as much because there are other things to do such as defeating enemies or scavenging for more supplies and ammunition. In P.T., the game is set on a linear path so there isn’t much wandering off. You are put into a contained experience that excels in every way. These two games know what they are doing and they do it well.
Whereas this game doesn’t seem to know exactly what it wants to be. One could argue that the developers built the game around exploring the small areas to unravel the story piece by piece, but when the story doesn’t click and exploration just turns into a mindless scavenger hunt, you have a problem.
While the game doesn’t really establish much in terms of gameplay, I do have to give Ubisoft some credit in terms of atmosphere. The ambiance and sound design were incredibly creepy. Many times throughout your playthrough, you will switch between “worlds” if you want to call them that. One seems quite normal while the others are pretty terrifying. The creepy world has a dark red overtone with some frightening pictures and texts on the walls.
Every now and then you will hear whispers from Raymond or his son Benjamen. One really chilling moment that stood out to me was a piano that got louder and played the same notes faster and faster the closer you got to it. Other standouts were turning the corner and seeing your son down the hallway. All of these creepy moments are enhanced even more while playing in VR. However, beyond the scare factor, there is not any reason to play Transference in VR. Puzzles and exploration are not enhanced in any way from using the headset. So, you are not missing out on much if you pick up this game when you do not have VR headset.
Transference tries to do many things. Some of them are done well, such as the extremely creepy overtones of the world built around you. While other aren’t anything special or flat out are done poorly, such as exploring the environment or the collectible videotapes. After my playthrough, I still really don’t know what the game is trying to be. I guess it could technically be a horror game? The game’s steam page describes it as a thriller which I don’t really get.
The game also tries to get you to explore the environment too sort of unravel the story by hiding live-action tapes for you to find. However, when finding the tapes becomes a mind-numbing scavenger hunt and the live-action segments just leave you with more questions than answers, you probably won’t want to go find all of them.
Transference will definitely creep you out a bit. Especially while playing in virtual reality and some headphones. Other than that though, 25 bucks is an extreme asking price for something so short and an overall mediocre and repetitive experience.