The ray gun: time-honored weapon of choice for protection against baddies of all kinds. But if there's nothing to protect against, what good is it? Transmover, a puzzle platformer by Japanese developers Polygon Gmen, introduces a new function for your favorite hand-held emitter of energy: transmotion.
The physics behind transmotion are not entirely understood. It is widely thought that the gun itself actually takes advantage of a loophole in the principles of String Cheese Theory, which as everyone knows*, states that all matter and energy are in fact composed of a pair of vibrating subatomic particles, known as curd bosons and wheyons. Each pair is connected by a mysterious force called the yummy vector. The gun, using a process called "cutting the cheese", separates the curd bosons from the wheyons and sends them flying off in the desired direction. When the curd boson "bullet" strikes a specially prepared block, the bosons are absorbed and the yummy vector is re-established. Here, the process gets a little bit fuzzy and green: somehow, the wheyons become entangled with the gun-wielder, bringing him along for the ride along the yummy vector. Because of the law of conservation of cheddar, a mass of equal cheesiness must follow the reverse yummy vector, also known as the yucky vector.
In layman's terms, this simply means that when you fire your gun at a block, you and the block switch places. It's a neat little tactic that injects new life into the block-maneuvering platform genre. Each level contains a key, a door, and one or more types of block. Use the [Arrow Keys] to move the character around the screen to collect the key and reach the exit. Fire your gun using [WASD] at the light green blocks to switch places with them. You'll need to do this a lot, as your character suffers from what is starting to become an epidemic among puzzle platform heroes–a severe lack of game (i.e. he can't jump).
Once you've gotten the hang of constructing stairways and bridges of all kinds, Transmover starts introducing twists. Some blocks can only be shot from certain directions; some explode instead of switching spots; still others become permanently locked after being transmoved. It's enough to make your head spin! Oh, and speaking of spinning, there is one final type of block that twists your shot 90 degrees, as if the game weren't tough enough already! The instructions are all in Japanese, but they aren't really necessary to play the game. If you're unsure of what a certain type of block does, just shoot it and find out. When (not if) you get stuck, hit [R] for a quick restart.
Analysis: The Polygon Gmen (Gurabichon, Monolist) are quickly emerging as one of our favorite developers in 2009. They have a way of teaching casual classics new tricks without either ripping off the originals or losing the reason they were so much fun in the first place. Although elements of Lode Runner and Portal (among others) are present in Transmover, it plays more as if it were mentored by these classics than as if it were borrowing from them.
As usual, Polygon Gmen have topped the game off with little flourishes that could only have originated in Japan, from the curious zapping noise of the ray gun to the hysterical arm-flapping as you fall. The blocky graphics probably could not be less artistically rendered, but they get the job done while whispering hints of platformers from a bygone era.
There are 60 levels for you to enjoy, and if that doesn't satisfy your appetite, there are 100+ (and growing) user-created levels to conquer as well. Yes, Transmover comes complete with a level editor, and while your creations aren't assigned specific codes, they are cataloged numerically in the online stage section, and you need only tell your friends the level number to look for (try #104 out for a particularly zxoical experience). The 60 levels included with the original game vary in difficulty, but are roughly arranged in ascending order. However, if you find the difficulty curve too light, or a particular puzzle to be especially mind-taxing, all levels are available to play at all times, which is a nice feature for a game like this.
All in all, we're thrilled to see the creative output from Polygon Gmen continue, and look forward to many future games from them.
*There are those who do not accept String Cheese Theory on the basis that it contradicts their religious creationist beliefs: "In the beginning was the Curd, and the Curd was with God and the Curd was God." However, most respectable cheesologists maintain that these creationist theories are full of holes.