(Reviewed on Xbox One by Games of DAYNE)
A surprisingly enjoyable and quirky platformer that puts its protagonist unwittingly into a bugs life.
Quirky, weird and different are definitely some key words that come to mind when playing Metamorphosis but in the best of ways. Gregor Samsa finds himself waking unknowingly in the body of a bug. With no rhyme or reason behind the transformation, Gregor’s discovery of his newfound body is humourously uncovered through the games introductory tutorial. Gregor will have to apply these techniques and “think outside the box” in order to navigate the seemingly gargantuan new world he once called home from the tiny first person lens of a bug. Light puzzle solving and platforming keep this adventure from being a straight forward affair in the result is a joyful experience of paving a road to redemption.
The story focuses for the most part on an upcoming trial for Gregor’s best friend, Josef, unashamedly human. The player, as Gregor, is unable to communicate with Josef despite being almost literally a fly on the wall to some very stern dialogue between Josef and a handful of other characters. English has been replaced with a very distorted bug language where brief shades of English escape his tongue, understandable for a singular word. This language delivery is cool, effective and different. The nature of Gregor’s, along with countless others, transformation into a bugs life is explained but to reveal how would be a disservice to the experience.
Driving the narrative ever forward are the motivations, rules and regulations of the dictatorship like “business” referred to as Tower. Tower requires its bug servants to follow the rules to the letter, hiring them to serve their corporate purposes and offering promotions and ultimately the restoration of their humanity in exchange for their unwavering loyalty and services. Towards the end of the game the player is able to make a small number of choices that will determine which of two endings will be received. Chapter select allows for the alternate ending to be explored with ease after the approximately 4 hour story is over.
The bug characters that populate this big little world are varying levels of rude, weird and in some cases just downright dirty. The personality they each display is often humorous but always interesting. Innuendo and implied dialogue are fun and unexpected inclusion but give them a purpose if for no reason other than a cheap laugh. Personalities aside, some of these characters are busy carrying stuff, dancing or running around, breathing life into the varied environments, all of which are stunningly hand painted. This unique approach to the art design is playfully beautiful, transforming a boring office into a labyrinth of obstacles to navigate and platform. What we as players in real life associate a desk to be is boring and messy, what we as Gregor see is mountains of books and paperwork, forks that act as ramps and the humans present in certain scenes seem like goliaths. The perspective of a bug turns a monotonous office or a simple gramophone into fully explorable playgrounds, populated by bugs doing bug stuff.
Leaning heavily into platforming, Gregor must carefully maintain balance across bridges and climb steep obstacles. Pencils, hair combs, and chair legs for instance comprise these treacherous bridges while piles of books, filing cabinets and record players are just a few examples of the mountainous obstacles to scale. By stepping into yellow or blue puddles of ink and clue, Gregor can stick to vertical surfaces to reach new heights and progress. A limited number of droplets are represented on the HUD to display how long this type of climbing will last, dropping to the surface below if it runs out. Jumping on levers and handles will activate things while locking in place on a rotary object will allow it to be spun, required for various puzzles such as opening and charging things. What I refer to as Bugs Eye View can be accessed by the B button, showing a top down view of the surrounding area and highlighting points of interest in order to progress. The players trail is also visible, distinguishable by a string of white dots wherever the player has explored. Accessing this view also reminds players of their current objective.
The visual aesthetic is charming, the hand painted environments coupled with the larger than life perspective of the world through the eyes of a big compliment each other wonderfully. The sound design is cool, with the players’ footsteps scratching along every surface, the nonsensical bug dialect that is spoken and the choice of music bring levity to the dire situation of waking as a bug.
The overall presentation oozes charm and buggy goodness, the platforming is fun but challenging at times and the humour present through interaction with the other bugs enriches the exploration and some conversations in particular feel especially rewarding and worth the interaction. To see everyday items as massive obstacles never ceases to feel any less wondrous and invites the imagination of the player to question how the particular situation needs to be handled. Ovid Works have brought a wonderful world to life with Metamorphosis and the surprisingly meaningful message and story that is told is one worth experiencing.
+ Stunning hand painted environments
+ The perspective of a bug makes everything seem grand in scope and scale
+ Fun and simple platforming
– Gameplay mechanics are too safe and limited
– Lacking in danger outside of environmental hazards
Games of DAYNE Rating
Developed by: Ovid Works
Published by: All In! Games
Release Date: August 12 2020
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC