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Video Game / Transistor

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Everybody has a voice in Cloudbank.
Now the city's most influential voices are vanishing one by one.
It is Red's turn.


Transistor is the Spiritual Successor to Supergiant Games' previous hit Bastion, featuring the returning voice talent of Logan Cunningham as the titular weapon. In the city of Cloudbank, a young singer known as Red is attacked by a mysterious organization known as the Camerata. Somehow, she survives (although she loses her voice) but finds the dead body of a man she knows. Impaled in his stomach is a mysterious sword called the Transistor, and contained within the sword is the soul of the man himself. Red takes the sword, and together they set out to discover the intentions of the Camerata and stop the dangerous force known as the Process from overtaking the city.

Gameplay is a mixture of real-time action comparable to Bastion and tactical RPG-like elements; "Planning Mode", A.K.A. "Turn()", can be used to plan a chain of attacks and move around at high speed when executing the plan. There are a number of Functions (a.k.a. spells) to unlock, each capable of being used as a skill themselves, an upgrade to another Function, or as a passive ability, with a huge variety of available combinations.


This game provides examples of:

  • Abstract Scale: The interface sometimes lists some useless flavor data on interactive items (like the number of steps on a staircase). Some of it dips into this, like measuring "Opinions swayed" on a poster, or a count of Junction Jan's "satisfactions guaranteed."
  • Action Bomb: Haircuts, a mook spawned by Man that flies into Red and explodes on contact. It can be attacked to make it detonate early, potentially harming Man if he's caught in the blast.
  • Action Dress Rip: Red rips her ballgown and dons the coat of the dead man just before the game begins.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: All of the Camerata get rather sad deaths. After a long boss fight, Sybil is reduced to flailing about on the stage and even the Man in the Transistor, whom Sybil murdered, feels bad for her and asks Red to put her out of her misery. Grant commits suicide over the horrors his actions have wrought, and Asher follows suit as he can't bear to live in a world without Grant. Royce has a rather disturbing panic attack when he fades away after Red defeats him.
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  • Ambiguous Ending: In a way. What the player sees on the screen is clear enough, but the broader implications aren’t.
  • Anti-Climax: Asher and Grant take their own lives before you get the chance to even fight them. The "battle" is aptly named "Cowards".
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • No matter how small the remaining amount of Turn() processing left, any function you have can be used regardless of how much it would go over that leftover. This allows you to tack high-cost functions like Cull() to the end of a series of cheaper set-up functions for devastating combos.
    • If you fumble the puzzle that requires two break points to be activated simultaneously enough times, the game outright tells you to use Turn(). Continuing to fumble it after that will cause the game to give up and open the break points for you, although the Transistor will be embarrassed by this (and you should be too).
    • If you only have one damage-dealing function installed, it overloads last even if it has the highest MEM cost. It's important to note that this only works if your other functions do no damage of any kind; Jaunt(), for example, can do damage if you've upgraded it properly, and the game takes this into account.
    • If you manage to overload the Transistor in the first few battles prior to the first access point, you won't lose any functions from doing so. This is especially important in New Game+, as a loadout optimized to beat the final boss is often impractical when dealing with greater numbers of weaker Processes.
  • Apocalypse How: The Process is slowly devouring everyone and everything in Cloudbank.
  • Apocalyptic Log: The news terminals are an ongoing version of this, with the reporter covering the Process slowly overtaking the city, culminating in one final news story with the reporter standing with the last survivors and saying goodbye to Cloudbank before they're all processed.
  • Arc Number: Abusively uses many numbers related to computing, architecture, and general online fora mechanics. Sixteen slots of available input and functions which loops to 32 functions after a certain level. Two achievements (1024, 2048) point to another trope.
  • Arc Symbol: Triangles. There's one on Red's dress, her boyfriend's coat, the Transistor's hilt, etc.
  • Arc Words:
    • "When everything changes, nothing changes." The Camerata creed, which is mentioned at least twice, comments on the nature of all-encompassing changes, many of which have occurred through out the game, such as how Cloudbank votes for the weather and the color of the sky, the complete destruction and processing of the city, as well as the fact that every one went to the country in the end. Though should Red let Royce win, then instead, Royce gets to completely rebuild the city.
    • "Come closer."
  • Area of Effect:
    • The Spark() attack fires a small bomb which splits into six more bombs that explode around the initial point of contact.
    • Load() generates explosive orbs as a primary function, and as an upgrade adds an explosive modifier to most abilities.
  • Art Deco: The art direction takes inspiration from Cyberpunk, Art Deco, and Gustav Klimt.
  • Assimilation Backfire: The game is kicked off when the man in the Transistor is first processed. Instead of just being absorbed like everyone else, he hijacks it and teleports Red to safety, totally screwing up the Camerata plot.
  • Assimilation Plot: The Process and Camerata are processing everyone and everything they can throughout the game. It's only "intentional" on the part of the Process, as that was its function. The Camerata suffers a collective My God, What Have I Done? moment when the Process runs berserk.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The Spine, a giant, worm-like Process that appears in two parts of the game.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: The Spine will occasionally try to hit you with its tail, either dropping it on the battlefield or popping out of walls.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • Using Help() as a passive command gives you a 25% chance of becoming a Superuser whenever you use Turn(), giving you access to the unique Kill() command that has the highest base damage in the game, but it can't be enhanced with support commands and using it once takes up your entire Turn(), meaning you can't perform any combos with it either. Borders on Annoying Video-Game Helper (or Annoying Video Game Help()er?) if you were lining up for a piercing attack like Breach(); you're out of luck since you can only use Kill() this turn and it explodes on first impact.
    • Using Help() as a primary function has similar problems. The awesome: you can summon a Fetch, one of the most dangerous Processes, and upgrade it with other functions to make it even more powerful. The impractical: once you exceed a very short distance from the pet, it unsummons. Yes, if you exceed this distance during a Turn(), despite ending the Turn() right next to the pet, it will still unsummon. The super super impractical: if you exceed the distance during your Turn(), your Turn() ENDS, AND you lose the pet. This pretty much makes Help() one of the most disruptive support enemies you could face in the game.
  • Back from the Dead: When killed, Processes will drop a cell which can then be collected. If you fail to collect it, it will regenerate back into the Process you just killed. One Limiter can cause Processes to drop multiple cells, all of which respawn into the same enemy which spawned them. Younglady is an exception. When she is killed, she drops nearly a dozen cells with a regeneration rate half that of normal. All of them regenerate into Badcells if not collected. Badcells do not drop cells when killed in any situation.
  • Back Stab: Attacking Processes from behind gives you bonus damage. Using Mask() as an upgrade further enhances this, and you also get a damage bonus on your first attack if you use Mask() to cloak yourself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: After restoring the bridge statues of herself and Mr Nobody, Red elects to kill herself with the Transistor so she'll be with her lover inside the Transistor. It's quite close to a Downer Ending as well, as Cloudbank is completely destroyed and everyone is killed in its downfall.
  • Bleak Level: Cloudbank as a whole slowly becomes this as it gets processed. Eventually Red returns to the Empty Set, and finds that almost the entire area has been processed, and by the time she gets to Fairview she finds it's been processed entirely.
  • Blown Across the Room: What Crash() and Breach() can do, while Cull() will launch enemies into the air. These skills can be combined for even greater effect.
  • Book-Ends: The game begins and ends at the same location with a corpse stabbed with the Transistor—the latter is Red's.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • There's a lot of cool skills, but Crash() is by far the most useful standby you'll have. It has a decent attack speed, decent Turn() cost, stuns, synergizes well with most other functions, and its only drawback is short range.
    • Jaunt() is simply a low cost dash move. Slap Help() into it and half your enemies will be busy clawing at decoys you left behind as you dance around like a bunny on crack. Put Load() into it and you'll be bombing Processes left and right just by moving. This'll cost you a fair bit of MEM, though. Alternatively, tack it on to any function as an upgrade. You now have a function which works during Turn() cooldown, which is practically indispensable in later battles when collecting Cells is imperative, and makes killing shielded Badcells much easier.
  • Breakable Power-Up: If you take enough damage to empty the Life Meter, the equipped function using the most MEM is disabled (if this happens to be your only damage-dealing function, then the second-highest is taken instead). If you lose all four, it's Game Over. Disabled functions will regenerate after reaching two or more Save Points (depending on if Limiters are active).
  • Bullfight Boss: Sybil fights by charging you with a massive parasol used as a spear.
  • Cap: Your level is capped at 30, though it takes at least two playthroughs to reach it depending on your use of Limiters.
  • Central Theme: Hubris, and the consequences of never looking back.
  • Charm Person: Switch(). Charmed Processes can't be damaged by the player, and will switch back instantly if hit a second time.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The very first terminal of the game talks about a potential project to build a bridge from Cloudbank to Fairview. Near the end of the game, Red and the Transistor end up building the bridge themselves to meet up with Royce.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Red's Flourish ability causes the Transistor to fly out of her hands, which is fun to mess around with. She uses this ability at the very end of the game, operating the Transistor remotely in order to commit suicide.
  • Cherry Tapping: Ping() does almost no damage, but has an extremely high attack speed and really low Turn() cost. It pairs well with Load() to trigger the bombs that program creates.
  • City Noir: Cloudbank definitely has a lot of noir aesthetics.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: After defeating Sybil the third time, she starts to transform again and the Man in the Transistor warns you to be prepared for another fight. All that comes out of the transformation is a mortally wounded and completely harmless Sybil and several cores that never turn into enemies.
  • Collision Damage: Cull() as a passive or Help() upgraded with Cull() allows Red or Luna, respectively, to inflict this during Turn().
  • Combinatorial Explosion: Every new function you find has one of three uses: Active, Upgrade, or Passive. Active uses the function as a skill, either damage-dealing or support. Upgrade uses the function to enhance an active function, and Passive enhances Red herself. There are a total of 16 functions to choose from, so there's a lot of ways to mix and match. In New Game+, you unlock additional copies of the functions which allow you to stack them for even more combinations. The game even keeps track of which combinations you've actually used in battle, and each function needs to be used in each type of slot at least once to unlock the available backstory for that function.
  • Continuing is Painful: Played with. If you are killed, your highest MEM function is overloaded (unless it's your only damage-dealing function, which always overloads last), rendering it unusable, and your life bar is restored. Depending on how you've set yourself up, this can range from a mere annoyance to making the battle outright unwinnable. This is intentional and well-planned by the devs; the highest-cost function is lost first (most likely the favorite which the player dumped a bunch of powerful upgrades into), forcing players to equip and try out different functions at the next save point until the lost function is restored at a later save point. Losing a function you were relying on forces you to adapt your strategy, which gives you lots of chances to find the many hidden interactions and strategies in the game. It's also a vital component of the Mirror Boss fights. Both of them have multiple lives and will almost certainly take one of the player's functions through sheer attrition, so being able to sacrifice one is important unless you know how to win that battle without dying.
  • Cool Bike: Red gets to ride one for a little while near the start of the game, and again on the return trip.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: A group of Well Intentioned Extremists Dug Too Deep and unleashed something beyond their understanding which they hoped to control, but end up consigning everyone and everything to inevitable destruction. It ends with Red technically winning, but Cloudbank is gone and she's the only one left alive, so she is Driven to Suicide.
  • Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Subverted, the Transistor wishes it would rain to help hide your tracks. However, Cloudbank's weather is controlled by public ballot and rain isn't even an option. Later on you get admin access to the city and can make it rain or snow.
  • Cyberspace: Cloudbank itself is implied to be some sort of virtual reality, with the power to reshape itself through the will of the populace. As the Process spreads, doorways start spitting out computer errors, Cartesian coordinates for their endpoints, and hexadecimal file locations.
  • Darker and Edgier: The game is noticeably darker than Bastion. While Bastion takes place After the End, Transistor puts the player right in the middle of the ongoing apocalypse as they get to watch everything fall apart around them. And unlike Bastion, nobody survives to the end of the game (or at least nobody survives unprocessed.)
  • Dark Reprise: The game includes a few "processed" versions of tracks, such as the version of "In Circles" that plays during the fight with Sybil.
  • Deadly Euphemism: It soon becomes clear that "The Country" is a nice way of referring to the afterlife. Though, assuming Cloudbank is indeed some sort of virtual reality, it could simply be the offline world.
  • Deflector Shield:
    • Cheerleaders cover nearby enemies in these (or Red if she uses Switch() on one). Later versions can also shield themselves temporarily in addition to their targets.
    • Red can get a one-hit shield that recharges after a while by using Bounce() as a passive function.
  • Democracy Is Flawed:
    • Everything in Cloudbank — from the weather to the color of the sky — is decided by public poll. This has left the city constantly changing to suit whatever whim the citizens have, and frequently left the less-well off at the mercy of a tyranny of the majority.
    • Seems to be the motive of the Camerata, seeking to build a better system through the use of the Transistor and the Process, though the exact details are never revealed.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Most high MEM cost functions veer into this.
    • Load() lets you plant a massively damaging bomb that eats up almost half your Turn() gauge in base form. But once you've got the hang of it, it's downright deadly. Use it to upgrade Mask() to perform explosive cloaking, turn it into status debuff mine with an increased blast radius, or use Crash() to chuck it at foes like a mortar.
    • Ping() is practically useless on its own, as even with its high attack speed its damage is negligible. Paired with other functions, though, it becomes valuable support tool.
    • Breach() has low attack speed and high turn cost, but also pierces destructible objects and does high damage. A bit impractical by itself, but rather useful as a modifier for other functions. Used with Turn(), it does massive backstab damage and can hit multiple targets. Used with Jaunt(), you literally run through enemies, flying across the battlefield as a living projectile.
  • Doppelgänger: Each time you attack Younglady, it will Flash Step out of your way and create a 'shadow' in its place to prevent you from tearing it apart too easily. This also renders your Turn() only good for one or two backstabs at best, unless she's stunned.
  • Duel Boss: The final boss is this. Royce is even able to use Turn(), mirroring Red's abilities completely. Agency tests also feature this kind of battle.
  • Doppleganger Spin:
    • Combining Jaunt() with Help() results in Red leaving behind decoy afterimages whenever she Flash Steps.
    • Spark() as a passive causes Red to spawn a decoy every time she's hit, distracting enemies for a few moments.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: Red isn't able to stop the Process before they seemingly process the entire city and everyone inside it.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Evil is putting it a little strongly, but Grant and Asher seem to have been married, as they share the same last name and it doesn't at all seem to be due to blood relation. When Asher isn't using his messages to Motive Rant at Red, he's expressing concern for Grant. Some lines from Royce make it clear this was hardly one-sided devotion on Asher's part.
    "But Asher, he meant something to Grant. Really fueled his fire."
  • Fallen Princess: Red, who goes from famous singer to mute outcast in the game's opening section.
  • Familiar: Luna acts as one.
  • Fear Is the Appropriate Response: About 50 Cluckers show up to kill Red at one point. The Transistor's advice is succinct.
  • Field of Blades: The final boss arena has copies of the Transistor in the background, all dropped into the ground blade-first at various angles. They scale up fractally, with a mountain-sized one filling the sky.
  • Flash Step: Jaunt() when used as a primary function.
  • Foreshadowing: The song "We All Become" is basically the plot in musical form. Asher and Grant's fate also foreshadows how Red ends the story.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: The game starts with the Man in the Transistor teleporting him and Red across the city. Too bad he never tries that again, as it would have been better than running all over the place.
  • Gainax Ending: Where is the Cradle, exactly? Is it inside the Transistor? Is it the real world outside of Cloudbank? What exactly happens to trap you and Royce there? Why does one of you have to kill the other to escape? In a game that already explains itself very poorly, these questions have very elusive answers.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Multiple copies of Get() as an upgrade tend not to react well in Turn(). The most common example of this is using a Tap() and Void() with both augmented by Get(). If you try to use both against tougher Processes, Turn() can lock up if you stack Tap() on top of Void() multiple times, forcing you to abort the sequence using 'R' and lose out on the damage you should have done from the additional uses of Tap().
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The fact that your skills are functions explains why they can be used as upgrades to other functions despite being abilities themselves, since because they are literally representations of programming functions, it is entirely possible to use a function inside another function, causing the output of the outer function to be modified by the inner function (like an upgrade), while the inner function can be used by itself (like a skill). Some upgrades also refer to themselves as subroutines.
  • Genre-Busting: The game's soundtrack, like that of its predecessor, is described as "Old-World Electronic Post-Rock".
  • Gone Horribly Wrong:
    • Royce Brackett found the Process was responsible for Cloudbank's ever-shifting nature, and drew it forth in its raw form. Then he let Grant borrow the Transistor, the Camerata targeted Red, and everything went to Hell.
    • Sybil's profile implies that she knew Red wouldn't be alone, and that she intended for Red's friend to Take The Sword. Didn't anticipate them keeping it, though...
  • Gray Goo: The Process is apparently responsible for the constant changes in Cloudbank behind the scenes, but when it was extracted, it began to convert everything into more of itself. Without the Transistor to guide it, it knows nothing more than to convert. Red has a chance to literally "draw" a new future on said canvas, but decides to kill herself to be reunited with her friend.
  • Gray Is Useless: Locked slots for function configuration are noted by a grey plate of (presumed) metal with a padlock icon on it.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: The Transistor is, essentially, a giant programming tool. That serves as a handy weapon and, in the later game, as a Reality Warper tool.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Man Process fires Action Bomb Attack Drones. The drones explode if damaged or if they connect with you, and the former property can be used to send them back at Man, which will take damage from the blast. Even better, Switch() can be used on the drones to cause them to actively hunt down and destroy their former owners.
  • Hope Spot: After the final boss, Red is given the opportunity to rebuild the city, restoring it to her former glory with the Transistor. She doesn't.
  • Implied Love Interest: The Man in the Transistor and Red... well, until he flat out says it the end anyway.
  • Improbable Use of a Weapon: Though the Transistor looks like a sword, Red never actually uses it as such. Even her most basic attack has her slamming it into the ground and firing a burst of energy from the eye on the side. The only time she uses it like a proper sword is when she impales herself with it at the end of the game.
  • In Medias Res: The game abruptly starts right as Red pulls the Transistor out of her friend, with exposition kept a little vague thanks to averting As You Know. It isn't until Red returns to the Empty Set that the player finally sees the events that got them where they started at in the first place.
  • Inside a Computer System: The Beach is implied to be this, as well as the last battle. The main city itself is ambiguously inside a computer system as well, or some form of digital reality that can be altered by programs.
  • Interface Screw: Snapshots take pictures of Red during a fight, obscuring the screen. On higher levels they also black out parts of the screen with a Fog of War when Red enters Planning Mode.
  • Invisible to Normals: Apparently only Red (and possibly the Camerata) can see things that have been processed, as late in the game, when several skyscrapers have been fully processed, there's a news story about them flat-out disappearing. Another possibility is that possessing the Transistor is what decides it.
  • Insistent Terminology: They're not "skills", they're "functions".
  • In Their Own Image: The Camerata is trying to pull this. Red actually gets an opportunity to do so after Cloudbank's reduced to a "blank canvas", with the Transistor as her "brush", but she instead decides to catch up with her friend... by killing herself and being integrated into the sword.
  • Ironic Echo: "Hello, world" when making your way into the city shortly after the beginning, enjoying the breathtaking view of the scenery. Shortly before the end, when returning to Where It All Began it gets echoed... "Hello, world. You don't look so good...", as the scenery has been grayed out and processed. Also doubles as a second, minor set of Book-Ends.
  • Island Base: The Backdoor.
  • Kill 'Em All: By the end of the game, Cloudbank is completely processed, with no confirmed survivors, and Red kills herself with the Transistor. The game still manages to pull a happy ending out of it, as she is now within the Transistor and lives with her lover in the Country.
  • Letting the Air Out of the Band: Camerata terminals play the same startup sound as the regular ones, only to have this effect at the end.
  • Life Drain: Tap() as an primary function or an upgrade heals you when you deal damage with that function. The amount is determined by the damage the function does and the number of hits (DoT functions like Purge() will heal small amounts at the same rate Purge() does damage, while single-hit functions like Tap() as a primary heal all at once).
  • Lost Technology: Cloudbank has apparently existed for so long that the Process, the Transistor, and everything they do has been lost to time. Even the Camerata have only the barest understanding of how it works.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The ending suggests that this is what happens to people who are sucked into the Transistor, unless there's someone on the outside that they can connect with.
  • MacGuffin Title: Also a One-Word Title. Named for the Transistor.
  • Magic from Technology: All of the Transistor's Functions have names and parentheses like programming code functions. Among other things, the Transistor is meant to control the Process, which in gameplay takes the form of combat against the Process. You are figuratively typing out commands to terminate processes when you queue up moves during Turn(). But it all looks like you're casting magic spells.
  • Maybe Ever After: Red and the Man in the Transistor. It's unknown what will happen from the end on.
  • Mind Screw:
    • Much like Bastion, major details about the story and setting are intentionally left vague and never elaborated on, leaving players to fill in the gaps.
    • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is this in spades. Nothing makes any sense, you are still running around going to unknown addresses, and you are listening to an estranged scientist rambling about a object all three of you know even less about.
    • Special mention goes to an abyss with a listed depth of "NaN". NaN in programming is shorthand for Not a Number. Since you are actually upside down when this appears, it is likely referring to the sky.
  • Minimalist Cast: Not quite to Bastion's extent, but there are seven characters in the entire game (not counting the couple of people that are processed into the Transistor at the start of the game), and one of them is a news reporter who never interacts with the other characters, one of them is transformed into a Process by the time you meet up with her, and another kills himself before the player can meet or even speak with him.
  • Mirror Boss: The final boss, Royce, fights you with another Transistor. He can use Turn() like you can, can use all of your functions, and has four lives from a full set of functions. Agency tests employ the same mechanic.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Once you enter New Game+ and start getting duplicate functions, you cannot use both copies of a function as an upgrade for another active function or as passives for yourself. You can, however, use a copy of a function to upgrade itself.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Despite the Mirror Boss mechanic, the final boss uses more functions than should technically be possible after several rounds. Additionally, the second you end your Turn() he immediately recharges his, which can lead to the boss executing two Turn()s almost in a row and makes functions like Purge() completely worthless. The same, of course, does not apply to you.
  • Mythology Gag: Starting a "recursive" run plays the first sentence spoken in the game in a distorted manner (and voiced by a different character). This is very similar to the New Game+ from Bastion. The Central Theme from Bastion occurs here again, only this time the player isn't even given the option to start over again, seeing that the protagonist is Driven to Suicide.
  • Narrative Filigree: OVC terminals start off showing things like polls for the sky colour and weather, details about a cancelled game, and news about fashion week. These disappear once everything starts going to hell.
  • Never Say "Die": Most of the time dying is referred to as "going to The Country". The vagueness is further compounded by the game's lack of details about what kind of world (if any) exists outside of the city of Cloudbank.
  • New Game+: The 'Recursion' system allows for replaying the game from the start of the story, retaining all your unlocks and giving you a chance for second grabs on your functions. The quirk here is that the Processes stay leveled up, so you end up fighting much stronger ones right from the start.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. As a one time deal, Red can use a washroom in the records hall. The Transistor lampshades that they have been running around for a while and he won't look while she does her business.
  • No Cure for Evil: Averted. Weeds can repair any damaged Processes that come within range, and Processes will actively run to them if you damage them enough.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Pure white means there is nothing left, and is erased out of existence. The return "Hello World" trip home ''amplifies this effectively.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: As a general rule, Crash() as an upgrade causes a function to temporarily stun enemies and reduce their defense. However, if Crash() is applied to a function with a high hit/fire rate like Flood() or Ping(), only the debuff is applied.
  • One-Word Title: As MacGuffin Title, named after the Transistor.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The cover of both the game and its soundtrack use this, with Red as the orange and the Transistor/skyline as the blue.
  • Our Souls Are Different: The deceased and partially-processed people Red and the Transistor encounter leave behind floating blue cubes called Traces, which the Transistor can communicate with and absorb to unlock new functions. In software programming, a trace is a step-by-step log of a program's execution, used for debugging and troubleshooting.
  • Overdrive: The core feature of the game. Using the Transistor's Turn() function, Red has the power to slow time to a standstill, plan out the next few seconds, and perform attacks/dodge at lightning-speed for those few seconds. The drawback is that doing this will cause all of Red's attacks and Turn() itself to go on cooldown; the time it takes to recharge depends on how much Red did during Turn(), up to five seconds if you used the whole bar. Jaunt() bypasses this restriction, either as a primary function or as an upgrade for other functions.
  • Powers as Programs: The "Functions".
  • Reality Is Out to Lunch: When Red reaches Fairbank, the Process has screwed things up so much that space and gravity no longer behave logically. Doors lead to random places and several walkable sections have been flipped upside down.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Processes, but subverted with Red's friend inhabiting the Transistor, who's a pretty good guy. When his eye starts glowing, it's certainly a warning... but the danger isn't the Transistor, its a gigantic Process called the Spine causes the Transistor to screw up somehow just by being in the area.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The basic premise of the plot is Red tracking down the people who stole her voice and killed her friend.
  • Save Point: Access points, which also allow the player to adjust their Function and Limiter arrangement. The game also saves when Red enters a new area.
  • Scenery Porn: Rampant. Cloudbank, whether abandoned, in disrepair, or slowly being integrated, is one jawdropping sight.
  • See You in Hell: "See you in the country" is a somewhat less insulting version of this, apparently. It's the last thing that Asher says to Red in recording after he suicides, and she types it right back at him.
  • Sequential Boss: Sybil, Royce, and the Mirror Boss challenge in the Backdoor room need to be defeated several times before they finally die.
  • Shout-Out To Shakespeare: The words "The Country" pop up repeatedly throughout the story, in reference to a place where people go and never return from. Sounds innocuous at first, but it takes on a darker meaning if you recall Hamlet, and then consider why people might be "evacuating to the Country" ahead of the Process.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The Bracket Towers Maintenance Section has the code 0451, which is famously used as the initial door code in System Shock, and many games referencing this since. (Which is itself a reference to Fahrenheit451.)
    • Red has toys of a Windbag and a Cael Hammer in her apartment.
    • In a track "She Shines" has a set of lyric that could be a nod to Blade Runner.
      "Lost in the cloud, like tears in the rain."
  • Shrink Ray: Enemies hit by Void() will shrink, applying a debuff which causes them to take 100% more damage with each hit. Stack it up to three times to make them tiny!
  • Sigil Spam: Yellow upside-down triangles appears on Red's dress, the back of Red's friend's jacket, and in the Empty Set.
  • Soul Jar: The Transistor "absorbs" the consciousness of the recently deceased, who then become new abilities called functions.
  • Spanner in the Works: Red's friend, the Man in the Transistor and source of the Breach() function, completely upends the antagonists' plans by getting killed and processed by the weapon instead of Red. He takes it over and uses it to save Red, who then takes it for herself and uses its power against them.
  • Stationary Enemy: Multiple enemy types:
    • Weeds: which are tendrils erupting from the ground that heal other Processes that wander near it, while damaging Red when she gets near.
    • Operators: A rectangular box that's just a Mook Maker. It has no other way to damage Red.
    • There are some Cluckers on a rooftop that are set to only rotate to aim at Red, even though they have the space to walk around.
  • Summon Magic: Basically what the Help() function is. It lets you summon a friendly Fetch named Luna. This can be upgraded to summon two. It can also summon Bad Cells when used as an upgrade.
  • Sword Drag: The Transistor is so huge that Red has to drag it along with her, leaving a shower of sparks as she goes.
  • Take Cover!: Encouraged. Several enemies can't see through it — others can, though. And a few can break it down.
  • Take Your Time: Sometimes the Man in the Transistor will prompt Red to Continue Your Mission, Dammit!, but at least he's a lot more polite than most NPCs would be.
  • Taking the Bullet: Red's nameless friend gets trapped in the Transistor when he pushes Red out of its path.
  • The Unreveal: Inverted. Instead of a revelation being led up to but then averted, a (possible) answer is given, but narrowly missed. It's possible to catch the tail end of Royce explaining his theory of the true nature of the Transistor, just as you emerge from one of the backdoor areas. Despite the Transistor's request, he declines to repeat himself.
  • Theme Naming: Many things in the game are named after computer or mathematical terms, like the Empty Set, Raster Plaza and the Backdoor, or the authorities being called admins. Attacks and skills in planning mode are stylized like names of functions in (most) programming languages. Transistor says "Hello world" at one point near the beginning. Cloudbank itself could be interpreted as meaning a data bank for cloud computing, given all of its digital influences.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill:
    • The game notifies you of this when you're about to do excessive damage to an enemy during planning mode, as it could be better spent on killing other things. If you stack up enough damage the UI replaces the "OVERKILL!" indicator with an incredulous, "DO YOU EVEN READ" and shortly afterward, "YOU ARE MEAN", and the Transistor will sometimes comment on Red's ruthlessness after you execute an overkill attack. Despite this, it can be worthwhile to pile on a little overkill, as the game only predicts damage based on current position and it is not 100% accurate.
    • One achievement requires doing 2048 damage in the practice arena in a single use of Turn(). The total health of the five enemies within is only 1750. As for an upper limit, you can do just above 100,000 damage with the right build.
  • Together in Death:
    • Red and the Man in the Transistor meet in The Country in the end.
    • Asher and Grant share the same fate.
      Asher: We always said that if we were to fail, we would do so together, as one. See you in the Country.
    • This is really taken Up to Eleven if you believe that the Transistor takes the souls and sends them somewhere called the Country to live ever after.
  • Tron Lines:
    • The Transistor's glowing blade is reminiscent of a printed circuit board, and many explosions and other effects created by the Transistor make lines of energy that flow in grid patterns across the ground.
    • Red's dress and the Man in the Transistor's jacket have glowing yellow triangles on the back.
  • The Unfought:
    • Two members of the Camerata, Grant and Asher, are never actually fought, having committed suicide just before Red could reach them. Especially surprising in regards to Grant, who was played up as the main antagonist in both the launch trailer and the game itself. He never gets a single line of dialogue.
    • The second iteration of the Spine is never fought. Its tail just harasses you for a few sections.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Sybil. She tries to pull a Murder the Hypotenuse by having the Camerata target Red without telling them that her friend would be there with her, expecting him to die protecting her. Her plan works, but she didn't count on the man hijacking the Transistor and using it to teleport Red to safety, kickstarting the game's plot.
  • Variable Mix:
    • The music becomes more muted when Red enters Planning Mode, and sometimes humming is added in. The player can also control this with a key that causes Red to start humming when not in battle. The official soundtrack includes versions of tracks both with and without Red's humming accompaniment!
    • The boss fight with Sybil starts out with In Circles playing, then as the fight goes on it slowly shifts in a more distorted, electronic "processed" version. It's implied that Sybil is the one singing, becoming more distorted as she becomes more processed.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Camerata were fed up with how ephemeral Cloudbank had become, constantly changing according to the whims of its citizens (right down to the weather and even the color of the sky). Unfortunately, their plan to put a stop to that went out of control and triggered The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Wham Line:
    • When you finally fight Royce:
      Royce: So, who gets to go first? How about... me. (Boots up his own Turn())
    • The first line spoken in the recursion is the same line as when you first start up the game: "Hey Red... We're not getting away with this, are we?". However, there is one key difference that completely changes the premise of the game. Instead of being spoken by Mr. Nobody, it's spoken by Royce.
  • Where It All Began: Tracking down Royce takes Red back to where she first got the Transistor.
  • World Building: A surprising amount of information regarding Cloudbank can be discovered from OVC terminals, Trace profiles, and asides in characters' dialogue.
  • You Are in Command Now: Near the end of the game, Red gets admin access to all the city's functions. Not because she's earned it, but because by this point there are literally two living people in the entire city. She's an admin because there's no one left.
  • You Are Worth Hell: In the ending, Red and her friend got absorbed by the Transistor, and now live happily in the Country.
  • Your Soul is Mine!: Every time you grab a trace from some poor dead person, you are essentially stealing their soul. The Man in the Transistor gets some minor satisfaction out of absorbing and exploiting Grant and Asher for all the trouble they've caused.
  • You Will Not Evade Me: The main purpose of Get() in all its forms. As a primary function, any enemy you hit with it is dragged to you. As an upgrade, it adds an attracting effect to the function (Void(), for example, essentially turns into a debuffing black hole). If installed as passive, it will make you draw in dropped Cells faster and from further away. Higher-level Creeps have a Get() like effect as part of their beams, and higher-level Jerks have a copy of the Get() function that they'll use on you at regular intervals.
  • Zerg Rush: Switch(), when upgraded with Help() and Spark(), has a very amusing effect. When it makes contact with an enemy, all three Switch beams will spawn a dozen or so allied Bad Cells.

See you in the country...


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