Developer: Ovid Works
Publisher: All in! Games
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Indie
Platform: PC – Steam (also available on Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: Teen
Release Date: 12/08/2020
A code was provided for review purposes
Metamorphosis is a game based on the world created by Franz Kafka in his novella The Metamorphosis or Die Verwandlung in the original German. It sees you take on this quirky universe from an insect’s point of view. Are you curious to find out what it’s like to have a pint-sized view of the world? Then read on…
Similarities to the Novella
The protagonist in Metamorphosis, Gregor Samsa, is the same as in the novella. The plot in the game begins in a similar fashion to the book, with the main character waking up and transforming into an insect. However, the similarity ends here. Unlike in the book, videogame Gregor transforms into a normal (rather than human) sized bug. The conversion also begins once he is awake. In addition, the majority of the novella takes place in the Samsa family apartment. In contrast, the events of the game have a rather more Alice in Wonderland ‘down the rabbit hole’ feel as you fall into a letter and begin a wonderfully bizarre chain of events.
Take Me Back to Humanity!
As you can probably appreciate, Gregor is quite disconcerted to find himself in insect form. Once it becomes apparent that there might be a way to transform back into a human, he seizes it – setting you off on a superbly abstract path. The tasks you must complete might seem a little obscure to us mere homo sapiens, but after all, we only have two legs. You’ll find yourself on a journey that starts in Josef K’s apartment and takes you deep into the insect underworld as you unravel the mysteries behind the curious insect organisation called Tower.
Josef K is Gregor’s best friend in the videogame and also a character in another of Kafka’s works: The Trial. As in the novel he appears in, Josef is on trial. This adds complexity to the story as Gregor tries to find ways to provide his best friend with information and to help him with the outcome of his trial.
A Bug’s View
When you’ve been reduced to less than a centimetre in height, naturally, everything looks enormous. Metamorphosis takes advantage of this perspective to turn the mundane contents of – for example – a drawer into an exciting insect-sized obstacle course. You might think that being up close to everything may make for a visually unappetising experience. However, I found the visuals for Metamorphosis impressive and at times, stunning. I’m not sure that screenshots can do the game justice – you might just have to give the demo a try to see for yourself what I mean.
Objects are detailed and textured, and the colours are vibrant. The way that scenes merge from familiar settings into fantastical locations is seamless and surreal. One moment you’re in a lawyer’s office, the next you’re navigating moving drawers on a filing cabinet to find a path into the secret world of insects. On a whole, the artwork leans towards the surrealist style – as perhaps you might expect from a Kafka-inspired videogame. There are a few areas where the ground seems to be lacking in detail but the overall experience makes up for this. Even so, you’ll probably be too involved in the story, concerned about making the next jump or busy enjoying another aspect of the scenery to notice.
Metamorphosis contains a great variety of levels with lots going on to entertain and create a feeling of immersion. For example, pipes with steam pouring out of them, other insects with whom you can interact, a hypnotising swirl of certificates and constantly moving cogs. The art style used gives the game the feel of an interactive version of an animated feature, such as A Bug’s Life or Antz. Combined with the enchanting musical score, it creates the impression of playing through a fairy-tale.
Scuttle on Through
Metamorphosis is not a difficult game. If you’re looking for something to play for a chilled run-through with no blood sweat or tears, this is it. There are puzzles to solve but the focus is on working out who you need to talk to and where you need to go. You also have some choice about your actions as you progress through the story. The achievements can act as a sort of guide here as to optional deeds. There is more than one ending – I have played all the way through twice and discovered two quite different finales.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing through Metamorphosis for a second time. If anything, some areas were more fun because I had a better grasp of the game’s mechanics and my goals. I had more time to enjoy the scenery without worrying that I would get lost exploring as I already knew my way around. In my second play-through, I also followed up on some side-quests that I had forgotten to pursue on my first go. I’m currently on my third run and still not bored. It’s a short and beautifully sweet videogame that, in my humble opinion, is made to be replayed.
Smooth as a Larvae’s Cocoon
I haven’t played a title that uses Unreal Engine that I haven’t found to have supremely smooth gameplay. Metamorphosis is no different. It’s a fabulous asset and when you can jump rapidly through levels without worrying about the game keeping up with you, it really helps to keep you immersed. Extremely occasionally, perhaps twice in my three and a bit runs, the frame rate dropped and gameplay stalled for an instant.
I played using a controller and had no issues whatsoever. As it says on the Steam store page this is a controller compatible game. The button layout was logical and enabled quick movement through platformer style areas. Personally, I don’t think it’s suited to mouse and keyboard but my preference has always been for a controller where possible.
Do You Believe in Antheism?
In addition to the beautiful visuals, smooth gameplay and atmospheric soundtrack, Metamorphosis is packed to the brim with insect puns. Whether you’re looking to order a ‘Bugweiser’ at the bar, convert to ‘Antheism’ or study the ‘Old Insectament’, you can fill your boots. I loved this touch, I was impressed with the quantity and range of puns scattered throughout the game. For the Kafka Fans, a variety of quotes from Franz Kafka appear on the loading screens between levels. Not so much humour to be found here though, these lines are of a more sobering nature.
Metamorphosis is an exquisite short break from reality and into the surreal. The plot follows a route that twists and turns away from your expectations time and time again whilst your eyes and ears feast on visual and audio delights that complement each other flawlessly. Whether you’re a Kafka fan or you’re looking for something out of the ordinary, this beautifully bizarre encounter is ready to take your mind on a unique journey. I’d recommend grabbing a ticket.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.