Metamorphosis Review | A Bug's Life

Metamorphosis is a story based adventure-puzzle-platformer inspired by Franz Kafka's novella of the same name. Although, the game only uses the core concept and protagonist from the novella to tell its own unique story. You awake in your friend's bedroom after a night of drinks, and the first puzzle presents itself. You must find the key and unlock the door to leave, a simple enough task. You then begin to walk around the house and notice that the portraits on the walls are morphing in front of your eyes! Then the environment around you starts to change. The furniture gets larger. Your new black front legs come into view. And it becomes quite clear what has happened. You, Gregor, an ordinary salesman, have turned into a bug.

You then return to the room you just left, but the once familiar bedroom has become a daunting obstacle course. You must find your way through desks, filing cabinets, and more as you weave in and out of your world and the hidden society of bugs that lies behind hidden passageways. To make matters worse, your best friend Josef is being arrested on unknown charges, and you are the only one who can help him, just not in this form. Your goal then becomes to navigate through this new and bizarre world to not only try and figure out how to turn back into a human but also to try and save your friend. You soon discover that the only way to become human again is to get to the Tower. The story is presented in a very linear fashion and doesn't allow for much player choice outside of talking to some NPCs who give small quips of dialogue, some of which are quite entertaining. However, the path to Tower does cut through small bug cities that gives a glimpse of a bug's life. From the chantings of a priest to anti-Tower protests the world that Metamorphis is set is fleshed out and unique.

The execution of the story works well in putting you in the character's shoes (or uh bug legs I suppose) and I had a genuine curiosity for where it was going and why this had happened. The latter of which is actually never quite explained, but that want for an explanation kept me motivated towards the final goal, even when I was struggling to figure out what I had to do next on a particularly obscure puzzle. Now, the puzzles were definitely not difficult by any means, you just had to explore your surroundings and analyze what was available and you can easily piece together how to continue forward. And the puzzles also get easier as you go along as they utilize the same game mechanics that are introduced at the start. However, while this does make the latter puzzles easier, it can also make them a little repetitive.

One of the top priorities for the developers, Ovid Works, was to really give the player the feeling of being a bug through the locomotives, and I have to say that they nailed it. The game is first-person so all you see of yourself is the tips of your two front legs which scurry along with sufficient bug awkwardness. The game creates a unique experience and the gameplay itself is very fun, though I did fall off of things more often than I'd like to admit. This was largely due to the sensitivity of the movements which made precision jumps, of which there were a few, much more difficult than they should have been. Another feature of the gameplay that I found intriguing was the use of sticky liquids to climb. You cannot climb vertically unless you had enough stickiness, a meter that popped up in the bottom left of your screen after you walked through puddles or ink or other sticky liquids, the stickiness always lasted long enough to get me where I needed to go, so it was overall just a fun added feature to add to the feeling of being a bug. 

The art design of Metamorphosis is very simple, but effective. The sense of scale in the game felt very surreal with its giant cigarette boxes and pencils to climb over. You meet many fellow bugs along the way, most of whom are helpful though many are also just on the sidelines to add to the world around you. These background bugs however are where we have one of the smaller issues. Some of the models for the other bugs look a bit muddy, especially the groups of them closer to the end of the game I found (and as you can see a bit in some of the bugs in the image below). The humans' faces also look just a bit off, but I still appreciate how they matched the game's style.

The sound design also greatly adds to the feeling of being a bug with the noises of your small legs as you explore this new world. The score created an eerie tone as well as helped to build up excitement when running through the world. While the audio was great overall, there were a few bugs (and not the good kind). These came in the form of few peaks in the audio that were jarring and a few other small issues such as near the end where there was some static of a microphone that was very loud and only in my left ear. Continuing on with sound I wanted to briefly discuss the voice acting. The bug's voices were highly modified to sound buzzier, Gregor's voice becoming raspier as the game continued and you become more bug-like, but the humans had very basic voice acting. Their dialogue was very on the nose and if you took too long to beat a section, you would hear the same set of dialogues on repeat until you completed it. This was something I found not too difficult to tone out, but a bit bothersome whenever I noticed the same line being repeated for the 4th or 5th time. 

Overall, the best thing about Metamorphosis is its world-building and commentary, and even though the game isn't perfect by any means, it's still worth playing for the surreal experience of seeing the world through an insect's point of view and visiting their hidden cities that lay beyond our human reach. Metamorphosis is available now on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows. A review code on the Xbox One was provided by the publisher.

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