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PAX East 2012: Transcripted preview
by Andrew Whipple III

In the world of casual games, PopCap is the God-King whose rule is unquestionable and ironclad. What's one to do against soul-stealing devices such as Zuma and Plants vs. Zombies? That answer, I believe, lies within a little title called Transcripted. Developed by a two-man team, this dual-stick, puzzle-solving, role-playing, arcade shooter is more fun that it has any right to be.

Good developers have the tendency to borrow and even expand upon ideas that have already found success on the frontlines. Transcripted is proof of this claim by enhancing the mechanics behind the hit game Zuma and the impossible not to love Geometry Wars 2. At its base, Transcripted plays a lot like Geometry Wars 2, but to simply call it a clone would be ignorant and wrong. Instead of vaporizing the shapes that want your life, you must vaporize enemies in order to grab their nano-blocks as well as preserving your life. This is the key.

Nano-blocks act much like the balls from Zuma, but instead of a frog shooting them it's a floating, shielded probe. After grabbing a block, you must thrust it toward its corresponding color chain, but you also must make sure it matches at least three of the same color to score. Each time you score it'll fill up a meter that lets you know how close you are to finishing the level. Get it? Shoot enemies, get blocks, match colors to blocks, win. It sounds easy, but this is where the great fun of the game ropes its way in.

In the beginning, enemies aren't nearly as frantic or murderous as they are in Geometry Wars 2, but things changes awfully fast. With over 40+ levels available at launch, there's a plethora of enemies that make netting your next score quite difficult. Boss creatures are certainly present and each stage offers varied ways in how you score your points. One particular stage had incredibly fast scoring lanes and had us shooting our nano-blocks at a trigger that would slow it down to a manageable speed.

The game also throws some interesting mechanics at you. Nano-blocks don't last forever, so wasting the whole screen and having your pick of the litter doesn't work especially well. You're move speed is also reduced significantly when holding a block. Also, if two nano-blocks get too close to one another they'll send an electrical shockwave out and destroy one another. Firing for all eternity is also not possible in this game. Holding the stick depletes your battery, making you fire slower until you give it a second to recharge. So stop firing for no reason! Yeah, they thought of everything.

The hybrid gameplay and attention to detail intrigued me, but the biggest selling point to me in a game like this was the unique weapons and skill trees. It's exactly how it sounds. Every so often you'll net yourself some skill points you can distribute that'll enhance things like your shield, health, movement speed, firing speed, special weapons etc. We got to see a few different special weapons like the sniper. With a nifty burst, the sniper slices through multiple targets with notable accuracy. Fancy.

Transcripted is due out sometime this summer for around $10-15. If you're well into arcade games like I am, you should definitely be excited to find more out about TopWare Interactive's little gem. The Zuma/Geometry Wars 2 hybrid gameplay alone is exciting, but when you factor in 40 or more levels with boss encounters, varying puzzles, skill trees and more, your money is already waiting to be taken. I know mine is.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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