How would you feel if one day you woke up and discovered you’d been turned into an insect? Maybe you’d try to fall back to sleep but then realise it wasn’t a dream and that you needed to do something about it quickly. This is the basis for Metamorphosis, a first-person puzzle-platforming adventure by developer Ovid Works which I had the opportunity to check out while at EGX Rezzed last week.
If the premise sounds familiar, then you may be thinking of novella The Metamorphosis by writer Franz Kafka. This game reimagines salesman Gregor Samsa as he’s transformed into a tiny bug – which is rather inconvenient as his friend Joseph is being arrested for reasons unknown and he doesn’t recognise you in your new arthropodal body. To save him and find the answers you seek, you must embark on a dangerous journey through a world which has turned twisted and unfamiliar.
As anyone who saw me try to play Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy during our GameBlast19 marathon stream in February will realise, I’m terrible at platformers and so Pete took the controls while I helped out with the puzzles. The demo started in an area which looked something like a library or a study, with obstacles made from objects such as books, pencils, bottles and drawers, but the discovery of several notes reveal that it’s some kind of ‘processing’ area.
Of course, to protagonist Gregor the items mentioned above now look completely different in his diminished form. The hand-painted graphics are lovely and the use of close-up details and textures really make the player feel as though everything around them has suddenly become gigantic. When you come across documents such as letters and business cards, you’re able to pan the camera out to easily read them and the words provided give subtle clues as to where you are and what’s going on.
While in its first-person perspective, Metamorphosis turns mundane objects into an expansive obstacle course. Fortunately though this is where being an insect comes in handy and unique movement mechanics make full use of your small body and sticky limbs. Pens leaning on top of books transform into bridges which enable you to reach different levels within the environment, while items stacked closely to walls make for good nooks and crannies to scurry through.
For those who want to explore, sparkling symbols which seem to be collectibles can be found in the darkest corners and picking them up gives you what appears to be a Kafka quote. And for those like me whose platforming skills aren’t the greatest, there doesn’t seem to be any need to worry too much: when Gregor misses a jump and falls, a document flies through the air to scoop him up and deposit him back near his previous location (which nicely ties in with the surreal library location).
That doesn’t mean your character can’t die however. We eventually came to a scene where paper was moving through rollers and being stamped – plenty of obstacles for a bug. Pete managed to guide Gregor through successfully until he reached a set of turning gears, where it was necessary to move from one to another; and a mistimed leap unfortunately resulted in the protagonist getting squished. Death sees you respawning in a relatively close location so it doesn’t seem as though the title will cause players to become overly frustrated.
Can Gregor get the answers he needs? Can he save his friend Joseph? And can he return to the life he once knew? We won’t get to find out until Metamorphosis is released on both PC and consoles in the autumn. In the meantime, you can add the game to your Steam wishlist and give Ovid Works a follow on Twitter.
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.