Metamorphosis, developed by Ovid Works and published by All In! Games, is a brilliant but unfortunately short-lived jaunt through the eyes of a man who wakes up as a bug and his quest to reach the mysteriously named Tower and save his friend from arrest.
Based on the work by Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis puts players in control of Gregor Samsa, a salesman who wakes up disoriented after a night of hard partying with his friend Josef. As he stumbles out of bed in search of Josef he quickly realizes that he does not recognize the rooms and hallways he encounters. The further inside the house he progresses, the larger the rooms become and the stranger the pictures adorning the walls appear. Eventually Gregor realizes that he is no longer a human, rather he has inexplicably become a bug.
After a bit of exploration Gregor finds Josef asleep in bed while a police officer rummages through his belongings. Using his newfound abilities Gregor wakes Josef up, only for him to find out that he is being arrested. Despite Josef’s protests, the police refuse to explain what his charges are.
Determined to help his friend and return to his human form, Gregor sets off on a quest to reach the mysterious Tower, aided by a variety of bugs found living inside Josef’s walls.
At its heart, Metamorphosis is a puzzle game with a bit of exploration thrown in. Each area serves as a maze which you must navigate to reach a specific document, lever, button, or other mechanism to progress. Armed with only the ability to jump and climb walls when covered in the right substances, you must use your wits to reach your goal.
There is no combat, and no enemies to speak of. Instead you will begin each section with an objective and a large arena to navigate. Thankfully, players can pull the camera away to get an overhead view of the area along with markers for where you are, where you’ve been, and where your objectives are.
These areas begin small, but progressively grow larger and eventually involve multiple objectives, intricate layouts, and a variety of bugs to encounter and interact with.
The bugs you will encounter are a highlight of the game. You will find starving artists, wannabe gang members, anti-establishment preachers, religious zealots, angry workers, bugs that became lost long ago, depressed artists, bootleggers, pirates, and more. These bugs are found in locations ranging from flooded walls, dive clubs formed underneath old record players, a broken desk, and a sprawling bug city.
The variety of locations and bugs really helps keep Metamorphosis fresh throughout its three hour or so campaign.
As you work your way through the increasingly bizarre bug world searching for Tower information, you will be forced to fight through the bug bureaucracy to obtain a certificate to board a flying pirate ship, become a spy for Tower to take down illegal bootleggers and those that speak ill of the corporation, dismantle a record player to gain a stubborn lawyer’s attention, cheer up a depressed projectionist and convince him to display his latest film, and overthrow a large government entity.
Metamorphosis moves quickly, never lingering in one area for more than a few minutes. As you progress through the bug world, you will catch glimpses of Josef’s struggle through cracks in the walls, further reinforcing Gregor’s determination to reach Tower and figure out how to save his friend despite his size.
It is an interesting concept, one that works far better in video game form then you would have believed when reading Kafka’s work.
There is not much more I can divulge without giving up the various highlights of the story, but I will say that Metamorphosis is well worth the few hours it takes to complete. I loved the ever-changing world and the sarcastic, yet lively bugs I encountered. I enjoyed the progressively more difficult puzzles I had to navigate on my quest to save my friend, and I enjoyed unraveling the mystery of Tower and Josef’s crime. Fans of Kafka, puzzle games, or just short but sweet adventures should pick up Metamorphosis.
Metamorphosis is available now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and GOG. Special thanks to All In! Games and Ovid Works for providing Fandomize with a review code.