So I have a bit of a funny history behind why I decided to play this game. Back in 2014, I made a video on a game called Masters of the World – Geopolitical Simulator 3. One of the loading screen quotes for that game was a quote from Franz Kafka, whom I did not know at the time. Well, as you can expect, the comments made it very clear that I was stupid for not knowing who the man was.
So here we are nearly six and a half years later with a video game based on Kafka’s most popular work: The Metamorphosis. Having since learned who the man was and having read that most popular work, I thought it’d be cool to give this game adaptation a look, even if it may be a loose adaptation.
Really cool level design. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Metamorphosis is how it really sells the idea that you are an insect. Of course, this is largely due to the level design. The game has these massive environments full of all sorts of details, including the pencils laying around that form paths between platforms, the garbage that has been repurposed into little buildings, and the dangers brought on by objects we humans take for granted, like fans.
All of this really drives home the point that you are a small and vulnerable insect, nothing more, nothing less. It’s exactly the same feeling I had while playing Grounded a few weeks ago. However, the devs couple this with a sort of surreal and gloomy visual direction, which makes for a very interesting combo. On one hand, you’re a bug exploring this human-inhabited world, but on the other, there’s something darker to it, something hidden away behind it all. It’s definitely comparable to Kafka’s original work in that regard, so I got to give the devs some credit there.
Fun platforming. For what is effectively a walking sim, I was surprised with how much fun I had with the game’s platforming. It’s nothing too complex, but you’ve got your jump and your sticky feet ability that allow for a lot more exploration than what is usually the case with such walking sims. It removes a lot of the linearity to the game, allowing you to explore the environment and come up with your own routes as you play.
I had a lot of fun ignoring the “expected” route and just parkouring my own way up to wherever I needed to go, sometimes even breaking the game’s platforming in a way by standing on ledges that are mere pixels in size. Granted, a lot of this is again due to the excellent level design, but it was such a standout feature to me that I felt it deserved its own spot.
Cryptic, yet interesting storyline. So as I said earlier, this game is just a partial adaptation of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. It uses its main themes, but kinda goes off and does its own thing, borrowing from more Kafka stories in the process. I don’t want to get into spoiler territory, but I will say that the game does a good job setting up this sort of dual narrative of sorts. You’re figuring out the story related to the protagonist, while also developing this other story along the side, with the two becoming further linked as the game goes on.
It does a pretty good job at this, even if the actual storytelling may be cryptic. You’ll get the occasional full-on dialogue cutscene, but most of the story is told through the environment and little snippets given by the different NPCs. It’s like a puzzle of sorts and from the get-go it’s obvious that there’s more to it than what is just shown on the surface. It may falter a bit (which I’ll discuss shortly), but I enjoyed it for the most part.
Shallow puzzle design. The store page for the game describes it as having “challenging environmental puzzles”, which is definitely a bit of a stretch. Not only are the puzzles not challenging, but it’s kinda hard to even describe most of them as puzzles. You’ll oftentimes be given a task that asks you to go to a certain location and interact with some object or other NPC and that’s the extent of the so-called puzzle. Don’t let the store page fool you, this is a walking sim with a decent amount of platforming and some very light puzzle mechanics, nothing complex enough to warrant the title of “puzzle game”. And this is coming from a fan of walking sims, I just wanted to make sure nobody goes in with the wrong expectations here.
Disappointing ending. I may have found the story interesting, but I definitely did not like how it ended up. The game had this interesting double narrative thing going for it before it just kinda, ended. I don’t know if it was lack of funds preventing the full story from being realized, but it just wraps itself up so quickly that it’s hardly satisfying. And I say this for both endings, as the game has two of them. I mean, the game only took me two hours to clear, so maybe it’s just a side effect of being on the shorter side, but I feel like they could have done a better job leading up to the end and wrapping it all up.
Metamorphosis may be a short game, but it’s still one I would recommend. From the wonderfully done level design to the fun platforming and cryptic storyline, there’s some good stuff here. Granted, that story kinda crashes and burns by the end and the puzzle design isn’t all that great, but I still had a good time with it. It might not be an immediate purchase, but worth a look if you can catch it on sale or in a bundle.
You can buy Metamorphosis on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.