Transference is a first-person VR supported thriller developed by SpectreVision in collaboration with Ubisoft Montreal. It’s an entirely story-driven experience, or a ‘walking simulator’ if you will, with immersion and atmosphere at its driving force. As such, while it is playable without VR, it’s probably best played with the latter, as it serves to enhance the game’s strengths.
The game puts you in the virtually recreated thoughts of a scientist, which also plays hosts to memories of his family members. As the player, you are required to explore the scientist’s apartment and make sense of a series of events tied to each of his family members, with the ultimate goal of piecing together the overarching storyline.
With respect to gameplay, Transference is fundamentally similar to graphic adventure games. You’ll find and interact with objects that need to be moved from location A and placed in location B to solve a puzzle and unlock new areas to explore. You’ll find yourself exploring the same area from the perspective of the different characters. As such, things can get repetitive in spite of the narrative context.
One mechanic that works really well is the ability to switch between two alternate versions of reality. You’ll essentially be exploring two different versions of the apartment, and can actively navigate between the two by turning lights on and off. It’s directly tied into gameplay, as you’ll be required to grab an object from one version of reality and carry it over to the other in order to solve a puzzle. The twist here is that while one reality is bright and welcoming, the other is dark and tense.
The other element going in favor of Transference is the mood and tone it sets, especially in VR. The sense of being present inside a virtual recreation of someone’s memories is conveyed really well, thanks in part to live action video sequences that serve as a reminder that the game world is a simulation. These well-acted FMV sequences are obtained via videotapes scattered across the apartment you explore.
In addition, random visual effects populate your surroundings that make the computer simulation feel believable. Environments stutter and warp to represent glitch-like behavior. There is plenty of jumps scares thrown in for good measure, which, again, work best in VR. It’s not a full-fledged horror game, but certainly, one that creates a tense atmosphere for the player around every corner. Just the thought of having to take an object to the darker reality can induce a sense of tension.
The game’s audiovisual design complements its atmosphere in creating a believable virtual realm. Environments look detailed and colorful, despite things being dark and gloomy. The creators have done a great job of giving Transference a unique aesthetic identity. Similarly, the sound also adds to the sense of immersion and heightens tense situations.
The experience is a bit on the short side, possibly since it was designed with virtual reality in mind. An average playthrough should take less than two hours. Unfortunately, there’s no major incentive to revisit the game. Going back and locating all the hidden videotapes can provide more information on the characters, but it won’t alter the storyline in any way.
All in all, Transference has some really interesting ideas and the makings of a great game, but SpectreVision wasn’t able to fully develop them into something truly special. That said, if you’ve got the opportunity to play it in VR, it’s certainly worth checking out for the short but captivating audiovisual experience that it offers.
Transference Review (PSVR)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: Jump into an escape room set in a deranged mind and experience a first-person exploration game in a chilling new dimension. Shift between three perspectives and attempt to unravel the mystery hiding in this mind-bending psychological thriller.
Final Score - 7/107/10
Transference presents a unique premise and some interesting ideas but ultimately falls a short in realizing their potential. That said, it’s worth checking out in VR for its captivating audiovisual experience.