If you’ve spent much time milling around in the doujin games scene, doubtless you’ve come across the work of Yumi “Skipmore” Kimura once or twice. He’s most famous for his Fairune games, which are excellent puzzle adventures cleverly disguised as Hydlide-style RPGs, but his speedrun-centric hack-and-slash game Kamiko is well worth a look too. And, judging by the demo that’s currently up as part of Steam Next Fest at the time of writing, his new title Transiruby is going to be one of his best yet.
In Transiruby, you control of a cyborg girl named Siruby. Siruby and her cat-like AI companion Ne-com investigate dimensional rifts, and it appears that a big one has just appeared conveniently close to where Siruby and Ne-com have parked up in space. Keen to discover the truth of this strange new world that has appeared, Siruby transports herself to the unknown landmass and, in true action-exploration platformer tradition, promptly loses all her equipment and abilities. From there, it’s up to you to help her investigate the mystery, get her stuff back and meet a few colourful characters along the way.
Skipmore’s games have a very distinctive aesthetic about them; they’re very much 8-bit inspired, but not in the usual “let’s make this look like a NES game” sense. Rather, he seems to take more inspiration from the underappreciated PC Engine/Turbografx-16 platform; that means colourful worlds with big chunky pixels, and a chiptune soundtrack that uses a greater variety of “instrument” sounds than the NES’ soundchip was capable of.
If you’re familiar with Skipmore’s work, you’ll be right at home with Transiruby — particularly if you played Kamiko. While this is a side-scrolling adventure (in contrast to Fairune’s top-down tile-based exploration and Kamiko’s more freeform top-down action gameplay), the fluidity of the movement and the responsiveness of the controls will be immediately familiar. Siruby’s basic attack — a flurry of sword slashes — feels very much like something you’d use in Kamiko, and the overall physics of the game are immediately easy to grasp. The Zelda II-style downward sword stab is especially satisfying.
In short order, Siruby will grab herself an element gun as a secondary weapon to her sword. Actually, it’s not really accurate to call it a “weapon”; it’s more a useful item, since its range is limited, and rather than defeating enemies it freezes them, allowing you to use them as platforms. That’s not all, though; its energy can also power various pieces of technology around the game world, be they numbered blocks that require shooting a certain number of times to open a door, or moving platforms that don’t activate until you shoot them.
There’s a strong “collectathon” element to Transiruby, as at certain points you’ll need a particular number of diamond-shaped gold coins in order to progress through to a new area. Thankfully, Transiruby’s in-game map helpfully marks any areas where you have not yet found all the available coins, so it’s usually a simple matter to go back and investigate a bit more thoroughly. And in true action-exploration tradition, continued progression also allows you to unlock various shortcuts to make getting around a bit easier, too — as well as Siruby’s lost abilities, which will eventually allow you to break certain types of block and open new pathways.
The currently available demo for Transiruby is pretty substantial, offering an impressively huge area to explore with no transitions between “rooms”; it’s one contiguous world to explore. The game gets a few tutorials out of the way in its opening moments, then leaves you largely free to investigate as you see fit; punishment for death is mild, too, with Siruby simply being sent back to the last checkpoint she reached with no other penalty.
This is a game that wants you to enjoy its world and its mechanics with minimal resistance, or perhaps it’s more accurate to say minimal frustration. There are sequences that will challenge you, for sure — mostly involving accurately timing the freezing of enemies to construct makeshift platforms — but there are also plenty of sequences primed and ready to allow you to hack and slash your way through hordes of enemies, all of which burst into a satisfying shower of goodies just to remind you how awesome you are. Skipmore gets it; sometimes we just want to be a badass cyborg girl.
Skipmore’s games are typically relatively short — Kamiko can be beaten in about twenty minutes or less, since it’s designed for replays and speedrunning, though Fairune 2 is his most substantial work at about three or four hours. With that in mind, it remains to be seen how substantial the final version of Transiruby ends up being — though most action-exploration platformers (including the classic Castlevanias) tend to err on the shorter side of things anyway, so don’t expect an epic 40-hour adventure from this one.
What the current demo does make clear is that this is going to be a game well worth spending some time with when it releases later in the autumn of 2021 — and that Skipmore is still on top form when it comes to distinctively designed, beautifully crafted modern retro-style games for today’s platforms. And long may that continue!
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