Review – Metamorphosis

We get a lot of games based on movies, TV shows and cartoons, but rarely do we get games based directly off novels and other kinds of books. With the exception of the Witcher games, I can’t think of any other example, especially when it comes to more classical works like Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Who would have thought that someday someone would decide to adapt one of the most notorious works of literature of the 20th century, a staple piece of Existentialism, into a video game? Well, here we are today. We’re going to talk about a game based off a Franz Kafka novel. Can’t wait until they make a Nietzsche game later on.

Metamorphosis

You don’t even need to be a philosophy major to understand these not-so-subtle themes.

The original Metamorphosis novel revolves around protagonist Gregor Samsa waking up one morning, only to find out he just became an insect. The rest of the novel talks about him dealing with his new situation, as well as everyone around him having to deal with it. A book about a dude moping around because he became a bug isn’t necessarily the best source material to be adapted into a game. Especially if the developers decided to transcribe it to a tee. So they took a ton of creative liberties in order to turn Metamorphosis into a more entertaining experience.

In this version of Metamorphosis, you still control Gregor. He still becomes a bug right at the beginning of the story, but he actually shrinks to the size of a bug this time around. Instead of having to deal with the people around him coping with his Brundlefly-like transformation, he has to deal with the fact that people cannot see him. He has to deal with the insignificance of becoming a bug, the physical struggles of mundane objects becoming sky-high obstacles, as well as themes of depression, capitalism, conformism, drugs, and so on. The game manages to tell its story in a painfully intelligent way, almost Disco Elysium-esque at times.

Metamorphosis

Kids, for the love of god, clean up your damn rooms.

The game does some really smart things with its “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” meets “A Bug’s Life” premise. It’s entirely in first person, meaning that you can feel how small and insignificant your bug-like protagonist is. What was once just a mundane pile of books is now a gigantic set of platforms to climb. A bunch of chairs is a tricky platforming section in which you need to combine your jumping skills with the ability to climb vertically, if you’ve managed to find some sticky substance to slab your feet with beforehand. I don’t think I have ever played a game like this.

You may think that, given my previous paragraphs, I enjoyed my time with Metamorphosis. Without a doubt, I liked its art style, its premise, and its themes. But here’s the catch: it might be fantastic as a concept, but as a game, oh boy is it an absolute stinker.

Metamorphosis

Those last pictures sure looked nice, right? Well, here’s how Metamorphosis looked like during most of my playthrough. That’s supposed to be a bug. The insect bug, I mean.

Sure, playing as small with a first-person perspective is great in theory, but it quickly became one of the most nauseating experiences of my life due to one simple reason. The framerate is absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, atrocious. There were (rare) cases in which the game managed to maintain a somewhat stable 25-ish frames a second, meaning that I could enjoy feeling like a small bug without having to regurgitate. However, once more characters showed up onscreen and became filled with assets, the framerate immediately plummeted to something not higher than 7 or 8 frames per second. It became painful. It became nauseating.

The game is also riddled with visual glitches. At first, I thought that the fact human characters were blinking in and out of existence was a possible side effect of our character having to deal with new eyeballs. Maybe Gregor was hallucinating or something? Given how you can trip on shrooms at some specific points, I thought that this could have been a smart visual trick implemented by the developers.

Metamorphosis

Here’s another free sample.

All it took was for the game to crash for me to realize that, no, it wasn’t a smart visual trick. The damn thing is just broken. Not only do the textures have a mind of their own, showing up only when they feel like it, but the game loves to freak out and turn simple bug characters into glitchy polygonal monstrosities from out of nowhere. Having to deal with as many frames per second as I have fingers on my hands is already annoying enough. But having to deal with visual and audio glitches was enough for me to give up on Metamorphosis ever getting itself together and delivering a pleasant experience. The developers failed to understand that, while this game should have been filled with bugs, we meant insects, not programming issues.

Metamorphosis

“Whaddya lookin’ at?”

Metamorphosis has a great premise and a very intelligent story. I’m not gonna lie, playing as a bug in a first-person perspective was impressive at first. Too bad this one of the most unpolished games I have ever played in my life. Its framerate is abysmally low, and its assets and textures pop in and out of existence almost nonstop. I may not have liked this game, like at all, but I do appreciate that a team of devs took its time to craft a game out of a famous novel. I’m looking forward to seeing other people do the same in the future. I just hope they polish their games before releasing them, though.

 

Graphics: 3.5

Even though the art direction is downright amazing, the amount of visual glitches and horrendous framerate turn Metamorphosis into a graphically unpleasant experience.

Gameplay: 3.5

First-person platforming with one of the worst framerates from this entire generation of gaming. A recipe for disaster. It works moderately well when the framerate manages to behave for a couple of minutes, though.

Sound: 7.0

The human voice acting is actually quite good and there are some good background tunes every now and then. Everything works pretty well, with the exception of some instances in which sound glitches steal the spotlight.

Fun Factor: 4.0

The idea of making a game based off a Franz Kafka novel is amazing. There are some good gameplay ideas in here. Sadly, Metamorphosis is so glitchy, so broken, it quickly becomes a burden. An absolute nightmare to deal with.

Final Verdict: 4.0

Metamorphosis is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on Xbox One.

A copy of Metamorphosis was provided by the publisher.