Franz Kafka was known for writing some weird stuff. It’s where we get the term “kafkaesque” from, after all, and that means (according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary) something that is: of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings especially: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality. One of his most well-known works, The Metamorphosis, concerns a man turning into a “hideous vermin,” and it’s no surprise that this story, with all the Kafka hallmarks it bears, has inspired a video game of its very own. Metamorphosis, from developers Ovid Works and publishers All in! Games, follows the story of a man turned into a bug.
Like its inspiration, Metamorphosis centers around a man, later bug, named Gregor Samsa. After a wild night of partying, he wakes up at the apartment of his friend Josef, only to find that he slowly shrinks as he walks down the hallway and transforms. From there, the preview centers around his journey to reach Tower, an organization where they can, allegedly, help transfigure him back into a person. We’re not given any real details as to what Tower is, and we see the world through Gregor’s beady little eyes, so whether or not Tower is real or to be trusted is still unknown.
The gameplay of Metamorphosis is really quite strange. It’s not so much an action or platforming game as a peculiar exploration game. Given that the whole world is seen through Gregor’s eyes, the challenge comes from trying to get from here to there as a bug. Books, shoes, combs, plates, and all manner of assorted rubbish are all organized into accessible pathways to get from one place to another, but navigating them is not as easy as it looks.
You’re unable to see yourself, and there were several times I found myself falling off of a platform or a piece of furniture because I couldn’t tell how much of my body was on the platform and how much was off it. I realize that in the original short story, Gregor’s new body is never actually described in detail, therefore keeping the game in the first person preserves the mystery, but after the fifth or sixth tumble I took, it became more frustrating than mysterious.
The world itself, of Josef’s room and the strange bug-world it seems to connect to, are both enormous and well planned out. There are lots to see as you explore, but not a lot to do except to continue striving for your destination. While it looks interesting and feels like a real person’s room would, the size of some of the areas is a little too big, and it can be hard to know where you are supposed to go, even using the game’s hint system. For someone without a good sense of direction, you can find yourself going in circles or worse, backtracking, for an irritating amount of time.
Metamorphosis has a fascinating premise and strong execution, but from the first few hours of gameplay, it’s still too muddled to really understand what is going on. The gameplay itself is well thought out but at times its size works against it, as does its commitment to the mysterious. All the same, with the divergence from the original short story, I’m interested to see where Gregor and the game end up.
TechRaptor previewed Metamorphosis on PC with a copy provided by the developer/publisher. The game is set to release some time in 2020.