The theme of Transference
is what initially intrigued me about the game. The idea of being able to upload the human brain into the digital space and create a simulated world based on that brain data is an interesting sci-fi topic and sort of further begets the much larger discussion of merging our minds and bodies with computer data and hardware.
It also popped up on the "Easy Gamerscore..." article from 11 Feb 2020.
The game takes place in the simulated mind built by Raymond "Ray" Hughes, a brilliant but "mad scientist" type character. The simulation also leverages perspectives from his wife Katherine, a successful musician and their young son Benjamin. As the player, you explore this simulated world and discover that this once strong and loving family has devolved into an empty husk of it's former existence.
Raymond becomes utterly obsessed with his work on uploading the human conscious to the digital world and it's created a negative impact on his wife and son. You discover that he's downing cup after cup of coffee to stay alert, as evidence by all of the mugs, disposable coffee cups and coffee stained paper littered through the house and he has also been prescribed sleeping pills to counter this implied caffeine addiction. Katherine feels like a prisoner in her own home, sacrificing her successful music career when she married Raymond and to help provide for their young son. Katherine becomes further separated from her musical passion and falls into depression, to the point of having to be prescribed anti-depressants. Benjamin is stuck trying to connect with his Father, whom Katherine describes as a "closed door" and "a do not disturb sign", as well as his increasingly depressed Mother.
The core gameplay loop revolves around solving puzzles to "uncorrupt" sections of the simulation in order to progress the story. You'll find light switches scattered around the level which allow you to change the perspective of the level's structure which are key to exploring the game, providing clues and getting some more important backstory to the characters. Katherine's perspective feels a lot like a prison, as shown by the tally marks etched into the wall like a prisoner counting the days they've been locked away for. Benjamin's world feels very empty and lonely, supplemented only by the love for his dog Laika. Raymond's world, unsurprisingly, is about his obsession with his work, as evidenced by the various computers, scientific hardware and research papers littered throughout the family home. The further you progress through the game, the more the state of the family begins to devolve, to the point where Raymond is sporting a nasty cut across his left cheek, indicating some form of abuse; self-inflicted or otherwise, as well as Katherine announcing that she wants to get on a plane with her son and leave Raymond behind as evidenced by the player discovering one way plane tickets for both of them.
The size and scale of the game is not overly large. Aside from an outside shot of the family's apartment building to start the game, the remainder of it takes place entirely inside the family's home, however the game's dark and chilling atmosphere left me feeling perfectly fine with this design decision. The story is incredibly linear and loses a lot of it's intrigue with a second play through. The game has some strong FMV performances that provide character backstory. The game's sound design is fantastic, particularly Benjamin's cries for help, screams of terror and frustration provide some heart-wrenching moments.
My two biggest gripes with the game are as follows: The game's ending is really abrupt and anti-climatic. There's no real satisfactory conclusion for any of the characters and the ending is just you walking through a white "server room" environment before giving you a rather ambiguous ending cutscene. My second gripe is the runtime relative to it's price point: $34.99 CAD for a game that can be completed in a little over 1 hour is a borderline con. I got it on sale for $10.49 CAD and while that's marginally better, it's still way overpriced for what the game gives you. I can recommend Transference
at a deep discount to provide a satisfactory gaming experience.
As an aside, I'd totally get this design as a tattoo.