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When I was a kid I had tons of toy cars, especially those cheap ones that they sell at town fairs. Miniature in size, they all made me wonder, what if an actual miniature driver were to drive them. Would he see the marble floor as his race track and the tables and chairs as wooden monuments? I never got around to actually experience that until I played games like Re-Volt and Hot Wheels: Beat That!. However, most of them were limited to pre-made and custom-made tracks denying me a legitimate experience of looking at the world through tiny eyes. That was, until I stumbled across this Franz Kafka inspired game, Metamorphosis.

Story & Narrative

Contrary to what you might think, this game isn’t a retelling of Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis where the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, turns into a grotesque human-sized cockroach and his family had to adjust to that. This is more of a re-imagining. As Gregor, you wake up drunk at your best friend Joseph’s house but he’s nowhere in sight. Traveling down unfamiliar corridors past paintings depicting bugs doing chores, you notice something strange – the surroundings appear bigger than they should. The roof is higher, the floor lower, and the corridor seemingly dark and endless, that is, until your own voice starts cracking as if you’re speaking directly from the throat. And before you realize, you’re looking at a pair of black, cursorial legs with your perspective shifted to ground level.

To make matters worse, Joseph has been arrested without any valid reason and is tangled in obscure bureaucratic procedures to prove his innocence. Since he’s oblivious to your ordeals, his life depends on you. Stumbling upon a mysterious letter addressed to you, you fall through its ink into an indiscernible void where a voice from the sky tells you to head for a fabled Tower promising a return back to your human form. And it’s not long before you realize there’s an entire society of insects living down there with the same set of endless procedures and policies that will make you run from pillar to post.

In essence, Metamorphosis is a kind of satire of real-world government procedures, run by slothful employees who use the infrastructure’s policy’s obscurity to justify their laziness. And how at the end of the entire milk run, you find out that they had the answers all along within arm’s reach but they were too lazy or dimwitted to admit that.

The story of Metamorphosis isn’t like Pickle Rick‘s or the Tin Soldier‘s adventures. There is an adventure, yes, but it’s not something you might be telling your grandkids who yearn for harrowing tales of survival. There is no ‘survival’ in Metamorphosis as we would be spending 70% of the game to get a certain certificate approved. Not once did I feel that I was in control of the situations that Gregor faced. It was like I was stuck in the same kind of hopeless bureaucracy of submitting the ‘right’ documents which I face in real life. As I said, Metamorphosis is a satire of its real-world counterparts and it’s evident from talking to a few NPC insects in the game.

Metamorphosis depicts a growing society of pre-human insects consisting of bartenders, alcoholics, desk job employees, club owners, and even a chainsmoking Femme Fatale (or so she seemed since it’s hard to determine the sex of insects). The world-building is nicely done thanks to the in-game posters and corny dialogues that reek of irony and exaggeration. Because even though the citizens of the insect-world are all chitinous, their brains are still human. For example, there was an insect who was suicidal and was about to jump to its death even though those guys don’t take fall damage. There was another who wanted to tamper with his wife’s divorce papers as he was caught cheating with a ladybug. Instances like these somewhat made up for the bare-bones story where characters appeared and disappeared as per the plot’s convenience. Sorry Ovid Works, but the plot felt like something that one would narrate without proper planning – Gregor is able to convince others to do his bidding, characters would help us without asking anything in return and the endings (yeah there’s two actually) left a sour taste in my mouth.

Gameplay and Mechanics

To be honest, there’s not much in terms of mechanics apart from quite a lot of platforming. Things that seem mundane for a human, like a desk, book, pencil, etc become hulking structures to overcome. And all this is possible by jumping, a bit of sprint-jumping and a bit of help from sticky substances lying around. Walking over sticky substances like ink, glue or jelly, allows Gregor to climb vertical surfaces directly albeit for a limited number of times (you can’t climb upside down though). This makes for some interesting (and intense) platforming sections. The only way to die in Metamorphosis is when you fall off the edge of the platform into uncharted areas like the floor, some endless pit, or get crushed under moving objects, or drown in water, or get burnt to a crisp.

Since it’s all platforming based, there is a lot of wandering around to look for that particular linear pathway, kind of like in Mirror’s Edge. At times, you need to rotate some cylindrical devices to activate a mechanism. Then there are instances where the sticky substances will find its use apart from helping Gregor climb. Let’s just say, it’s crucial for the ending as well. All in all, the difficulty level of puzzles might cater to a toddler – they are as simple as finding which way to rotate the devices or which button to press.

Visuals, Performance & Sound

Metamorphosis shines astonishingly in the visual department with its uber-surreal representation of what the world would look like through the eyes of a bug. Locations are larger than life, quite literally, and often break the very physics of the real world as the insect domain bleeds into our own. Extremely long corridors of lockers within lockers, towering hallucinogenic mushrooms, endless voids without skies, movie projectors acting as portals- the game sent me tripping without consuming any substance, made me see things that a normal human being wouldn’t believe.

At one point I was navigated through the dusty planks behind Joseph’s cupboard and in the next I was drinking Bugweiser in an insect-club built inside an old man’s gramophone, and then in the next, I was skittering down the pneumatic arm of an automatic paper sorting machine built inside a wooden desk! Some sections of the game legit made me acrophobic as I looked down just to gauge how high up I was. And then there were instances that gave severe megalophobia, especially when I was walking underneath the arm of a gargantuan-sized human being. It was reminiscent of the stone giant fight scene from The Hobbit.

As for the sound design, the voice acting of Gregor is well done. The transition in his tone as he got up slobbered and slowly transformed into an insect is accurately portrayed. Alas, it was short-lived as for the rest of the game, there are only the raspy indiscernible mumblings of the insects (god bless subtitles). Those parts where the game bloomed in dreamlike imagery, were usually accompanied by dark violin music or a haunting choir aptly reflecting what Franz Kafka had intended when he wrote The Metamorphosis.


Even though Metamorphosis will send you on a trance-like adventure with great world-building, it’s overshadowed by the eccentric and bizarre narrative. This might be because the devs were trying to stay true to the source material, but as a game where the gameplay involves only platforming, this doesn’t come across as such a great idea. At the end of the day, Metamorphosis ends up being only a bit more than a walking simulator and it’s also very short. In other words, wait for a sale.


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