Dual Transform

by Andrew Plotkin profile

Science Fiction

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Number of Reviews: 10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Perfectly written, March 22, 2022

I found this game deeply engrossing and immersive to a rare degree. This is partly down to the clever puzzle mechanic: it's unusual, but also quite intuitive once you get the hang of it, and it's deeply satisfying to try things out and find that they do work. I'm not very good at puzzles but I found the difficulty here just right.

But the evocative "locations" and beautiful writing are equally important. This game is a masterclass in how to write IF. Each location has just the right amount of description, coupled with background events, to conjure it perfectly in the mind's eye.

I would have loved a longer, more in-depth implementation of this, perhaps with whole Myst-style "worlds" rather than single rooms, and multiple objects to carry between them - but that would be a quite different sort of game. As it is, this one is perfect for what it is. (Though I do find the ending rather unsatisfying. *Is* there a sequel...?)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Abstract, But Great, April 23, 2017
by ulmo

As with most of Plotkin's works that I've seen, its pretty abstract, but that's exactly what I want with this game. The puzzles are brilliant, and the whole game exudes minimalistic elegance and taste in knowing what's enough to put in. It ends a little sooner than I would've liked, considering that the puzzles, while they do get harder, don't ever seem to fully use what's available.

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A one-room, one-item, one-container, one-creature game with logical puzzles, February 3, 2016

Dual Transform, by Andrew Plotkin, is one game that I think would be great for beginners without being condescending or annoying; it is also great for experienced players.

In this game, you control a console that alters the environment. You stay in the same room with the same item, but the room and item change appearance.

Once you figure out the logic of the game, it is mostly one straightforward move after another, with a couple of little sticking points that provide more satisfaction.

The writing and setting are top-notch, making this a memorable game. Having recently played "So Far", it seems that the author took some ideas from that game and concentrated/refined them into this game.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
short but entertaining, June 12, 2013

Short game, puzzle-based.

The game requires you to travel back and forth through multiple settings without ever actually moving in any directions. I thought the gimmick with the "items" was a rather clever and succinct way to deal with the puzzles.

Creative idea. Simple puzzles that are conceptually fascinating. Simple environment with no mapping required (if you prefer that). No worries about being bogged down by items.

Some might find the puzzles too simple. On the other hand, no hints or help provided which may make it difficult to play for newcomers to the medium. Not really any narrative or character development, if that's what you're looking for.
Also, I don't see much replay value in the game since the puzzles only have one method of solving them. As far as I could find there was only one ending (which alluded to a sequel that doesn't seem to exist).

Personally, I love puzzle-y games, and I especially love when those puzzles could only exist in IF. My favourite games are those with linguistic puzzle or ones that require you to "take [abstract concept]" which wouldn't be possible in the real world, or even in visual gaming. This is my favourite aspect of the IF medium and I think Dual Transform takes a good shot at implementing this idea.

The game is short - took me about half an hour. I wouldn't call it challenging, but I thought it was really fun to run through and would recommend it to someone who wants a quick, puzzle-based game to play.

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful:
Wonderful, Comparatively Short with Not Too Difficult Puzzles, July 11, 2012
by octofuzz (Trondheim, Norway)

This is the third Andrew Plotkin game I have played (the others being 'The Dreamhold' and 'Shade') and once again Zarf triumphs in my opinion.

Like in 'Shade', your character is somewhat of an enigma giving you your own opportunity to make assumptions on the identity and character of the protagonist.

As is typical with Zarfs worlds, the locations are highly descriptive and give you a wonderful sense of place without shoving too much unneeded prose down your throat.

I completed the game in just over an hour, and being a one room (ish) game it requires no mapping. Good for playing on the plane or something on your ios device.

The puzzles are not too difficult. I often rely too much on hints because I am rubbish at puzzles, however I only had to ask for a hint once during this game (I had to hunt online for these, there is no help or hint system built in as far as I can work out).

I didn't enjoy this one as much as 'Shade' in many respects, however I did only complete 'Dual Transform' five minutes ago, so who knows what I will think on reflection!

Wonderful game, Zarf at his best. Unlike 'Shade' however, I don't really think you can get more out of this one with a second play through.

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful:
Typical Plotkin, February 20, 2011
by Victor Gijsbers (The Netherlands)

In a review a couple of days ago of Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home I wrote that Plotkin is known for giving us "large empty worlds seen from a distance by an almost abstract protagonist". Dual Transform does not belong in this category exactly, since it is placed in a single room (although it is a single room that changes radically during the game). On the other hand, it comes close to being the most abstract game ever, since it is built up around archetypes of "pressure" and "form" that are given shape and materiality by the subconscious of the protagonist.

With this set-up, one would expect a clearly characterised protagonist: if we get to see what he or she subcobsciously links to pressure, to heat, and so on; if the entire world is the product of his or her free imagination; then, surely, we will learn about this person's thoughts, fears, ambitions, and so on? Nothing, however, is less true: no object in the world seems to have any personal significance for the protagonist, nor do we move far beyond, well, archetypal objects like "book", "tree", "church" and "mushroom".

This all might be a very clever application of Jungian psychology -- I cannot judge, since I know nothing about the subject. Ignoring this possibility, there is little to sustain interest in the story and the world: not only is the protagonist highly abstract, but so is his quest. It was never clear to me that the story explored something I cared about.

Whether any of this is a problem is a matter of sensibility: so many reviewers speak of immersion where I felt only distance that I must assume there is a mode of inhabiting these thoughtscapes that is simply inaccessible to me. But I suspect it is inaccessible to many. I cannot, for instance, think of a single book of fiction that is written at the level of abstraction Plotkin brings to the table -- even T. S. Eliot, who can be mightily abstract, infuses his poetry with particular details and (perhaps more importantly) links his philosophical claims to our lived experience.

As a game, Dual Transform is a puzzler that takes its inspiration from the magic system in Emily Short's Savoir-Faire. The puzzles are not difficult once you have realised something that is not quite obvious (Spoiler - click to show)(the single object you can take around with you will change in other rooms, but not when you have it in your inventory, so you must drop it on the ground to have it change), but in-game hints would still have been appreciated. The puzzles are not always logical, and I would have liked to seem them linked more closely to the archetypes we are supposed to be exploring. The final puzzle is better: it can be solved using knowledge you have already gathered and at the same time transforms your insight into all the locations you have visited.

The writing and implementation are good, as we have of course come to expect from Plotkin.

If you generally like Plotkin's worlds, you will like this one as well. If you find they lack characterisation and story, you will find those lacking here as well. A typical work, then, from a writer whose skills are beyond doubt, but whose aesthetics are (one assumes) more divisive.

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:
Archetypal Odyssey, November 27, 2010
by The Year Is Yesterday (California)

As the description says, Dual Transform takes place in one room and in many. There is only one carryable object, and there are legion. Without moving from place to place, you shift the room around you by invoking certain archetypes, such as "pressure" or "heat." The strength of the writing, then, rests less on the story than on the degree to which every element of the room encapsulates the archetype from which it was derived. This is pulled off, to my mind, to varying degrees of success. What's more successful is the vitality and dynamism present within the various spaces invoked: some crackle with energy, others suggest oppression or dread, others are harder to pin down. The writing, however, is secondary here to the puzzles, which hinge on taking advantage of the symmetry between the room in its various forms: what changes, and what stays the same. They are mostly simple, but pleasing to the brain. The one flaw here is that pesky "To Be Continued" message at the end...

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Symbolic Symmetry, May 20, 2010
by TempestDash (Cincinnati, Ohio)

This is a relatively easy one-room game by Plotkin that tries itís best to stretch the Ďone-roomí category into a more robust game. Shade (also by Plotkin), is also supposedly a Ďone-roomí game but expands on that limitation by having several discrete areas you could enter and exit in order to interact with items there or see more detail when examining. Here, Plotkin takes a different approach to doing more with less, and the one Ďroomí you are in is actually a virtual reality that can be dramatically changed by invoking different icons representing different environments.

Of course, if that was the only gimmick of the game, you could easily argue that Dual Transform is a multi-room game with a unique method of traversing from one to the next. What makes this game unique is that some of the objects in the room are persistent, and when you invoke a new environment, that object takes on the aspects of the new room but is considered to be the same physical item.

Itís easier to understand with an example. This isnít from the game, but, if you were in a cave with a large boulder sitting on top of a box or switch you wanted to access, but couldnít lift the boulder because it was too heavy, you could invoke another environment, such as a beach. In the beach environment, the boulder would take on new characteristics fitting the new room and possibly become a beach ball. You could then move the beach ball, or deflate it, or tear it in half. After dealing with the relatively light and deformable beach ball, you then invoke the original cave environment. The beach ball would turn back into the boulder (fitting with the environment), but remain in its current location or condition, so it would be flat, or in two pieces, or moved to the side, allowing you access to your original objective.

This idea of objects being persistent but in different forms is the bulk of the puzzles in the game. As you progress you acquire new environments to invoke and learn how the persistent objects change to match their new surroundings. The game is short, and relatively easy once you understand how each room affects your inventory, and concludes with a satisfying puzzle that requires you to use all of the environments in the right order to solve.

Due to its brevity, I donít have quite as much to complain about. The story is essentially non-existent, and what is there (provided at the beginning) doesnít entirely make a lot of sense. Supposedly, you are a programmer working to create a perfect virtual workspace and you do this by invoking primal concepts and trying to shove them into a smaller virtual environment where they will all interact. Despite existing in a computer and starring a programmer, the whole idea is very abstract and symbolic rather than deliberate and material. As such, it plays with the same concepts Iíve seen in other Plotkin games where reality and dream collide, such as Shade and Spider and Web. The ending can also be considered just as vague (Spoiler - click to show)and, surprisingly, indicates that there will be a sequel. A first for Plotkin, I think.

Ultimately, itís a fun little game that wonít take too long if you can grasp the essential concepts. You arenít going to be quite as challenged as other Plotkin games but, for me, thatís not a big deal. The lack of a meaningful story, though, is a real letdown. I recommend it, though only if youíre looking for a brief diversion.

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Puzzles within puzzles ..., May 4, 2010
by Tristano (Italy)

I enjoyed completing this game, it took me just less than an hour.

A one-room game which takes place in a transforming virtual-reality environment. The player soon starts to grasp the logic of the game and to handle the symbolic environment to induce changes and shift of levels.

I've never played anything like it, and I was surprised and amused. Not too hard to solve but requires concentration and thinking -- it litterally sucks you in the game's interwoven symbolism. It requires basic commands, and a lot of associational intuition.

Really worth playing!

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:
Engaging, surreal, and relatively easy, February 10, 2010

Dual Transform isn't a hard game. I don't think it was meant to be hard. It doesn't take too long to figure out how the game works and from there, it's just a matter of using logic to complete the next puzzle. Once you become immersed in the game, logic is replaced by a kind of instinct where you understand what to do next even before you comprehend why it has to be done. The puzzle system creates an environment that is unlike anything I've seen previously. Your surroundings are ever-changing and you must find a way to manipulate them to get to the next "room".

After playing the game for a few minutes, I felt drawn into its beautiful world. Each "room" represents a physical property and the more time you spend in the environment, the more immersed you become in the sensation of said property. The back-story of the PC is never fully explained, but
I didnít feel a need for more information. The PC is a researcher, trying to design a three-dimensional, sensory workspace. The story behind the puzzle is intriguing, but simple enough so that the player doesnít get lost in an overwhelming amount of data.

The "one object only" concept was implemented well and simplified the game at some points, while making it harder at others. The descriptions were well-written and used plenty of sensory information to create a realistic atmosphere. The ending puzzle brought the game to a beautiful, surreal, and somewhat surprising close. Hopefully, the author will follow up with a sequel like the ending implies.

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