Storytelling has always been a huge part of gaming, whether that is through epic quests or simply backstory for the titular characters. Why not flip that around and make a game heavily influenced by a novella, as Ovid Works has done with their upcoming title, Metamorphosis. This surreal adventure shows the dark side of a bug’s life while stuffing as much Kafkaesque imagery of oppressive bureaucracy into your eyes as it can.
You start the first-person puzzle game just as you do in the novella, as Gregor waking up from a night out drinking with your best friend. It’s not just a hangover that you’ve woken up with, however, as you soon find yourself inhabiting the body of a cockroach. Lovely, remind me to not drink absinthe on a weekday again…
Anyway, seconds later you’re glad to be not in your human body, as the secret police are there to arrest you and your friend. Why? Well, we don’t know. Actually, we don’t know, the secret policeman barely knows, the lawyer you end up hiring doesn’t know the charges either, and we can only assume that the judge (if we ever end up in front of one) won’t know either. What a Kafkaesque nightmare. Oh… right… it is based on a novella by Kafka, after all.
As Gregor-the-cockroach, you now have the unenviable task of getting to The Tower, where you might be able to work your sentence off to become human again. Maybe… I mean, Kafka really loved the theme of hope even in the face of insurmountable odds, and what stakes are higher than regaining your humanity?
Straddling the line between fantasy and reality, your path weaves back and forth between the two. The dreamlike passages where every character you meet is also in insect form are beautiful in their degraded nature. To get to The Tower, you first need your papers, because of course you do. Time for a crash course in how inefficient a functioning bureaucracy can actually be, where every step towards your goal makes you have to take five steps to the left, seven backwards, and do a few twirls along the way.
Between the real world sections where Gregor has to traverse the insides of furniture, shelves, and handily-scattered items such as pencils to be able to climb higher, and the back paths of the hidden insect world, the game is a platformer at heart.
Maybe that’s not quite right… Metamorphosis is a parable at its heart, about the struggle to keep our own identity in the crushing weight of our daily obligations, wrapped in a platformer. You can even climb on vertical surfaces by coating your six legs in sticky substances such as honey or glue.
After an hour or so of scuttling around my new environs as Gregor, I’ve acclimatized to the noise of my many legs, and also to the new obligations I have. I hope nobody has any bug spray later on…
Metamorphosis is scheduled to release later this year on Steam.