For those unfamiliar with Jason Rohrer, he is a creator of Art-Games. That is, he strives to make a game into a piece of inspiration that offers a subliminal experience.
As the first game of the author, Transcend is less well-developed than Jason Rohrer's later Art-Games. It is notably more frantic and "game-like" than the others, with the Art component seemingly pushed back into second-place. Nevertheless, it is still a relaxing diversion. If playing Passage is like listening to Bach, consider Transcend to be a piece of easy-listening.
The game consists of levels. Each level is a small and bounded 2D playing field, referred to simply as "the plane". The player controls an invinsible "glyph", and must collect "elements" scattered across the plane, stockpiling them in the middle of the playing field. Doing so grants damage to the glyph's projectiles (which starts out being entirely harmless), allowing the glyph to destroy enemies. The objective of each level is always to gather elements, prevent the elements from being knocked away by minor anti-glyphs, and find an opportunity to destroy the major anti-glyph on the plane.
After playing a few levels, the pace begins to pick up as the number of minor anti-glyphs increases. By the third level, I could not help but to wonder if the game is a representation of what a honey bee's life is like in a forest full of Winnie the Poohs.
The player cannot be killed. There is no way to lose the game without closing it.
It is the author's intention that the replayability should be very high, due to the player's ability to "paint" and "compose" (see the Graphics and Sound sections). The gameplay, however, becomes a tad bit too overwhelming for any player to successfully create any painting or piece of music without getting them knocked apart by anti-glyphs within a few seconds. The degree of difficulty in accomplishing these artistic ambitions, as well as the fatal flaw of not having a level-select function, effectively defeats the "real" purpose of the game.
If you remember those flower boxes from Windows screen savers, imagine a lot of them going off all at the same time. Imagine that you can arrange these beautiful and random patterns any way you like and add some more pretty flowery explosions to them. That is what this game should enable the player to do, in theory. The gameplay, however, effectively destroys this great concept due to the difficulty most players find in keeping those pretty flowers safe from anti-glyph attacks, and the area limitation of where one could place these flowers. The end result is rather typical abstract-shooter-style graphics, if a little more flowery...
In theory, timbre is thickened and melodies layered as those pretty flowers bloom, allowing the player to create a musical piece. In practice, the same problem described in Graphics is encountered.
1. The first level. This is the best level, in my opinion, since the lack of challenge actually contributes to the player's ability to successfully construct sound and image patterns.
2. Third level elements.
3. Destroying the third-level major anti-glyph