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Review: Rebel Transmute (Switch) – A Brutally Brilliant Metroid-Like

About five years ago, solo developer Evan Tor set out to make a new game in the crowded Metroidvania genre called . Tor launched a Kickstarter in 2022 to secure the funding to get the game over the line, and after a successful campaign and development period, the title has finally made it to consoles and PC. Rebel Transmute may not be a particularly innovative new entry in the genre, but what it lacks in novel ideas it more than makes up for in polish and quality. Rebel Transmute is great comfort food for the dedicated Metroidvania fan, and we’d suggest you pay attention to it.

Rebel Transmute places you in the role of Moon Mikono, a “space scrapper” in search of her mother who’s gone missing in action. Her search brings her to the isolated planet of Terra 6, which was once home to an extensive research facility helmed by the mysterious Foray corporation that her mother worked for. An EMP causes Moon’s ship to crash on Terra 6, and she wakes up twelve years later in a hostile and decrepit environment where something has since clearly gone wrong. Moon’s mother appears to be alive and somewhere on the planet, so our unlikely heroine sets out on a journey to find her and figure out what happened to the facility.

It’s not the most elaborate narrative, but Rebel Transmute does a great job of drip-feeding its lore to keep you invested throughout Moon’s journey. A lot of work is left to the player to connect the dots, but there’s an interesting narrative that takes some legitimately surprising turns along the way. Even if you’re someone who mostly ignores the story in Metroidvanias, Rebel Transmute manages to set a very effective atmosphere that makes you feel isolated without necessarily making you alone.

Gameplay can be most closely described as the lovechild of and classic , though it takes much more strongly after the former due to its focus on combat and difficulty. Moon carries a gun, but its range is less effective than a Super Soaker, essentially making it a melee weapon. It does a decent amount of damage but has quite a bit of knockback when shots connect, meaning that positioning is something you have to be vigilant of, lest you accidentally knock yourself off of a cliff or into a spike pit when you’re trying to finish off an enemy.

To add to the challenge, you start with only four health points, and it doesn’t take long before you find yourself getting caught in choke points where enemies can easily swarm you. You have a rechargeable ‘sparkblood’ injector you can use to recover one health point at a time, but activating this starts a lengthy animation where you’re a sitting duck, and you have to shoot enemies several times before you can use it again. If you fall in battle, you’ll drop a health node where you died which you have to trek back to collect, leaving you with three health before you die again and drop another one. Die any more without picking up either of those dropped health nodes, and you’ll start losing half of your currency on each death, limiting the upgrades and goodies you can pick up at shops.

This all adds up to make for an experience that feels very careful and plodding in the best of ways. Despite having some cool mobility options like a classic-era Mega Man slide move, Rebel Transmute is nothing like , where Samus can easily parkour around the environment and dispatches most enemies before they see her coming. Instead, Moon moves cautiously through the hostile environments, jumping at every bit of movement on the edge of the screen and taking her time to calculate every slide and jump. Rebel Transmute is a fair game, but it’s not a forgiving one, and mistakes will be savagely punished until you either ‘git gud’ enough to power through or leave with your tail between your legs to go explore a (hopefully) easier area.

This difficulty all comes to a head in the many boss battles you’ll come across in your adventure, each of which will likely take you a fair few attempts before you finally manage to edge out a win. Every boss behaves according to easily observed and exploited attack patterns, but these fights are often battles of attrition as you whittle them down. Again, Rebel Transmute is fair in how it challenges you here, but you’re expected to closely study and practice these fights before you can hope to overcome them. Even so, we loved the thrill of these battles—they offer up some of the most intense and memorable moments in the whole adventure.

While Moon will pick up various stat, weapon, and mobility upgrades through exploration or snagging collectibles at shops, there’s also an RPG-lite character-building system that’s similar to Hollow Knight’s charms system. Moon can equip various collectible augments that grant her benefits ranging from showing enemy health bars to more specialized things like pinwheeling tentacles that block projectiles and keep enemies at bay when you give yourself a healing injection.

Each of these augments carries a cost, and while Moon can equip quite a few of them and later expand her ability to do so, you still have to be picky with what abilities matter most to you. We enjoyed the added depth that this brought to everything from combat to exploration, as different loadouts suit different situations and new additions to the repertoire always spawn some fun trial and error as you tweak builds to see how the latest pickup can change your approach.

As for the level design, things are kept pretty linear for the first few hours as you’re taught the ropes, but Rebel Transmute quickly takes away the training wheels and widens the scope of its map considerably. This is the kind of Metroidvania that’s easy to get lost in, but the map is satisfyingly dense in collectibles and secrets, so it never feels like you’re wasting too much time with backtracking. Sometimes we went off the intended path only to discover exciting things like optional bosses and entirely new biomes, feeding a wondrous sense of scale as you immerse in this world and find cool stuff to engage with.

Notably, it feels like the platforming in Rebel Transmute is much more difficult than a typical entry in this genre, and this is neither a good nor a bad thing. The main areas you’re expected to go to usually aren’t too bad, but there are plenty of gauntlets that remind us of some of the infamous Shinespark puzzles of the Metroid games. Moon eventually amasses quite a versatile kit of movement options, so it never feels like the platforming is poorly designed, but those of you who enjoyed Hollow Knight’s Path of Pain will find a lot to love here.

In terms of its presentation, Rebel Transmute goes for a basic sci-fi art style that feels like a simpler version of the art from . Biomes in this alien environment are nicely differentiated from each other while enemy designs—particularly those bosses—often show a lot of creativity, though sometimes they borrow heavily from established enemy designs like Metroid’s Geemers. Still, there’s not a whole lot about this release visually that really ‘wows’, and nothing is memorable in the same way as something like .


Rebel Transmute is probably the best Metroidvania you’ve never heard of. Though its visuals are just okay, its skillful blend of high difficulty, obscure narrative, and rewarding exploration all make for a thoroughly great entry that no genre fan should miss out on. New Metroidvanias are certainly a dime a dozen, but releases like Rebel Transmute demonstrate that there’s always room for one more good one. We’d recommend you pick this game up if you’re a big fan of the genre, particularly if you want something that scratches that Hollow Knight itch—Rebel Transmute has got it where it counts and is certainly worth your time and attention.