transcend — retro-style, abstract, 2D shooter




Transcend can best be described as retro-style, abstract, 2D shooter. The graphics are geometrical, and the pace is sometimes frenzied.

Two features set Transcend apart from other games. First, its dynamic graphical engine, which can smoothly morph from one complex shape to another, produces striking displays. Combining these dynamic shapes with subtle randomizations makes each play through a Transcend level visually different from the last. The second novel feature is Transcend's musical power-up system. As you play through a level, you are simultaneously assembling an abstract visual collage and arranging a unique piece of music. Transcend merges video games with pure art---it can be viewed either as a game or as a multimedia sculpture.


How to play Transcend


Stereo headphones or speakers with good stereo separation are highly recommended. The music generated by Transcend is in stereo, and how you interact with Transcend affects stereo positioning in the music. Transcend is playable on a monophonic sound system, but many subtle sound features will be missed.

Basic Keyboard Controls:

Arrow keys: direct your glyph around the plane

Space bar: fire projectiles

D key: pick up or drop an Element

P key: pause the game

Q key: quit

Advanced Keyboard Controls:

S key: slide your glyph to the left

F key: slide your glyph to the right

Quick instructions:

To win a level, you must destroy the major anti-glyph. Your glyph starts out very weak---its initial projectiles are powerless (they cannot even destroy minor anti-glyphs). Build the strength of your projectiles by gathering Elements from the plane and dropping them near the center of the grid in a collage. Minor anti-glyphs will try to break apart your collage---destroy them with projectiles (you need at least one Element in your collage to have projectiles that are powerful enough to destroy minor anti-glyphs). After you destroy the major anti-glyph, a portal will appear. Pass through this portal to move on to the next level.

A more detailed description is given below.

How to play

Game Components:

A level in Transcend contains the following components:

Your glyph - Always at the center of the screen. This is the component that you control (i.e., "you" in traditional game-speak).

The plane - Marked by a grid. Your glyph can travel anywhere on this grid.

Umbilical - A colored line that connects your glyph to the center of the grid. This line's color and width change according to your current projectile strength and attributes.

Elements - Stationary objects that start out strewn along the borderof the grid. Your glyph can pick these up and move themaround. Elements can be dropped at the center of the grid to form a power-up and music collage (see below).

Music cursor - A red, yellow, and green line that traverses your Element collage. This line moves to show the current music position in time. The vertical extent of the cursor represents the stereo space (red is right, green is left, and yellow is center).

Minor anti-glyphs - The enemy. These mobile components pursue your glyph and the Elements in your power-up collage.

Major anti-glyph - A large enemy that travels in a circular path around the grid. This enemy is your primary target: when you destroy the major anti-glyph, you can move on to the next level.

Portal - Appears after you destroy the major anti-glyph. While the portal is visible, minor anti-glyphs will stop attacking. You can explore the various Elements and musical possibilities without being bothered by enemies. Pass through the portal to move on to the next level.

Enemy attacks:

When you are hit with an enemy projectile, your glyph drops any Element that it is carrying and is propelled back toward the center of the grid. When an Element is hit by an enemy projectile, it is propelled away from the center of the grid. Once you have started building a collage of Elements, the minor anti-glyphs will try to knock Elements out and disrupt your collage.

Power-up and music collage:

Elements that are dropped near the center of the grid (where your umbilical ends) form a collage. Elements that are dropped near the collage also become part of the collage (thus, a collage can extend far away from the grid center as long as some Element in the collage is near the center).

Each Element represents a projectile power-up. The Elements in your collage are combined to determine the strength and form of your glyph's projectile.

After your collage contains at least one Element, your projectiles will be strong enough to destroy any minor anti-glyph in one shot. However, the major anti-glyph is much more durable, and a relatively large collage will be needed to make your projectiles strong enough to destroy it easily.

If your collage grows to be asymmetrical and/or off-center, your projectiles will become weaker (they will appear transparent and your umbilical will become thinner).

In addition to a projectile power-up, each Element represents a section of music. A cursor traverses your collage and plays the music associated with the Elements that you have assembled. Thus, a chain of elements that extends perpendicular to the cursor will be played sequentially in time. A chain that extends parallel to the cursor will be played simultaneously in time but spaced out in stereo.


Transcend was written by Jason Rohrer.

This manual page was written for Debian by Miriam Ruiz <>.