Reviewed: November 10
Released: October 21, 2008
I’m probably not the best person to be reviewing a Transformers game since my only exposure to the entire franchise has been the mega-blockbuster movie last year and the game that resulted from that film. The legacy of Transformers runs far deeper than that including a significant presence in the world of animation. Thankfully, where my knowledge of animated Transformers falls short I had plenty of consulting help from GCM staff members who were fluent with the series, one having just reviewed the very DVD box set that inspired Transformers Animated: The Game.
Honestly, you don’t really have to have any knowledge of the animated series, or even Transformers to get into this latest DS action-puzzle title. Sure, for those who are familiar with the series, you will certainly “geek out” over the 100% authentic opening title sequence and the use of all the original voice actors, and classic art designs for the robots and their vehicular counterparts. But even for me – a Transformer illiterate gamer, I had a total blast playing this unique game.
The story that sets the stage for the levels you are about to explore is pretty standard stuff. The evil Megatron, ruler of the Decepticons is up to his old tricks. This time he is trying to locate shards of the Allspark to power his Star Bridge so he can teleport back to Cybertron and launch a sneak-attack on his home world and defeat the Autobots. If I just lost you, don’t worry…there are a thousands geeks who are frothing at the mouth right now.
You get to play as the good guys, the Autobots, specifically, Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, and Prowl, as you race to find the Allspark shards before Megatron and his cronies. The game allows you to play up to three characters at once in a unique puzzle-style adventure not unlike games like Lost Vikings, or more recently, Teenage Zombies: Invasion of the Alien Brain Thingys…no…seriously…it’s a real game. What do you mean you’ve never heard of it?
In both Teenage Zombies and Transformers you get to control multiple characters, each with unique abilities that allow them to overcome specific puzzle-like obstacles. In this case Bumblebee can chimney jump up shafts and power switches to activate elevators. Bulkhead can smash through doors and pummel enemies into submission while Optimus Prime has a nifty axe attack for both melee and ranged combat. You can even launch his axe by drawing a path with the stylus to trigger wall switches and disable fans, etc.
Prowl gets to hit the road for a change of scenery and perspective. While most of the game is played in side-scrolling 2D levels, there are several driving segments where you get to play in 3D, driving through heavy traffic, changing lanes, and morphing between car, truck, or robot and engaging the enemy in combat at high speeds. It’s a nice diversion and pretty fun.
But most of the game relies on the cooperative efforts of your robotic trio as they try to navigate increasingly complex level designs. At first you get to stick together but soon you will have to split up and take very diverse paths to help each of your teammates overcome their own obstacles. Bumblebee is the only robot that can jump, so in one instance you will have to operate a magnetic crane to lift your two friends over a wall. Optimus can rappel up and down girders to access areas the others can’t and nobody would be going anywhere if Bulkhead weren’t knocking down all those steel doors.
There are plenty of enemies lurking in these levels. Some can be engaged directly while others will require some tactics and perhaps even some ranged combat skills. There are conveyor belts with smashing columns that will turn you into scrap metal. You do take damage from combat but there are healing pick-ups or you can also get healed if you fall in combat thanks to an annoying little girl and her key, that is good for three uses (lives) per level.
Controls are excellent with the D-pad controlling movement and the trigger buttons used to quickly cycle through your three Transformers. You can use the buttons for combat and even combine the attack button with the D-pad for ranged attacks, but it is far easier to use the stylus to point at your target to fire an electrical bolt, throw your axe, or launch a wrecking ball attack.
The visuals are actually quite impressive given the 2D nature of most of the game. There is a nice 3D depth to the levels thanks to some clever artwork and perspective design. The robots themselves are a bit clunky, especially Bulkhead, but they are all easily identified with their trademark colors and design, and each has some impressive and subtle animations, like Bumblebee when he wall-slides down an elevator shaft or Bulkhead when he winds up for that final blow of a three-strike combo.
The open movie is spot-on from the series (so I am told by very reliable sources) and the in-game menus, status screen, and artwork is very colorful and very authentic. The top screen is reserved for the status of your robots while the bottom screen is used for gameplay.
The sound is excellent and totally authentic with the complete opening theme song intact along with all the original voice actors from the series, and there is plenty of spoken dialogue, so fans of the series should be in heaven. Sound effects are realistic enough, mostly electric zapping noises, clanking robots, and crunching metal. It’s a very solid and satisfying sound experience.
Most gamers will get through this game in 5-7 hours. The difficulty progression is smooth but does increase near the end to where you really have to think about the puzzles and work as a team. Sadly, there are no hidden secrets, bonus items, unlockables, or any other reasons to replay when finished. I see some lost potential for at least some unlockable artwork that would force gamers to explore every last nook and cranny of the game’s level design.
But even being relatively short and straightforward, I found Transformers Animated: The Game to be thoroughly enjoyable. I was a bit disappointed that you didn’t actually “transform” all that much for most of the game, but it was fun when you did. Fans of the series will certainly not want to miss out on this title that offers a great action-puzzle experience that will keep you on your robotic toes.