Nintendo consoles have always had a bit of a hard time with Transformers games. They’ve unfortunately missed the boat on both of the great Cybertron games, instead being restricted to the games based on the abysmal movies and the Cybertron Adventures game, based on War for Cybertron, but lacked the power.
So why would you bother with yet another Nintendo console-exclusive Transformers game? Because Transformers Prime: The Game might have finally broken the curse.
For those unfamiliar, Transformers Prime is the latest iteration of the classic Transformers formula. It’s all 3D animation, and is arguably the greatest adaptation of the series since G1, or the original series, for those who aren’t deep in the lingo.
You won’t find anything terribly out of place from the normal lore. There’s still two sides, Autobots and Decepticons, there’s still a big hubbub over energon, there’s still humans that are always being kidnapped or otherwise in danger and the words “Transform and roll out!” are uttered on at least a few occasions. Transformers Prime, both the show and the game, don’t win any points for reinventing the wheel when it comes to the story, but there was never really a need to. This is a series that came out in the early 80s, after all. The fact that it’s still relevant today means quite a bit of people are willing to put up with the same thing over and over again.
In the game specifically, you start out as the Autobot team intercepting a massive meteor being towed by the Decepticon flagship, the Nemesis, right above Earth. Things go as planned for a bit, but Optimus and his troops don’t anticipate things going wrong and find themselves falling to the surface from the atmosphere. As the kids go out to find them and make sure everyone’s okay, the Autobots find that the meteor was housing something much more powerful than they thought, and the Decepticons are rapidly looking to claim it. Being the noble bunch of bots you are, it’s your job to stop the Decepticons and save humanity once again.
Like I said, nothing new from standard Transformers fare, but this isn’t really something that needs to be reinvented. Sure, the Cybertron games had looked at something that wasn’t really elaborated on before, but I’ll hazard a guess that Transformers fans with only Nintendo consoles are just willing to accept a game that isn’t horrible at this point.
The game breaks off into a simple structure of a set of levels, each with their own separate playable character on the Autobot side. What’s actually pretty impressive is the amount of variety in the levels. The first level is a simple, linear tutorial playing as Optimus that you’ll likely groan at thinking the rest of the game is as simple. The next level sees players racing across a highway as Arcee chasing after an Insecticon that’s kidnapped one of the humans. The levels after feature Bumblebee in a relatively open level and Bulkhead in a vertical-heavy cliff area. It’s really cool to see that the developers actually tried to break up the monotony previously seen in other games of the franchise.
Combat is carried out with either projectiles or melee combat, or you can get fancy and combine the two for some effective strategy. The game never gets terribly difficult, aside from a few boss battles that are pretty powerful, but keep in mind this game is meant for children. The fact that someone likes me isn’t instantly bored upon booting up the game is an achievement in itself.
What’s cool about the combat is the actual freedom of actually transforming. Let me explain: every Transformers game in history have sort of struggled with finding a good way to make people transform other than the “cool” factor. Prime actually makes it a strategy into platforming and combat. Jump while in vehicle mode and you’ll get a boost forward and cover longer distances. Hit an attack while in vehicle mode and you’ll do a sort of super move that’s capable of breaking enemy shields and dealing plenty of damage. There’s a few sections here that are obviously placed specifically to get the player into vehicle mode, but the fact that it’s actually beneficial outside of these sections is something that all Transformers games have never quite nailed. Not even the Cybertron games.
The overall lack of depth carries onto the rest of the game, although it never feels like you’re playing for no reason. You’re graded upon completion of each level based on damage taken, completion time and amount of collectibles found. The grades earn emblems, which aren’t really worth anything other than personal achievement, and the usual slew of unlockables in the form of bios, character art and characters to unlock in the game’s multiplayer mode.
I’ve not gotten excited about the multiplayer mode, and with good reason. It’s really not that great. There’s only three modes, 11 different characters and you can only play with a few people. Chances are no one has ever bought a Transformers game for multiplayer anyway, so there’s no big loss there. But I can’t help but think the time might have been better spent lengthening the somewhat short story mode.
I might also add that Transformers Prime: The Game gets major points for authenticity. The entire voice cast from the cartoon is present for the game, including the legendary Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime for nearly 30 years. It’s a nice touch, given that you’d usually never see that kind of thing from other licensed games.
Wii U Difference: After finally getting hands-on with the Wii U version, the game is almost exactly the same. Obviously the game enjoys a bit of a graphics bump. Certain things have a certain shine to them and there’s noticeably more detail in many objects. It’s still not eye-popping, but it’s more modern. The Wii U version also gets a few perks using the GamePad. The screen features a tracker showing off how close you are to the necessary requirements in order to get the best rating for the level. The GamePad is also used for certain driving controls using the tilt sensor in the controller. The Wii U version of the game is definitely the version to look into if you’re interested in the game.
Transformers Prime: The Game is a much more passable entry into the franchise than the Wii, DS or 3DS have seen before, and it’ll set a high standard for the no doubt plenty of future Transformers games on the Wii U. The game isn’t incredibly deep, and likely won’t satisfy more hardcore gamers at full price, but the fact that the game isn’t a total chore to play or filled with horrible controls or design decisions adds a lot of merit. It may not be quite as good as the Cybertron games, but it’s a step in the right direction.
This review is based on a Wii U copy of the game provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.
Transformers Prime is the best Transformers game on Nintendo consoles. Take that any way you will.