Review: Transformers Prime The Game (Nintendo DS)

Transformers Prime the Game
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Altron
Genre: Action
Release Date: 10/30/2012

Satellite’s gone, way up to Mars. Soon it will be filled with talking cars. That’s right, Transformers Prime: The Game is finally here for the Nintendo DS. Finally, I’ll get the chance to play as all my favorite robots: Turbo, Scooter, Small-foot, Cy-Kill, Creepy, Snoop, Wee-Bey, Bird, Stringer, Poot, Stinkum, Chalky, Orko, and Cheetara!

All right, so maybe I haven’t watched more than four minutes of a Transformers cartoon in the last 20 years. I think I might have seen some Beast Wars. (I watched it for a little while; I love to watch things on TV.)

Plus, I saw at least one and a half of those big Michael Bay movies about the robots. That’s got to count for something right? I hate to think that I suffered for nothing.

All in all, I should say that I am an expert in this DS Game based on a cartoon based on a game based on a movie based on an earlier cartoon and comic series designed to sell toys to children.

1. Story
TFPTG certainly sounds like a very specific fetish for people with gender identity issues. However, the story doesn’t take advantage of this, and is about kids and giant robots and stuff. Then again, I’m not 100% sure if one of the kids is male or female; so maybe I’m wrong about this thing.

Anywhoozle, there are some giant robots who can turn into cars that are friends with some kids of appropriately varying ethnicities. The cars also vary appropriately in their makes and models. Everyone is included, even the wily motorcycles.

So these robots are exploring space or a satellite or an asteroid or… something. Then the giant robots fight some other giant robots (who I guess are the bad giant robots), then something explodes, and all good guy giant robots fall to Earth.

The bad guy giant robots were fine with falling from space because they have the common sense to transform into things which can fly. (If I could be anything in the world that flew, I would be a bat.)

Then again, the good guy giant robots seem perfectly okay despite falling for a couple of dozen miles. I think the lady robot might have even called Felix Baumgartner a wussy for all his safety equipment.

Back to the story! So there is a semi-truck is in charge of the good side of robots, even though the other robots’ cars have jobs of higher status. Who would respect a truck more than an ambulance? You’re not going to pull over because a semi has its sirens on. Oh that’s right, he doesn’t even have a siren. The truck, who probably has shiny voluptuous women on his mud-flaps, is named Optical Primus. He likes to punch that evil Megatech robot.

As it turns out, the bad guy robots are the Decepticals and they are bad guys because they want to take over Earth for some reason. Megabus is their leader, despite me beating him up every third level. He’s a giant robot with a team of giant robots. He has a plan to stop the other giant robots from stopping him from taking over the Earth.


That’s commitment right there.

I don’t know if this giant-er robot changes into stuff. But due to his size, I would imagine that he turned into the island nation of Madagascar.

That’s part two of Megazord’s plan, though. Part one is kidnapping. His team kidnaps the good guy robots’ pet children and the robot’s robot doctor. (He’s a robot who doctors for robots.)

I guess they want the robot doctor to help fix the really big robot, and if he doesn’t their vicious leader Megaton will do something bad to the kid or kids whom they have kidnapped. I’m not really sure, but I think he threatened to hit the kids with a flower. Every hour! He’s not very good and certainly not very much fun.

2. Graphics
For the most part this game looks great. The animated cut-scenes are really smooth and look like you are watching a cartoon. These cut-scenes are great, except that sometimes they’re not.

Other scenes are done in more of a comic book style, where everybody stands still as the dialog is played, and it cuts to another frame every couple of lines. It’s kinda like watching those old golden book VHS tapes.

The in-game scenes are also a mixed bag. The characters have a nice design, and it is easy to tell one thing from the next. The downside is that the camera is a nightmare. Camera angles are inconvenient at best. At worst it’s: oh heavenly father, what can I do? What’s she’s done to me is making me crazy!

3. Sound
Who’s that on the other end talking? Jeffrey Combs and Peter Cullen! The voice actors from the show are here, and the dialog is done well.

The lines are all read admirably, but the script manages to drag and be muddled. That’s not a problem with the sound so much as the script, though.

My only gripe with the audio is that there is too much of the transformer noise. You know that EhOOOEh-Eht-Eht. Too much of that, and it always sounds the same. You think turning into a robot spider might sound different from turning into a 1975 Buick Skylark, but here we are.

4. Control and Gameplay
The gameplay is functional, but bland. It’s a lot of hang back and shoot, autolock and punch, press these buttons for a combo.

There are quite a few nice touches. The different robots vary in their fighting abilities. Bumbly Bee shoots really quickly and is quite useful. Optimist Prime is slower but packs a bigger wallop. Each giant robot has its own feel, despite having the same button configuration. This is a good thing.

It would be nice if you were given the option of choosing the robot you want to use for each level, but keeping a cohesive storyline would prove more difficult if you had the motorcycle lady fight Megaman instead of having her fight the spider-helicopter.

(I think the spider-helicopter and the motorcycle are mortal enemies because they are both lady-robots. Lady robots are notoriously catty to one another. Robo-witches be crazy.)

Anywho, the main problems with gameplay are bad camera angles and lousy AI. Enemies who can fire projectiles, usually won’t. If they do, they will occasionally fire into a wall right in front of them. Generally, it seems like they trained at the Stormtrooper academy of aiming.

Basically, a good number of enemies can be defeated by staying back a bit and shooting them over and over. The only downside to this strategy is that the charged shot option isn’t accurate from any distance, even with target locking. Thus, it takes a long time to clear the screen.

Melee fighting is a mixed bag. More notable enemies can launch into long combos where you feel more or less a helpless victim. Perhaps the most useful attack in the game comes from hitting the melee button while in vehicle mode. The attack seems to hurt everybody around, whether or not it looks like it hits them. The attack is so powerful that it momentarily freezes the DS screen. It is a little awkward to turn into a car before punching something, but so it goes.

The vehicle controls can be quite frustrating. Having buttons mapped for punching, shooting, jumping, transforming, aiming and a shield means that there are no buttons left for GAS and BRAKE. As such, it can be hard to get the cars where you want them to go. Most of the vehicle levels seem to recognize this thing and are remarkably easy and straightforward.

However, the robot doctor has an escape level where platform jumping is required. Various switches whose effects don’t last means that time is limited in several sections. All this adds up to one nightmare scenario: you have to platform jump as a car. 3D platform jumping with lousy camera angles and subpar driving controls, well, if that isn’t a ring of hell then it is located near the outskirts of Hades.

Falling lowers health, so if you do it too much you die. Then, you have to start at the beginning of level and repeat any annoying sections over again. It is especially annoying that my first round of car jumping was more successful than the second and third times through the level. Oh, please, Saint Germaine I have come this way! Do you remember the shape I was in? I made these jumps before as an ambulance! Cut me some slack.

5. Replayability
You can replay a level once you’ve beaten it. It would be nice if you could replay the levels as a different character, or if they had varying degrees of difficulty.

But no.

As such, the main source of replayability would come from wanting to achieve a higher grade. You are scored after each level. If you get a C the first time around, you might want to try to get a B or A or S. I assume S is the highest score. For years I tried to get an S in school, but only managed to achieve several A+s and three A++s. What is your secret S? Must I finish the spelling test more quickly?

6. Balance
I don’t feel like I’ve gotten any better at this game since the first time I played it. The shooting and the brawling are fairly standard and not much of a challenge. The driving portions are slightly challenging, but for the wrong reasons. The driving/platforming bits are ridiculously challenging, and make me wish I could just let the robot doctor finish fixing that really big robot.

7. Originality
This game plays like a lot of N64 games. It’s this 3D brawler with combos, a few special moves, a driving portion which is mediocre at best, a frustrating camera and a story that is all over the place.

8. Addictiveness
Frankly, the game isn’t as much fun as drinking sangria in the park, feeding animals at the zoo, or seeing a movie.

There are a lot worse ways to spend your time, but I certainly didn’t find it addictive.

But I am old and curmudgeonly.

9. Appeal Factor
These Transformers are so appealing that they have had three massively successful films. Three box office smashes without a single coherent narrative or interesting scene. Underestimate the appeal of these talking cars at your own peril!

These Transformers will be hangin’ round for a long time even if I gave them up years ago.

10. Miscellaneous
Playing through the first several levels of this game caused severe pain in my thumbs. Perhaps it is just me getting old. Still, I would like to blame this game for making me old.

Thanks a lot Transformers, now I am old!

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Great
Sound: Great
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Poor
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Incredible
Miscellaneous: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary
There is enough here for fans of the cartoon to enjoy, at least for a couple of hours. Non-fans don’t really have a compelling reason to play the game unless they want to test their skills in the realm of platform jumping as a sentient car.

Goodnight Ladies.



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