Review: Transformers Prime: The Game (Nintendo Wii U)

Transformers Prime: The Game
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Now Production
Genre: Action/Platformer
Release Date: 11/18/2012

While I do have some familiarity with the Transformers franchise, I never had a chance to check out the recent Transformers Prime series (nor did I really know of its existence prior to this title’s arrival). So in a way, this game not only serves as an introduction to my recently purchased Wii U, but to the latest the Transformers franchise has to offer. As you might imagine, I have no real expectations going into the experience either way; as a non-fan of this particular series I won’t be disappointed by the lack of adherence to the source material, and as a new Wii U owner I haven’t played many prior games on which to judge my experience. Let’s find out which way the scales ultimately tip, shall we?

Let’s Review

In what seems like a routine “stop the Decepticons” mission, the Autobots take to outer space in order to investigate a meteor in orbit around Earth. This meteor contains a substance known as Dark Energon, and is well on its way to being within Decepticon captivity. A brawl ensues between the two factions, and the meteor essentially blows up, scattering the pieces of itself and the Autobots around the planet. Now, the Autobots must try to reunite with each other, as well as discover that there’s more to the meteor than meets the eye.

Oh c’mon, that was really clever.

Anyway, not having seen the show, I can’t say for sure how well it fits into series canon, though it presents itself like a self-contained episode of the show it is based upon. Prior knowledge of the characters isn’t required either, as they are each introduced individually and you’ll eventually play as most of them. That said, I wouldn’t exactly call it a gripping plot either, as the game makes it pretty easy to predict what direction things are heading in. It works well enough within the confines of the franchise it’s trying to represent here, and that’s likely all a fan would ask for.

There are three multiplayer modes available, such as Brawl, which is exactly how it sounds. You pick a Transformer, pick an arena, and then slug it out with other players until the last one’s standing. Energon Battle is a race to collect more Energon than the other players. Emblem Match has you scrambling for an emblem and trying to hang onto it for as long as possible. The game can be played split screen, but even in the Wii U version, there is no online play to be found.

Story/Modes Rating: Decent

While this edition and the Wii version of the game are basically the same title, Transformers Prime on the Wii U looks fairly sharp in HD. The graphics, though still not as impressive as cel-shaded titles found on other consoles, do manage to maintain an animated appearance without all of the rough edges that a standard definition release might contend with. Think of all of the HD re-releases that we have gotten in recent years, where PS2 graphics get touched up slightly to give the illusion that the entirety of the game has been reworked, and you’ll get an idea of how the visuals hold up here. Characters animate well, and the entire presentation seems to do justice to the series it’s trying to represent, but nearly everything lacks the kind of detail you’ve come to expect from a current gen release. The models for the human characters are generic looking, and many of the landscapes are rather bland considering the various places around the world you end up visiting. Still, it’s a step up from anything the Wii can offer, and everything seems to run well without any graphical glitches that I’ve noticed.

Graphics Rating: Above Average

I was pleasantly surprised by the soundtrack utilized here, as rather than take an opportunity with a more niche title to slap in a couple of tracks to loop over and over in each stage, there are some really good compositions here. The most impressive work by far has to be during some of the boss encounters, where the orchestra really plays up what a dramatic predicament you’re in. It’s a real treat.

Also on their A game were the voice talent for Transformers Prime. Optimus Prime is the star of the show as always, but the other actors nail their delivery as if they were recording an episode of the cartoon, and it all sounds rather convincing. Much of the dialogue comes across as rather cheesy, but given the context of the game, I’d say it’s easy to give it a pass.

Sound Rating: Great

There are a number of control options at your disposal, though I suspect most people will want to use the Wii U gamepad just to see how it handles in a game like this. Sadly, it doesn’t do anything that couldn’t be done with one of the other control setups. It’s a shame too, because it gives less reason to choose this over the Wii version.

Moving the left joystick on the gamepad moves your character, while the one on the right moves the camera. Camera movement seems a little awkward at first, since the joystick is located above the face buttons rather than below like most controllers, though this is more the fault of the controller design rather than the developers. You have two different attacks at your disposal, one normal attack and a power attack that, while slow, can break through the defense of enemies that put up their shields. Your Transformer can also jump using the B button, even while in vehicular form, which can be accessed with L. Driving at an enemy and transitioning into melee attacks is entirely possible, and also encouraged by tutorial in the game, as is jumping large gaps with your vehicle form.

For fans of long range attacks, you can blast at enemies from a distance should you choose, and flip through locked on targets with the touch of a button. Your guns even work in vehicle form, so if you need to shoot any debris that get in your way, you have that option. You can do a charge attack that can do much the same, as well as cause damage to any enemies that get in your way. As you inflict damage on your enemies, you’ll build up a meter that functions very similar to most games in the genre, in that you can unleash a form that grants you added damage to your attacks (even causing your character to brandish a new weapon in some cases). Like your enemies, you also get a block button to shrug off attacks thrown your way.

Despite all of the utility that is seemingly at your disposal, the gameplay is rather simplistic. There’s really only a few combos that can be perform with your melee attacks and you’ll find that you will rely on the same ones over and over again. Even when you switch characters at varying points throughout the story, each one plays the exact same way, just with slight differences in their performance and speed. On the plus side, the simplicity is very favorable towards kids who want to play the game, but anyone else who has played a game like Devil May Cry or others of its ilk will be a bit disappointed.

There are a few segments of the game where you are forced to play as a vehicle in order to chase someone or flee from some sort of danger. In these stages it feels more like a racing game, though you may be required to shoot some enemies or objects in your path. However, these sections require you to take advantage of the gyrometer in the gamepad and rotate it in order to steer, much like you could do with Mario Kart Wii. Getting through these parts would be a lot easier if steering was relegated to just the joystick, but they’re not too difficult to navigate and kids should get a kick out of this gimmick as well.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Decent

The single player mode is a bit on the short side, and can be completed in the neighborhood of about four hours. There are a number of unlockables and hidden items to find in each stage, as well as this game’s version of achievements in order to award the player for performing certain tasks within the game. But outside of that, there really isn’t any viable reason to revisit the campaign upon completion. Especially given how incredibly linear each stage is.

If you have a friend to play with, there is local multiplayer support for two players. You can also make all of the opponents controlled by the computer if you wish to play by yourself, though there’s not nearly enough depth here to merit such a decision. In fact, the multiplayer really doesn’t have much longevity at all, serving merely as a curiosity before moving on to other things. It’s a shame too, as given enough tweaking, it could have been molded into a mini-party game of sorts with four players slugging it out. There would’ve even been potential for a Wii U only mode involving the gamepad in some significant manner. But sadly, like the single player, there’s little reason to revisit this once you’ve seen all there is to see.

Replayability Rating: Below Average

Generally speaking, the game is incredibly easy, which should make getting through it a cinch for most. There are a few frustrating spots due to the imprecise nature of the gyrometer controls on the gamepad, but that aside, the only time I had to retry at all was near the end of the game. And after doing so, it offered to increase my health bar for my next attempt. This is great for those who struggle to complete games or kids that aren’t yet accustomed to more challenging titles, but it would’ve been nice to at least have the option to bump the difficulty up a little higher. Especially since the predictability of all of the boss characters is rather laughable, making most of them a chore to fight rather than a challenge, save for a few.

Balance Rating: Mediocre

Transformers Prime: The Game takes the most basic of gameplay elements from games like God of War or Devil May Cry, but without any sort stylishness or complexity. It then combines with a Twisted Metal-esque concoction that makes it part beat-’em-up and part racing-while-shooting-at-stuff. While the mechanics at their core work well enough to be tolerable, it’s all things that have been done before and done better elsewhere. I’m okay with where it seemingly borrowed its ideas from, it’s just not bringing anything new to the table other than a license.

Originality Rating: Bad

I was interested enough in the experience to finish the game, though I suspect if it was too much longer I would’ve hung it up before it was over. Each stage consists of a few action and platforming sequences where you navigate a stage while battling a few enemies, a racing/escape segment, a boss fight, or a combination of the three. And since none of the characters play all that differently, the tedium starts to set in after a few stages. It’s not that the game is necessarily bad, there just wasn’t enough here to keep me excited throughout the experience. Fans of the show are likely to get more appreciation out of it than I did.

Addictiveness Rating: Mediocre

Appeal Factor
The primary audience for this game besides fans of the Transformers Prime show, are just kids in general. Some of the characters were recognizable to me from the old 80’s cartoon, as they would likely be to anyone else who had seen it, but I just wasn’t as into it as I expected to be. Maybe I’m just getting old. At any rate, there isn’t too much on the console yet to compete with it, but it also doesn’t do enough with the Wii U technology for a casual passerby to take notice. It may make for a solid rental for some, but I just don’t see it making a loud splash for most.

Appeal Rating: Above Average

Aside from functioning as a steering wheel for the driving portions of the game, there really isn’t anything the Wii U gamepad is utilized for here. If you look down at the screen, you’ll see a status update showing how close you are to meeting the goals of each stage and that’s basically it. Granted, this is helpful information if you’re actually trying actively to meet the objective on each level, but it could’ve just as easily been added to a pause menu or something. Some minigames utilizing the technology would’ve made for a welcome addition, as would an extra stage or two that encouraged use of the touchscreen in some unique way. Basically anything that could’ve been added to make it feel less like a port and more like a unique experience to be had on the Wii U console.

Miscellaneous Rating: Below Average

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Above Average
Sounds: Great
Controls/Gameplay: Decent
Replayability: Below Average
Balance: Mediocre
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Mediocre
Appeal Factor: Above Average
Miscellaneous: Below Average

Final Score: Decent Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Transformers Prime: The Game is, at its core, fully functional as action game with some platforming elements, and also consists of some very solid driving sequences. On the other hand, combat is very simplistic and repetitive, and the driving segments suffer from the lack of precision that motion based gaming often provides. The entirety of the game is presented as an episode of the cartoon its based on and although its visuals are not as impressive as what I believe the Wii U system can do, it’s serviceable and at least captures the aesthetic of the show. The soundtrack and the voiceovers are really what steal the show here, as everything else is very run of the mill in regards to the genres it shares its ideas with. Fans of the show will benefit most from taking Transformers Prime for a spin, though everyone else can safely pass on this or settle for a rental given the low mileage in content.



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One response to “Review: Transformers Prime: The Game (Nintendo Wii U)”

  1. Ashe Avatar

    Yeah about what I figured. Looks prettier than the Wii version but largely unchanged.

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