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Transformers Prime: The Game

Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Activision
Developer: NOW Productions
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action

Graphics & Sound:

If there is an issue facing licensed action games, particularly those on the 3DS, Transformers Prime: The Game has it. But, it also manages to rise above most of its shortcomings, providing what is easily one of the best Transformers games released for a Nintendo system in the last few years.

Unless someone manages to work some sort of programming black magic, I think it is safe to say we’ve seen most of what the 3DS can do. It’s not amazing, but it gets the job done. Transformers Prime: The Game takes the system’s limitations in stride and turns out an impressive showing. I was surprised with how well the show’s visuals (especially the character designs) translated to the 3DS. Shortcuts are noticeable when you really zoom in, though barring the occasional camera hiccup, you won’t notice them.

The original cast lends their vocal talents, so there isn’t a drop in quality here either. Dialogue is a bit stilted and expository, neither of which is unexpected. The game is contained by the show’s plot, so there aren’t many interesting places for it to go, though the developers still managed to find ways to push the story without an over-reliance on cut scenes, which is a plus. The rest of the audio cues fit in with the show’s style so, again, no complaints.


Gameplay:

The main Single Player Campaign in Transformers Prime: The Game takes a couple of cues from recent console entries. You control the main Autobots and play through missions highlighting their skill sets. The amount of variety between the heroes isn’t massive – so no Jazz grappling hook levels – though there’s enough of a difference to keep things interesting.

If you aren’t a regular viewer of the show, the plot is confusing, at least at first. All you really need to know is Megatron is trying to revive a big time follower of Unicron, and you need to stop him. Ultimately, the story is just shepherding you through the game’s levels, which are the main attraction. Levels are linear and involve fighting packs of Decepticons, though how you approach each fight will differ based on your Autobot. For instance, Bumblebee’s levels are built around his speed and ranged combat abilities, so you’ll spend most fights weaving through cover in shootouts. Optimus, on the other hand, is a flat-out brawler, leading to more melee fights.

During levels, you can also look for artifacts, which unlock extras in the gallery. Another bit of replay value comes from level rankings. At the end of each level, you are graded based on how much damage you took, how many collectables you found, and other parameters. High ratings are for more than just show; snagging a high rank will unlock multiplayer goodies.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to check out the multiplayer components with real humans, so I can’t speak on whether or not they’re worth your time. All I can say is that three match types are available -- Brawl, Energon Match and Emblem Match – and that each mirrors familiar multiplayer match types. Brawl, for instance, is Deathmatch while Emblem Match is a capture/ control match type.

For as much as Transformers Prime: The Game’s levels offer, there isn’t a whole lot to the game in terms of length. I was able to get through most of the game in a few short sittings. Higher ranks are a big draw, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t replay a few areas in pursuit of an "S" rank, but players who aren’t into rank chasing or multiplayer may not get their money’s worth on the campaign alone.


Difficulty:

In all likelihood, you’ll make it through Transformers Prime: The Game without much trouble. Levels are easy to navigate and enemies will usually go down after a few hits. However, level designs and enemy tactics can sometimes merge to cause issues. Enemy attacks cause knockback, so you will go flying after taking a few hits. On flat ground this isn’t an issue, but you aren’t on flat ground through most of the game. Instead, you’ll likely hit a hill littered with enemies that takes way too long to climb since, once you hit the top, an enemy shot will send you back to the bottom.

Bosses are a challenge, particularly when their health drops below a certain point. A new attack when an enemy is about to die is a time-honored videogame tradition. Here, enemies also get incredibly aggressive and harder to hit. You can get an enemy to less than 25% health quickly, but you’ll have to work to get it to zero. Bosses also seem to take less damage – through that could just be paranoia.

Checkpoints are generous, so if you die you usually won’t have to repeat much of the level. The game will also give you the option to re-enter the level with a little more health. It’s a nice boost up, though I think it may affect your ranking.


Game Mechanics:

Combat is another of Transformers Prime: The Game’s strengths. You have access to both melee and ranged attacks, as well as a number of powerful combo attacks. Although you are encouraged to play the level according to your character’s strengths, you are free to tackle obstacles however you want. The only downside is the 3DS’s control setup and camera.

The lack of another analog stick for camera control is noticeable. The camera does its best to give you the best possible view, though when enemies are usually all around you, so it can’t really keep up. Camera mapping is available using the D-pad, though it requires taking your thumb off the movement controls, which is a good way to give enemies a few cheap hits during battle.

The lock-on button does offer a nice counterbalance to camera issue, though even then you’re taking a bit of a dice roll since there’s no guarantee it will center on the right target.

One thing Transformers Prime: The Game absolutely nails is vehicle mode. The driving controls are great, and levels offer ample time to cruise around, but I loved how switching into a vehicle is embedded into both level navigation and combat. While in vehicle form, you can do a driving jump that gets you more distance than a standard jump, which is great for closing the gap between enemies or finding hidden ledges. You can also ram into enemies or transform at the last minute to land a powerful hit.

Transformers Prime: The Game is a solid game and the Transformers game Nintendo owners haven’t been enjoying for the last couple of years. The length may dissuade some players, but if you’re a fan or want a fun action game for the 3DS, this is a good choice.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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