2007’s blockbuster movie Transformers brought with it the requisite tie-in games. Unlike many titles, though, the movie has a premise that seems ideal for a title: giant robot battles. What’s more, the development was put into the hands of Vicarious Visions, a company with a solid track record on the DS.
With all this in mind, Transformers is just what you would expect. The game progresses much like a Grand Theft Auto-style open world game, with various missions that can be taken on if you like or driven away from if you don’t. Most of the battles can be fought one of two ways: by moving, strafing and shooting, or up close with well-placed punches. The shooting doesn’t really have a separate aim, and is controlled by facing in different directions. This would feel a bit awkward, but the game locks on enough to make it bearable. Punches are fairly simplistic as well; there’s not a sense that enemy hits can be avoided, and there’s a certain amount of damage that always seems to be sustained this way. It’s also possible to try a combination of the two, but striking a balance can be difficult, as retreating leaves the player vulnerable to hits. Missions can involve simply taking out a few robots, escorting people to safety (or taking them out, depending on the version) or going bot to bot with some of the more famous characters from the movie. There are also times where the player must transform into a car and drive to another mission, and this shares that GTA-like feel.
The graphics are very similar to the DS version of Spiderman 3. That title had an impressive 3D engine, and Vicarious Visions’ continued use of it was not a bad decision. The open-world style doesn’t work well without a decent-sized world, and for a DS game Transformers is handled well. The players and enemies obviously took most of the work, as the environments leave something to be desired. The real star here is the voice acting. It is consistent, engaging and helpful without being repetitive or grating.
There are very few differences between Transformers: Autobots and Transformers: Decepticons. Each tells a different side of the same story, and the gameplay is basically identical. There are no special skills exclusive to one side’s protagonist, and only one segment takes place in an area unreachable in the other title.
The main problem with the title is its unbearable brevity. It takes much more to make a game worth a purchase for five to seven hours of gameplay, and there’s just not that special something. Ultimately, Transformers is worth a look, but rent it or be ready to trade it in.