In fact, the amount of debris and motion on the screen keeps the frustration level pretty constant. A clever cartoonist portrayed the action sequences in the movie as a mass of scribbled lines, and that’s pretty much what you’ll get in the game too. Bits and chunks of stuff are constantly flying every which way, mixed in with a generous heaping of sparks and fire. I’d commend the game’s graphical artists on their superb use of particle effects, if they weren’t so confusing.
The icing on the disappointment cake is the way in which the game constrains you to the objective area. Instead of flashing a neon “go this way idiot!” arrow on the screen or throwing up the invisible walls we’ve all come to live with, Transformers does something far more irritating. It displays a small circular zone on the map, the “action zone” they call it. Straying from the action zone starts a short countdown timer, and unless you return to the zone of much action before time expires, you fail the mission. This wouldn’t be a huge issue, except that the action zones are roughly the diameter of a quarter, and require two or more building-sized robots to duke it out within. I’m exaggerating of course, but more often than not you’ll feel like you’re playing a big, sumo version of Battlebots.
It’s a shame that the gameplay is so hindered by the wonky camera and the general design flaws, because Transformers is otherwise rich with high production values. A movie license must carry a hefty budget, because even the Wii version of Transformers is easy on the eyes. Regardless of your stance on the new, movie look of the robots themselves (old school fans hate it, average moviegoers really don’t care), you’ll probably be impressed by how well they’ve been recreated. The seemingly redundant clicky-slidy parts that the fans can’t stand are all fully rendered and animated on the various bots, and the on-the-fly transformations are movie faithful. Because each city can theoretically be razed from one end to the other, all buildings smash and crumble with a plethora of dusty particle effects. The sheer number of effects and stray debris popping off everywhere is unheard of in a Wii game, and rarely does the framerate suffer. There are noticeable differences between the Wii graphics and those of the PS3 and 360, but it isn’t nearly as night-and-day as it is in other platform-spanning games. I wish other third party developers would put this much effort into graphical design, because Transformers proves that the Wii can handle more than N64 graphics. Ya hear that guys? Your “lower specs” excuse for making Wii games look god-awful just died.
Sound design is high quality too, with most of the movie talent reprising their roles, and even a few of the veterans from the old 80’s cartoon show are back. Sound effects get about as repetitive as the gameplay, but with so many crashing, crunching, and metal-squealing sounds, it really doesn’t matter. Music is decent quality, but it hid beneath the action most of the time and never made its presence known, even during the most heated moments.
Despite all of its glitz and movie inspired hype, I just can’t recommend this game as a purchase, and a rent is iffy too. Transformers is packed in a nice shiny box and gleams like Optimus Prime’s fenders, but transformed into its game mode it isn’t nearly as impressive. The camera and beat-em-up gameplay will likely frustrate you within the first hour or so, and the gimmicky motion controls will wear your arm out even sooner. For such a short game, it becomes a chore far too quickly.
Much like the movie, Transformers The Game has a lot of pretty special effects and very little substance. The tedious gameplay and atrocious camera will probably annoy you as much as the film’s thin plot and ham-fisted dialogue. It’s a shame that the mechanics don’t work better, because as a mindless action game Transformers might have been a decent distraction. As it is, the impressive visuals are wasted on broken gameplay.
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