It seems that when it comes to video games based off of movies and TV shows, it’s best to go into them with low expectations. That way you won’t be too disappointed when you find out that, once again, a movie-based video game turns out rather poorly. One exception as of the past couple of years seems to be games based on Transformers. In fact, three of the previous games reviewed here on Gaming Nexus scored around a B or higher (Fall of Cybertron, War for Cybertron, and Dark of the Moon), so for once, I went into a TV-based video game with some high expectations, but can the success of past games carry over to a game based off an animated series? Let’s find out with Transformers Prime for the Nintendo 3DS.
To begin with, I knew nothing about Transformers Prime going into this, just that it was a CGI animated series. Thankfully, you don’t need to know anything about the series to understand the game itself (trust me, I’ve played a few games in which if you don’t know anything about what it’s based on, you’re screwed when it comes to understanding the story). As the story begins, the Autobots detect a large amount of dark energon nearby some Decepticon readings. Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead head out to a meteor where the readings were coming from, which was tethered to Megatron’s ship. The Autobots take out the tethers and prevent Megatron from intervening. However, something cracks the meteor, splits its it apart into pieces, and sends the Autobots falling towards the planet below. This is where the main part of the game begins (though you do control Optimus Prime while on the meteor, it pretty much acts as the games tutorial).
In each stage you control a different Autobot through that part of the story (at this point, the four Autobots have been split up, so Ratchet heads out to find them). The controls don’t take too long to get the hang of as each Autobot pretty much does the same thing. While you’re not transformed (if there’s a better Transformer-related term for this mode, I have no idea what it is) you can perform combo attacks by hitting the attack button up to three times. You can also hit the jump button after the first or second attack to change up the combo a bit, and hitting jump after the first attack will perform a shield-breaking combo for when the Decepticons have shields. While transformed you can move faster (obviously), jump over large gaps, and perform attacks that can break shields and return you to normal mode. As you defeat enemies, a green upgrade gauge fills up at the top of the screen. Once full you can tap the touch screen to upgrade your attacks for a limited amount of time. This is all you’ll use the touch screen for (aside for the radar/map), but to me, that’s fine, as I hate it when a game overuses a gimmick such as the touch screen or motion controls. Too much of a good thing isn’t necessarily a good thing.
You can also lock onto enemies and strafe in either mode which makes it easier to focus on an enemy and attack them, especially when using your blaster. However, this is where I found what I think is the only real misstep with the controls. While locked on you can use left and right on the D-Pad to switch your target. There are two things I don’t like about that. First, since you move with the circle pad, you have to stop moving to switch targets. If you have to switch targets, it’s likely because another Decepticon is firing at you and you’ll get blasted as you’re trying to lock onto it. I’m sure other people are better at switching targets than me. Second, don’t think you can swap targets by simply letting go of the targeting button and facing another target if they’re too close together, as more than likely you’ll just target the first enemy again.. Beyond that, the targeting system works pretty nicely when it comes to focusing your attacks on one enemy.
Each Autobot has a couple different things about them so it doesn’t feel like you’re playing the same character in each stage. For instance, Bulkhead may move slower, but he seems to be able to take more damage than the other Autobots, while Bumblebee moves a bit quicker and can also attack quicker, especially with his blaster. Throughout the game you’ll play as each Autobot around one to three times (I believe Ratchet is the only one of the five you play once). At the end of at least one of the early stages for each Autobot, you’ll face off against a certain Decepticon. Once the game nears the end and everything starts to come together, the Autobots will settle the score with their Decepticon counterparts (Arcee vs. Airachnid, Bumblebee vs. Starscream, etc.). Once you’ve completed the main story though, don’t think you’re done yet.
Throughout the game you’ll find energon artifacts you can collect in each stage, with each stage having between one to three artifacts. Picking these up will unlock things like character profiles and concept art. You can also unlock emblems depending on how you clear the stages, such as clearing a stage with an A rank or better or getting through a certain part of the stage without taking damage. The emblems are the equivalent of in-game achievements and there are a lot to collect. Some of them you’ll get just for clearing the stage. Some you’ll get for clearing a stage with an A rank or better. I can pretty much guarantee that A or S ranking every stage will unlock most of the single player emblems, and it’s not too hard to do so. The story mode isn’t all that hard, and even the boss fights didn’t give me too much trouble. Heck, it took me more tries to take down Megatron than the final boss, which was a two part battle with a small driving section in the middle.
Finally, let’s talk multiplayer for a moment. If you go to multiplayer right out of the box, it kind of sucks. There’s only one stage and five characters, the five main Autobots in the game (Optimus, Arcee, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, and Ratchet). However, as you play though the main story, you’ll unlock more characters and stages to a total of five stages and eleven characters (five Autobots and six Decepticons). There are three modes in multi-player: Brawl, Energon Battle, and Emblem Match, and each mode can be played with one to four players locally or against the AI (sorry, no wi-fi multiplayer that I’ve seen). Brawl sounds like your typical free-for-all, and it is…except you only have one life. Once you die, that’s it, you’re done. Last bot standing wins. In Emblem Match, whoever has the emblem the longest wins, simple as that. The problem is that if you have the emblem, you don’t have to die to lose it. Anytime I had the emblem, I’d lose it after only being hit once or twice. The mode I enjoy playing is Energon Mode. Here, you get ten points every time you defeat an opponent and you lose five points when you get defeated. The most points at the end wins. THIS is what I figured Brawl Mode would be like. Granted you always start with very little energy, but it’s pretty fast paced, so you’ll be dying a lot, but it’s still fun to play. Each mode also has a few things you can change about them, but they’re mostly time, items, and eternal upgrade (always have upgraded weapons without filling up your green gauge).
Overall, I mostly enjoyed my time with Transformers Prime. A lot of TV- or movie-to-game adaptations tend to fail, but it seems like Transformers has been nailing it lately. Granted the story mode isn’t all that hard and multiplayer is lacking early on until you unlock more stages and characters, if you have a younger gamer into Transformers, especially Transformers Prime, I’d say give it a shot. The animation and voice acting are pretty well done, and I keep finding myself checking out Energon Battle in multiplayer. However, experienced gamers might find it a bit too easy overall. Again, my only real difficulty was in a later battle against Megatron, but the final boss after that was pretty simple. The bosses are simply a matter paying attention and remembering that you can block attacks with your shield. Just be patient, see what they do, then counter it with your own attacks.