No sacrifice, no victory.
I’m a huge fan of Transformers. I have been ever since I was a little guy waging wars across the bedroom floor with my Transformer toys. In the end, Optimus Prime and the Autobots always won, but Megatron would escape by the rust on his mechanical foot, vowing to fight another day. That war ended when I became a young adult, and now the Transformers dwell in my parent’s house for the next generation of nieces and nephews to resurrect the great battles of old.
I went and saw the Transformers movie and it blew me away. It was fantastic.
Yes, this not a review about the movie, so I’ll leave it at that, but it is relevant I assure you, because with a movie, comes the game. The rule of thumb is also that, more times than not, the games are absolutely horrible. Is this the case with Transformers DS? Let's see.
I got the opportunity to play both versions of the game, Autobots and Decepticons. You name your Transformer, and then the story starts. This is the one and only FMV movie in the game, and it’s average, for lack of a better term. Following that, you fall from the sky to Earth, ready for your mission, which your Transformer doesn’t really know much about yet. He discovers later that Megatron and the Allspark are on Earth, and you have been sent to get to them before the other side does. It sounds like the movie, yes. But, both versions have a different ending to the movie and each other. I would suggest that these games are spin-offs of the Transformers film, because although the games more or less follow the same plot, a lot of things have been changed around to suit the game as opposed to catering to the movie.
Like the movie, you start off as a generic robot with no vehicle assigned to him. Ironhide or Barricade contacts you and gives you a basic rundown of the controls in full voice-acted glory. Like a lot of games, I for one don’t expect crazy-good acting, so for what it is, it’s pretty good, especially since the whole game is voice-acted. However, I don’t believe all the voice actors from the movie are present. The controls are very fluid. The D-pad is used to walk and the B button is jump. You get plenty of time to practice these mechanics as you collect yellow lights for warm-up. Woot. Now it’s time to cause some damage. X is to pick stuff up. You can pick up basically anything in the environment, from benches to streetlights, and swing them around to bash the your enemies heads in. You can also pick up other smaller Transformers and throw them at each other, which is pretty nifty.
Your ally contacts you and tells you to grab a disguise. And this is where this game gets interesting, you see, because like the movie, your Transformer can scan vehicles and collect them to store in his database. There are a lot of vehicles, including cars and helicopters… over 30 as a matter of fact, and another cool function is that they’re 2-toned, allowing you to pick two colors to customize your Transformer. You can use either up on the D-pad or my preferred B to accelerate while in vehicle form. Also, you can slam down A to slide, which I use a lot around the city. Helicopters? Yes, the D-pad moves you, as you use A to rise and B to lower altitude. I played and finished the whole of Decepticons version in a ‘copter form, so it works quite well.
Battles are quite amusing, if not a little repetitive, but I reckon that’s to be expected. Start bashing away at the A button for melee attack, because I can’t seem to shoot yet. Attacks happen in a two-hit combo at first, but as you gain experience points it’ll rise to three… oh yeah. You’ll notice, as I just owned that weak fool, that I gain EXP and have unlocked my blaster now, which I can use Y to shoot with the good ol’ lock-on function, which works well. When you unlock missiles, you tap Y to launch them, whilst holding Y to shoot a weaker, but more accurate blaster. Stats increases and moves like Mario’s butt-thump and missiles are unlocked. This is also great, setting it apart from the other Transformers games. The humans don’t like me trashing their cars. I really, really did not want to compare this game to Grand Theft Auto, since a lot of other reviews have done that, but the similarities are too prominent. The main GTA influence I see is the "threat meter", much like GTA’s wanted meter, which consists of four of your faction's logo. The more you piss off the humans, the more tanks and helicopters come to put a stop to the giant robot. I must also mention that the voice acting from the humans is quite amusing, if not perhaps annoying. "Dispatch, we’re in pursuit of a… giant metal man. Please advise."
Each version comes with around 20 missions in four areas. Both have Tranquility (quiet little city), Las Vegas (loud big city), and Hoover Dam (epic climax place). However, Decepticons has Quatar Military base (sand desert with wide open spaces), while Autobots has the Artic (ice desert with wide open spaces). Before I speak about the missions, there are also sub-missions, which are anything from "race to point A to point B as fast as possible" to "kill lots of stuff in two minutes", which help elevate the gameplay and lastability to a significant degree. In the essential missions, sometimes your custom bot will do the honors, and sometimes you’ll play as one of the other Transformers from the movie. That includes Bumblebee, Ironhide, Ratchet, Jazz, and Optimus for the Autobots side and Barricade, Blackout, Brawl (a.k.a. Devastator, for some reason they changed his name), Starscream, and Megatron for the Decepticons.
All missions and game can be finished in a day. They’re around, five hours each, not including collecting all the cars and golds on the sub-missions. So yeah, kind of short… didn’t feel too rushed to me though, if you consider how long the movie was. The difference in missions between the two versions is that Autobots seem to have an emphasis on protecting convoys, while Decepticons have more of a "bash the convoy" mentality. To be frank, Decepticons felt less like a chore than Autobots. Some of the missions, especially on the Autobots version, are very frustrating. Unlimited re-spawning humans while you’re trying to deliver a car to Optimus comes to mind. You see, when you are holding a car, you can’t attack, unless you toss the car, of course. But that would destroy the mission objective. So, you put down the objective car, destroy the tank, and when you turn to pick up the car, guess what? BAM! You’re hit in the rear with an armor-piercing missile from a copter, turn around, bash copter, turn around, BAM! Repeat. Oh yes. It’s a vicious cycle broken seemingly only by luck at times.
You will also face your opposing Autobot/Decepticon alumni as bosses. These bosses are quite easy at times, but as the game progresses you will need to implement some kind of strategy to defeat them, whether it be changing from long-range to melee style of attack, or leaping over their car forms as they try to sweep you off your feet. I must confess, however, that I have occasionally exploited glitches in the game. For instance, as Megatron battling Jazz, I managed to get Jazz stuck in the side of the mountain and beat the bolts out of his sorry spark. Also, as I was facing Optimus, I found myself stuck between buildings, but Optimus Prime's laser rounds could not touch me, but I could attack him easily. So he was also beaten by a game glitch. Unfortunately for Transformers DS, this is where it becomes apparent that the game is very, very rough around the edges, as clipping and glitches happen a lot more than they should. Some are just little things, like tapping punch before a cut-scene will result in a ‘HUGH!’ from your bot whilst in a black transition. Of course, that does not affect gameplay, but it does affect presentation.
The environments and the like are very, very dull, generic, barely textured square and rectangle models. The quantity of the models, may have something to do with that, though. With over 30 forms to collect and others you can’t… wait. That’s another thing. With the bland style of the majority of vehicles, you cannot tell which vehicles you have scanned and which you have not. Scanning a car for it to tell you ‘Previously Scanned’ is a common occurrence, I assure you. The real quality of the graphics really only comes from the Transformers themselves. In robot form, they look great - more or less good counterparts of the ones in the film. Their transformation animations are lacking, which is a slight disappointment, but hey, it’s DS. I was not expecting an awesome, FMV–style, seven-second transformation scene. Explosions and objects breaking apart also look kind of strange, like they’re made of glass. If I needed to compare this game to anything, I’d say an average N64 game.
I got my housemate Matt, the seasoned gamer extraordinaire and Nintendo fanboy, to join yours truly for multiplayer. To be honest, we didn’t have many expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised. I went Starscream and he went Bumblebee as we started our awesome deathmatch at the Cybertron arena. Right off the bat, Matt drives Bumblebee off a platform. Bottomless pits for the loss. We tried the other levels, which include Arena, The Docks, and Powerplant. Also, you can play as any Transformer, including your own custom. It is very fun, and we sighed and imagined what it would be like with the maximum four players, which would be out of this world. We ditched that and went for
"Allspark Sports", which was equally if not more fun. We have discovered why the Transformers want the Allspark back now - it’s the "ball" in this game, which somewhat resembles soccer or football… only with 30 foot high robots… and guns… and cars. Again, with four players this game would be an absolute treat as your team tries to toss the Allspark into the goal. You can also adjust the rules, so you can make it robots only, vehicles only, etc.
Before I silence my endless ramble of a review, there is one more feature that needs to be touched upon: Wi-Fi. While the does not support multiplayer in Wi-Fi, Transformers DS has what I think is a great idea. You see, every week, they have what is called the "Allspark Wars". The Allspark has been shattered into 7 pieces for the seven days of a week. Every day, a battle begins. Your team is the copy of the game you purchased (Autobots and Decepticons respectively). These battles consist of setting a high score in a sub-mission, which has been recycled from story mode. The more you play and contribute, the more points get added to the total value and the score your team has put together. Whoever has the highest score wins the piece of the Allspark for that day, and it’s best out of 7 for each day of the week. Points and wars won earn you tokens to trade in for stuff like codes. Also, I found the fact that you can earn EXP in the Allspark Wars very welcome, so although you take a break from story mode, you still earn EXP. Stats and values get added up onto their website, so you can see where you’re at, join clans, discuss strategy on the forums, and whatnot.
This game has so many features. It gives you over 30 vehicles to unlock, sub-missions, the Allspark Wars on Wi-Fi, and a solid multiplayer mode. However, the game is extremely short, seemingly rushed, not that nice to look at, and finding a glitch or five is not hard in the least. In my eyes, this game delivers what it promises and then some. It has Transformers, big giant robots beating the circuits out of each other and blasting new craters into Earth. Transformers DS has so many good ideas, and although the presentation lets it down significantly, what lies under the surface is a good game recommended for fans of the movie and 3rd person shooters.