It's the best unofficial Transformers game ever.
Gotcha Force is a game that's easy to overlook or pass off as a dumb kid's game. The fact is that, yes, it is indeed presented as a kid's game, but it is nevertheless loads of fun and surprisingly deep. In fact, this is one of the most addictive games I've played in quite a while. Every time I started to write my review, I'd go play the game one "last" time to refresh my thoughts, only to end up playing for hours and putting off the writing for another day. Whenever I think Gotcha Force has run out of ideas and things to wow me, it opens up a whole new dimension with some crazy new character to play as.
These characters, known as Gotcha Borgs, form the backbone of the game. They are almost as abundant as and even more varied than the legion of Pokemon, and the primal appeal of collecting them is just as strong. Nearly every victorious battle will earn you a copy or a piece of the enemy borgs you defeated. There's always a new borg or new team or new strategy to try out, which means the game can be very hard to put down. The assortment of borgs numbers over 200, not including special variants like crystal-colored borgs. The different models include humanoid robots with guns and swords, industrial robots with huge arms and missiles, flying angels, huge dragons, nurses with giant syringes, jet fighters, aliens, laser-equipped satellites, flying fortresses, UFOs, ninjas and samurai, demons, tanks, and armored cars. The rarest borgs include robots that transform into bomber jets and borgs that combine Voltron-style to form larger and more powerful machines. The coolest and most powerful borgs are found deep in the game, but some of the early models are impressive too.
Each borg has a set of between two and four abilities in addition to unique stats for attack power, defense, speed, and hit points. Although most borgs have at least one long-range attack and one short-range attack, the specific nature of these attacks and of the more random special abilities varies just as widely as the forms of the borgs. The result is that there at least 200 fighting styles and strategies, plus all kinds of combo attacks that become possible in the multiplayer modes. Like Pokemon, Gotcha Force uses a fundamentally simple gameplay concept but constantly refreshes it with variations induced by the different playable characters. You could play through the entire game two or three times and still see new borgs and new attacks.
Of course, the real purpose of all these borgs is combat. Battles are one of the largest portions of Gotcha Force's gameplay, the other being borg management. Fighting against enemy borgs with your team is fairly simple, thanks to a game camera that is locked onto other borgs 99% of the time. Though it may seem restrictive, having movement always relative to other borgs makes it much easier and less confusing to get around in this very three-dimensional fighting system. The camera has a nasty habit of going underground and showing the action from your borg's feet when targeting an airborne enemy, but such instances are rare and can be dealt with after a few tries. Most battles involve a computer-controlled ally commander whose borgs fight alongside yours. Each ally has an upgradeable team of some specific class of borgs, so there is some strategy in selecting an ally whose fighting style will suit the upcoming battle. Allied borgs are quite capable fighters who often steal frags and lend support in critical moments.
Gotcha Force has several modes, most notably the Story mode. Though the plot is wet-toilet-paper-thin and the dialogue completely inane, Story mode is important because it's the only mode in which you can earn new borgs for your collection. The quest is a rather long sequence of battles, some of them themed, most of them random, and a few containing boss characters or special scenarios. The endless barrage of battles gets tedious at times, but it's easy to stay interested thanks to the possibility of earning new borgs after each battle. (If it's not yet obvious, finding and playing with new borgs is really addictive.) The occasional introduction of new ally commanders and special stages also helps. Challenge mode is a simple endurance test against the computer, but it's nice to be able to play alongside player two. Versus mode is a major feature, with four-player support, computer A.I. bots, and customizable teams. Each player can bring his own collection on a memory card or mooch from someone else's box of goodies. You can even ask to be assigned a random team, which may include borgs that none of the players has unlocked in Story mode. The action is a bit too chaotic for four-player split-screen on a small television, but it becomes easier to keep up with as the players become familiar with the camera and borg movement.
Gotcha Force, since it insists upon being a kids’ game, has to be one of my favorite kids’ games in a long time. Unfortunately, the nauseating elementary school voice-acting and blaring colors will probably thwart the attention of many Pokemon and Gundam fans who would absolutely love the gameplay. There are some minor problems with the camera and gameplay balancing, and I would love to see them addressed in a sequel. If you tend to get addicted to a good collecting game, or enjoy anime with crazy robots and lasers and missiles, Gotcha Force will be a pleasant surprise.