Being a kid from the 1980â€™s, Transformers will always have place close to my heart. I grew up with Soundwave, back when he was a cutting-edge cassette tape player. Bumblebee was my homeboy, as a stunted VW Beetle. I didnâ€™t care that Megatron somehow shrunk from being a 22 foot robot down to a small handgun. Or that Optimus Primeâ€™s trailer mysteriously disappeared into thin air whenever he transformed. I was young and rocking my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pyjamas.
Sadly, every time I hear Transformers mentioned today, I shudder at the thought of Bay-splosions and enough US military propaganda to sink a battleship... of which there will be at least four. Thankfully though, while Michael Bay may violate my childhood memories with his pyrotechnics hard-on, there is still some hope for true Transformers fans.
One definite shining beacon was High Moon Studiosâ€™ Fall of Cybertron, which landed back in August 2012. The recently released Transformers Prime shines less brightly, but there is enough enjoyment here to make the game worth checking out â€“ at least for younger players.
Based around the award-winning cartoon show of the same name, Prime is a modern retelling of the epic battle between robots who can transform into vehicles, divided into the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons.
Pleasingly, Transformers Prime is a mature and semi-violent take on the childrenâ€™s toy franchise. It revolves around five Autobots: Bumblebee, Arcee, Ratchet, Bulkhead, and of course their leader, Optimus Prime. Meanwhile the Decepticons, featuring Megatron and his treacherous chums, are trying to locate something known as Dark Energon, a substance with the potential to revive the dead. Yes, weâ€™re talking zombie Transformers. The Autobots must protect the humans and also prevent Megatron from rising an army of undead robots intent on destruction.
Itâ€™s a decent watch, even for older viewers, and the game tie-in compares well. It delivers an interactive adaptation of the show, which after appearing on the Wii, is now available in HD via the Wii U console. The gameâ€™s Story Mode is broken down into five chapters, conveniently revolving around the five main Autobot characters.
Each one offers a different gameplay experience; for example, the spritely motorcycle-bot Arcee missions feature high-speed vehicle chases. The rotund Bulkhead has to use his strength with combat heavy missions, while a sneaky Bumblebee has a free-roaming level where players can explore at their leisure.
The end result is a well-balanced game that changes pace to keep things interesting. It is essentially a transformer in its own right, switching between part-brawler and part-driving game to serve as a good entry point for young fans of the show.
Strangely though, the game offers nothing new in the controls department, despite having the Wii U GamePad at its disposal. Instead itâ€™s used just like a standard controller, where the left control stick is for movement and the right stick adjusts the camera. ZL is used to lock to a target and the opposite ZR is used to fire projectiles, while Y and A buttons are for strong/heavy melee attacks and combos. The remaining face buttons, B and X, are used for jumping and for making that awesome WRE KEE KEE KOO sound when you transform into vehicle mode or return to robot form.
The GamePadâ€™s screen isnâ€™t ignored, but simply replicates information already on the main screen. For example it might display a larger version of a radar that is visible on the main HUD. And cutscenes are shown on both screens, which is surprisingly jarring as you catch it out of the corner of your eye. Players can opt to use the gyro sensors on the GamePad to steer during the driving sequences, but overall it is the same experience as the Wii version.
Prime is obviously a straight port and it is disappointing to see little added on the â€˜next-genâ€™ console. However the graphics have improved dramatically. In vivid 1080p, it doesnâ€™t suffer from some of the frame-rate issues other Wii U games have had and character models and backgrounds are presented with crisp detail to capture the aesthetic of the cartoon show nicely.
Being a clone of the Wii version, it obviously lacks the depth that new Wii U games should have. Clocking in at only 13 brief levels, featuring infrequent boss battles and Decepticon cameos, the game is fairly short lived. However Prime isnâ€™t a game for older players and there is enough here for those who still watch cartoons at 6am in their PJs.
What helps to stretch out the game are the additional modes and extras to try out. There are galleries packed with concept art and character models that let you appreciate all the little cogs and mechanics of your favourite Autobot or Decepticon. And, er... bored kids can even view the exciting game credits... anytime they want!
Seriously though, the secondary portion of the game is a decent multiplayer. It is just local multiplayer and there is only the option to play against a single friend or CPU opponents, but there are three semi-entertaining modes to try out, including a deathmatch mode and a capture the flag scenario. The third mode, titled Battle for Energon, mixes up the action by allocating points depending on your performance with the winner announced after five minute rounds.
Overall Transformers Prime: The Game is a solid interactive companion to the television show and will please fans in the right age group, even if itâ€™s just for a weekend. But if your little ones arenâ€™t screaming for this to appear under their Christmas tree this year, try and hold off until the price drops, or perhaps visit your local video store and give it a rental.