It is becoming an annual tradition for Activision to split up its Transformers releases between the major console release and the collection of Nintendo releases. This year is no different; we got the exceptional Fall of Cybertron for 360 and PS3, and now Transformers Prime for DS, 3DS and Wii. Usually, these games invoke a collective sigh across the gaming community, but after spending time with the portable version of the game, I can safely say I was impressed. Finally, Nintendo fans have a Transformers game that doesn’t feel like a complete afterthought.
Based on the cartoon series of the same name, Prime follows the exploits of five Autobots as they attempt to thwart the evil plans of Megatron and the Decepticons. Yeah, the plot is cookie-cutter, and you can’t expect much diversity in the way of storylines. The game follows the cartoon, with Optimus Prime chanting his familiar lines as he leads the Autobots. The formula may be tired, but it is what we have come to expect from a traditional Transformers game.
What makes Prime such a surprise is that it offers up a nice variety of gameplay styles right from the start. You begin as Optimus in a sort of tutorial level that shows you the fundamentals of the game. Strafing, shooting and, of course, transforming are covered. You also have melee attacks that you can combine with shooting, and it all works surprisingly well on the 3DS. The game uses an auto-center camera system that manages to keep up fairly well. You can also pan the camera around using the d-pad at will. There is a lock-on button for shooting, even when in vehicle form. The game just feels right, and it works even in heavy bouts of action.
As you progress, you take on new Transformers, each with their own unique play style. For example the second level puts you in the shoes of popular Autobot Arcee. Here you do a high-speed chase sequence that feels distinctly different from the first level. This continues as you progress through each Autobot and their specific mechanic. This keeps the game from repeating what is essentially the same level and thereby becoming stale.
Another thing Prime does extremely well is give you the sense of playing as these massive robots in disguise. Transforming is a crucial part, and you can even jump in vehicle mode, transforming mid-air, which looks as cool as you might imagine. This also uses your momentum and becomes an important mechanic in the game. It is things like this, that seem like no-brainers, that we simply don’t usually see in these games. You can tell the developers did the absolute best they could, delivering the experience of being one of the Transformers, which has been sorely lacking in the Nintendo outings of this franchise.
The main game isn’t overly long, which is a shame as you never get to spend ample time with each character. Once completed, you do have collectibles to go back for, but there is also a multiplayer mode to toy around with. Sadly this is pretty basic, and only offers the ability to play with friends if they have their own copy of the game. It is also disappointing to see this is only a deathmatch style mode, as opposed to some of the more original game types found in past Transformers games.
Transformers Prime is a solid entry for Nintendo owners this year. It was a wise decision to spin off the series from its other versions, and focus on a different series altogether. This allowed the team to create their own experience without having to simply downgrade the bigger version. If you are a fan of the series and own a 3DS/DS, this is definitely worth checking out. While it may be on the short side, the experience you get is definitely more than meets the eye. OK, I managed to only make one of those puns.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on 3DS.