Although Transformers was released to every major console, the DS version can stand alone by using unique concepts and an intriguing WiFi mode.
The DS version of Transformers was split into two: Decepticon and Autobot versions. Each version contains the same controls, style of gameplay, and amount of content. The major different between the two is which side you will be fighting for. No matter which version to choose, the player will play as a newbie robot sent to Earth to help aid in the quest to retrieve the Allspark. When the game first opens, either Optimus Prime or Starscream will introduce the player to the story plot line, depending on which version of the game you are playing.
Since this is the Autobot version, the player will take commands from Optimus Prime, going on escort missions, driving missions, information gathering missions, or beat the snot of the bad guy missions. The game takes a Grand Theft Auto approach by offering a free roaming style of gameplay. The player is free to travel the environment, but when a mission needs to be completed, just follow the blip on your radar.
When traveling as a robot, the player has many options available including fighting through melee or ranged combat, the ability to pick up objects such as cars or light poles, or can climb buildings (once enough experience points have been gained). Although combat is a decent part of the game, it is really quite shallow. Melee combat involves nothing more than button mashing and ranged combat relies on the standard circle strafe maneuver. The lack of power ups also makes this game feel a little disappointing. AI behaviors are also a little spotty as they seem to either take too much damage, or not enough. Luckily, the button control scheme works out well for the DS. Transforming and scanning are done by tapping an easy to reach button on the touch screen.
The DS version gives players the ability to scan vehicles through touch screen control. Unlocking every type of vehicle in the game will require a bit of patience and practice, especially since the inferior graphical capabilities of the system is a bit lacking, making some vehicles look just like others, often causing duplicate scans. But the game’s replay value does increase slightly for this fact alone.
Although the game’s story follows the movie’s plot to a certain extent, the biggest flaw is the lack of creativity within missions. I would say out of the game’s two dozen or so missions, only a few involve big-named Transformer characters. I would rather fight as Optimus Prime, busting the faces of key Decepticon enemies than knock down radio towers. Doing the simple, drive to point A to point B missions can grow a little stale, especially more towards the end of the game.
For a DS game, this title looks pretty average. The 3D environments are no where near as detailed as the console versions, but it is not expected to. However, after playing the 360 version with its high explosive environments and crowded streets, I can’t help but feel the environments in the DS version are a little bare. The lack of pedestrians on the street and variation in building height seem to bring the overall mood of the game down a few notches. As a DS title, though, I guess you cannot complain. Transforming from robot to vehicle is rather nice looking and happens very quickly. And it should be noted that in the DS version, you can jump off a building as a robot, transform to your favorite vehicle in the air, and hit the ground at a top speed. In the console versions, the player was forced to stand still before transformation could take place, slowing down gameplay. One up for the DS version. It should also be noted that when your robot jumps, it leaves behind a crater. This is a minor details but helps generate the illusion that you are playing as a giant, powerful robot.
Although the camera control is smooth, it doesn’t always work for the player. Rotating the camera is done with the shoulder buttons, and if pressed together, will cause the camera to point directly behind the robot. But there are times in heated combat when the camera will not follow you how you want, as the camera can get a little jumpy. This is especially noticeable when close to buildings or when fighting multiple baddies at once. A better lock-on function would have been a welcomed edition, but again, it is not bad for a DS game.
Surprisingly, the DS versions of the game feature full voice work from the same voice actors who played in the movie. Although all voice clips have been heavily compressed to fit on the DS cartridge, it is still a great edition to the game and really ramps up the overall presentation. I would much rather listen to Optimus Prime than read a simple text box onscreen. Plus, all the game’s cutscenes have many lines of dialog, a truly impressive feat for a DS game.
Although the game does feature the WiFi symbol on the box art, it is not your usual multiplayer mode. Typical Us-Vs-Them multiplayer can take place through multi-card link, but not over WiFi. Instead, the developers incorporated a WiFi function unique to the DS version of the game. When the player logs onto WiFi, a daily mission will be downloaded. It is then up to the player to play this unique mission and obtain the highest score possible. The player does have the option to play this mission as many times as he wishes for that day. Once finished, this score is then uploaded to the WiFi network and tallied. If you are playing with the Autobat version, then your score will go towards the Autobot side of the WiFi mode. Whichever side has the highest score for that daily challenge will win a piece of the Allspark. While not your typical online mode, it is still a great way to keep players coming back everyday to download a new mission and to see the stats from the previous day. More information can even be obtained from visiting the official website for the game.
It is kind of strange because I know Transformers: Autobots isn’t the best DS game by any means, but I still had a hard time putting it down. Even though the combat system is kind of lame, the graphics are pretty much on par, and the WiFi mode is limited to single player, I still enjoyed my time with this title. This is one of the better movie licensed games, especially on a handheld system. And because it is a movie licensed game, I foresee this game dropping in price, possible for the holiday shopping season. If the game drops in price, I don’t think it will be a bad idea to pick this one up.