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Transformers Prime: The Game - DS Review

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Transformers Prime: The Game

DS | Activision / Altron | 1 Player | Out Now
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4th December 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

While for the most part licensed games often fulfill the destiny stemming from their contemptible reputation, I'm never sure what to think or expect when creative control for a handheld counterpart shifts to another team. Is it that the outsourced team has an engine that will allow the game to run at a stronger capacity than what the result would be in the hands of the original team? Or does the decision more accurately reflect their (lack of) belief in the product? Activision decided to recruit Altron for the DS version of Transformers Prime: The Game, a team that has also been contracted by Disney in recent years to develop assorted licensed games for the same platform. But seeing as the outcomes of their past endeavours have been rather mixed in looking at the mean of the reception, the question arises as to whether or not Activision essentially sent the DS version to die? Well, rest assured, the concern of creative control isn't a dilemma in this case, because by and large, this iteration is very much similar to the Wii version, both in the way of content and construction. But interestingly enough, the few modifications that have been made have indeed made a difference. It just so happens that of the two, the handheld iteration comes out on top in providing a more rounded, single-player experience.

    Commencing with clear directives and an easy-to-follow path, Transformers Prime wastes little time in acquainting players with the ins and outs of its setup and the mechanics that are used throughout. In so doing, it sets up a safe barrier whereby players can comfortably get a grip on the controls without having to anticipate any future additions that could come along to compensate for a somewhat incomplete system. No, all the tools you need are covered in the debut level, from the lock-on mechanism to the change of phases and everything else in the middle, and rather pleasantly, the game's system on an overall level dismisses the idea of playing it safe. My reasons for saying so largely stem from the combat, which, truth be told, is much more satisfying here than it is in the Wii version. While having similar range of aerial slices and homing attacks, combat feels tighter, and when you successfully defeat an enemy through a mixture of melee attacks, there is a feeling that stems from the delivery of these maneuvers that translates to the player. Even though it's not going to fuel aggressive behaviour, it helps immerse you in the experience more than expected.

Besides just the delivery, some of the controls here work better in function than they do in the Wii version, particularly when it comes to charged shots and the use of your energy shield. These are mapped to the Y and R Buttons, respectively. In addition, upgrades are triggered by tapping an icon on the Touch Screen, rather than having to hold two buttons down simultaneously. Naturally, movement isn't going to be as fluid just by virtue of the use of the arrows rather than analog (that is, unless you intend to play this on your 3DS, in which case this won't peeve you in the slightest). I will say, though, that with some characters, like Optimus, taking to your vehicle form (X Button) feels a bit clunky. Car combat is never bad, and you can certainly navigate spaces through this means with the help of the R Button for cornering. But this is still one area that feels slightly disconnected from the thrashing aspect in the way of execution. 

    The game is divided up into 13 missions in all, with the nature of these being a mix of conventional level progression tied to a brawler focus, chase sequences, and boss battles, with a few odd variations in task performance. A couple things to point out with respect to the design: Levels are mostly set up in a linear fashion, but where you might find an uncommon instance of backtracking is done with balance and not at all demanding on the player. Some areas have an openness to them, which is great since it encourages use of Vehicle Mode wherever possible. Chase missions are worth singling out because they differ from those found in the console version in two ways. The first is that these are set to a loop, and this is because your goal is not simply to make it to a marked point, but to actually defeat the enemy you're in pursuit of. The second point of differentiation has to do with the way these portions are laid out, as they often have ramps that require timed boosts in order to launch yourself over a gap in the road. Unfortunately, the recovery time from boosting isn't very conducive to the quick jumps you need to make, and with almost all breaks where you have to pull this move off, you'll end up making the first jump but fail at the one directly after it. How the programming has resulted in these late responses is truthfully quite sloppy and demonstrates that more careful attention wasn't paid to the layouts of these specific missions.

On a more positive note, the boss battles are...not quite a treat, but they are enjoyable bouts. Kids who may not have been exposed to enemy fights of this caliber or may be more accustomed to using simple tactics to perhaps trick an enemy to his defeat will likely see these as having gravity, even though, to older gamers, these really aren't that epic. It is important that players make savvy use of the R Button as it's practically required for their survival. But in a way that also differs from the Wii version, younger players won't feel as discombobulated over some of the strategies these characters employ over the course of a battle. Also, quickly switching to Vehicle Mode to bounce back after getting flung a few feet is indeed a viable method of recovery. I personally would've liked to have been able to accomplish this with a dash move that didn't require a transformation, but considering the issues I have with the Wii version's boss battles, I'm willing to make peace with that.

    As far as production values, if you were to compare Transformers Prime to the bulk of other DS games where dimension is involved in the make-up of the level designs and character models, then certainly these very same areas won't give voice for complaint here. That being said, the camera is quite jumpy, and due to its sensitivities and how it moves unstably in response to your actions, it can be perceived as being particular wonky when in Vehicle Mode. Also, the way the game has approached cutscenes is through rough images with a letterbox-style border all around, and trying to follow the story this way can be rather annoying.

Perhaps the biggest issue out of everything is the length. While the console version features a multiplayer battle mode and stage collectibles to serve up some positive replay value, these got left behind and didn't make it over to the DS counterpart. And it's a shame, too, because in those two-to-three hours, you'll be exposing yourself to some pretty satisfying gameplay that you'll want the game to continue. Another reason why you may feel somewhat disappointed over the game ending when it does is the fact that some stage portions present in the Wii version have been expurgated (again with these omissions!). There aren't any severe losses, but I still didn't see any reason for what did go missing not to be present here. 

    Even with its problems, these have less importance in the larger scheme because of the good combat that has given this version a measure of superiority over its console counterpart. It just so happens that not only is Transformers Prime: The Game really enjoyable, it is to the point that I feel the only aspects that drag it aren't drastic enough to dampen your satisfaction with the game. Honestly, the DS version is a pleasant surprise for me, and it is one that I can see kids having fun with up until the end, even in spite of its less friendly areas. Although better controls would've really moved this to a space I could voice a stronger recommendation for, I don't think I'm being overly generous in saying that Transformers Prime: The Game is, as shocking as this may sound, indeed worth your time.

20/30 - Good

Gameplay 7/10 - Good controls but still a bit mixed, combat delivery is better here, car combat could be better, level design encourages vehicle use
Presentation 7/10 - Execution of story cutscenes isn't that great, camera is of a more sensitive nature, visuals offer little reason for complaint
Enjoyment 4/5 - Boss battles are enjoyable and not as frustrating as those in the Wii version, gameplay is satisfying for the most part
Extra Content 2/5 - Not much to do after completing the experience, will last approximately three hours, some content stripped away

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Transformers Prime: The Game
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