I really wanted to like Transformers Prime: The Game. I’m a big fan of the CG-animated series that spawned it; though essentially aimed at kids, it was a surprisingly dark and brutal series at times, with some superb writing throughout. The design of the Transformers themselves was handled pretty well too, striking the right balance between colourful, classic-era bots (known as G1 – Generation 1 – to Transformers fans) and the more modern take favoured by the live action movies at the time (which I was never too crazy on, the excellently physical-looking transformations aside). Though the Autobots have a bunch of kids helping them out, they’re used well and – generally – aren’t an annoyance as you may expect. The overall story takes some deep dives into Transformers lore, too – which was surprising and very satisfying.
That show is, unbelievably, nearly nine years old now. The choice of platforms for Transformers Prime: The Game – which arrived in 2012 – is definitely an indicator of its age; it was released for Wii, DS, 3DS and Wii U. It’s the Wii U version that I’ve played through.
Things start off well; the cutscenes, even when using the in-game engine, are incredibly close in style to the show’s CG-animation. The soundtrack – another highlight in the series – is utilised well and the voice acting is (as it is in the show too) really good.
The first level sees you in control of Optimus Prime and takes place in a very narrow, claustrophobic level despite being on the exterior of a spaceship. The control scheme is a little convoluted and, though you can transform at will, when you do change form the camera view somehow makes you look like a small toy truck; any sense of scale is lost. Fighting the generic Decepticons is satisfyingly crunchy at first, but becomes repetitive and each enemy you fight against, despite not being much of a challenge, seems to have far too much health – turning each battle into a drawn out exercise in tedium. Shooting is handled pretty well though, with locking on and charging of weapons being straightforward and satisfying to pull off.
Though there’s variety in each level – as you’ll be taking control of each of the different members of Team Prime in turn – unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be that much variety in how each team member plays. Bulkhead’s escape from a collapsing cave, early on, is a good example of an attempt to introduce some variety – but unfortunately, the race to the exit is pretty frustrating due to the tilt control scheme (if there was/is an option to switch to standard controls, I couldn’t find it). It’s another level that feels way too small and restarts are frequent; often just due to the unresponsive tilt controls, sadly. Many of the levels feel a bit constricted and linear, with only the occasional larger area opening up. The scenery is often bland too; despite both exterior and interior levels, the architecture and general look of each level is pretty dull and uninspiring.
Boss battles attempt to inject further life into the general beat ‘em up gameplay, but again just end up being mostly dull exercises in punching, with bosses whose life bars merely extend the duration of the fight, rather than make it much harder.
There are multiplayer modes which may be worth your time, but I have to be honest here – I haven’t tried them, so can’t comment on that aspect of the game.
Despite the fact that the game’s soundtrack and voice acting is excellent, the same cannot be said of the sound effects and snippets of dialogue from the characters in-game, which is ridiculously repetitive. You’ll hear the same few quotes so many times, even after defeating just a few enemies.
As I understand it, the Wii U version is a port of the Wii game; though – thankfully – most of the motion control has been removed in favour of a more traditional control scheme for this version, unfortunately the dull levels and tediously drawn out fighting remains. The cutscenes and look of the game is generally excellent, however, and the story itself is a good one, especially for fans of the animated series.
However, as a massive Transformers fan (since 1984!) it really does pain me to say that Transformers Prime: The Game isn’t an experience worth shelling out for; especially since, at the time of writing, the price of the game seems to be creeping up – likely due to its relative scarcity, as it is definitely not an unmissable experience. The Wii U is home to some superb, overlooked gems (though a number of these are now available for Switch) but, unfortunately, Transformers Prime: The Game is not one of them.
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