With the release of Transformers Prime alongside the Wii U, Activision has completed a Nintendo sweep. The game appears on all four platforms and, more impressively, is essentially the same experience across them. The Wii U installment is the only one that is in HD, of course, and the work that NowPro has done reasonably emulates the cartoon on which this title is based.

The story follows Optimus Prime’s team of Bumblebee, Arcee, Bulkhead and Ratchet as they work to thwart Megatron’s plans to harvest an enormous Dark Energon meteor. Things go awry, and an ancient evil named Thunderwing, servant of Unicron, is uncovered and awakened. If none of that makes any sense to you, I’m going to hazard a guess that this might not be the right game for you.

The story is structured as a set of rivalries, and each Autobot will fight their nemesis at least once. These are the highlights of the game, as the Decepticon army is filled with carbon copy Vehicon and Insecticon foot soldiers that have no personality whatsoever. The cast includes some notable actors from the show reprising their roles, including Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime), Frank Welker (Megatron), Gina Torres (Airachnid) and Jeffrey Combs (Ratchet).

In addition to the robots, three human children lend their skills to the team. Anyone who has ever watched a Transformers cartoon knows that this is a critical piece of the puzzle, though not one that is always fit in perfectly. I’m pleased to share that Jack, Miko and Raf are far more palatable than most of the fleshy sidekicks featured in the franchise’s multiple series.

The game play mixes up action sequences, during which players can freely transform between vehicle and robot modes, and chase stages. The latter are a bit frustrating thanks to the motion controls. Using the Gamepad as a steering wheel is imprecise, and the button placement that puts boost and guns on the same side (R and RL) is a misstep. Otherwise, the driving sequences are relatively enjoyable, especially since they break up the repetitive combat.

Fighting Vehicons and Insecticons usually boils down to a few simple strategies. This usually amounts to firing as you close in and then unleashing a combo that knocks the Decepticon down. If necessary, keep firing while he’s on his back. Helicopter snipers and Tanks with shields require slight variations, like charging up shots or using a shield breaker move. It’s not enough to keep things fresh, but then again, you won’t be playing long enough to get entirely exasperated. I played the entire story from start to finish in approximately three hours. These decisions make it very clear that the audience for this game skews significantly younger.

The gameplay moves among the Autobots, and I did like how each played differently. They not only have different speeds and strengths, but the upgrade meter charges at different rates. This enhanced state is the only use for the Gamepad’s touch screen other than tracking bonus objectives. In fact, I had to turn down the sound on the Gamepad because it was emulated entirely on the handheld’s speakers. It’s a far cry from the nifty audio tricks pulled off by many other titles (and even the Wii U’s main menu).

As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock additional arenas and characters for use in the game’s multiplayer mode. The three included game types are all strictly offline affairs for one or two, but the option for AI opponents has been wisely included. Included are a point-based deathmatch, a no-respawn deathmatch and a capture the flag variant that awards points based on how long each player holds it. Being able to play as the Decepticons makes this a bit interesting, but it doesn’t have staying power.

The greatest success of the title is accurately and authentically emulating an episode of the television show. It’s not a title that adult fans like myself will likely consider a smart purchase, especially given how short the experience is. For children though, there is enough here of value. The $50 price tag is a bit steep, especially considering that the 3DS version is largely the same game. If you are someone who grew up with Generation 1, I wouldn’t rush out and purchase Transformers Prime. If it’s on your child’s wishlist for the holidays, then you’re doing something right and you can pick this up with confidence.

 

Here’s the Rundown:

+ Accurate emulation of the cartoon
+ Fantastic voice acting
+ Age-appropriate gameplay mechanics that will engage young fans
- Short. Can be finished in about 3 hours.
- Multiplayer isn’t terribly interesting.
- Motion controlled steering during driving sequences isn’t terribly enjoyable

 

7 and 7.5 represent a game that overall manages to be worth a playthrough, just not worth the full price at launch. These scores are for games that are relatively good or even really good, but generally worth waiting for a sale or picking up as a rental when possible.

Transformers Prime was developed by NowPro and published by Activision. It was released on November 18, 2012, at the MSRP of $49.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.