It took me awhile to warm up to it, but The Hub’s Transformers Prime series quickly became one of my favorite shows and entries in Hasbro’s franchise. Now the series finally gets its first game in Activision’s Transformers Prime: The Game for the Wii. Those who haven’t followed the series need not worry about the story, as it features a self-contained one that anyone can step into. It kicks off with the always evil Megatron discovering a dark energon meteor that contains an even more evil entity by the name of Thunderwing, who happens to be an affiliate of Unicron (an evil god-like robot the size of a planet in the Transformers universe) and lives only to destroy the Autobot matrix. It’s up to you to help out Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobot gang to stop Thunderwing and Megatron from accomplishing their wicked plan.
While nowhere as polished or action-packed as its high-definition cousin Fall of Cybertron and suffering from some control problems, there’s still some robot fun here to be had on the fading console for fans of the show and characters alike – just as long as you keep your expectations low and threshold for laggy gameplay high.
The story is told through missions as you play that focus on one of the main Autobots from the show, whether it’s Bumblebee, Ratchet or even Optimus Prime. The levels will sometimes alternate between you fighting in robot mode (though you can transform into your vehicle mode at anytime) and strictly vehicle mode missions where you’ll have to race against the clock to finish the level. During the robot mode levels where you fight off a steady stream of Decepticon foot soldiers, you’ll eventually make your way to a boss at the end that fans are sure to recognize such as Starscream to even Megatron himself.
All of the characters play and control the same way, for the most part, with the only differences being how fast or slow they can pull off attacks, move around, and other such moves. As you fight, your “upgrade” meter will steadily charge up, which will give you a few moments of increased speed and strength along with a super weapon of the Autobot’s choice when it’s filled, such as Ratchet using a giant crescent wrench or Optimus with a giant axe to fight off foes.
Unfortunately, the control setup isn’t that great, hearkening back to the darker days when unnecessary waggle would make an otherwise straightforward game a frustrating expeirence; that’s true here. The analog stick for movement and the buttons for locking onto targets and firing your ranged weapons is fine, but the melee fighting actions requires swinging the Wiimote around. This would be fine on any other Wii title, but there’s some noticeable lag between your action and it registering on the game. This makes for some frustrating, clunky feeling controls that could’ve easily been fixed with some classic controller support, which is lacking here. To mix things up, you can use a different number of swings of the Wiimote while also holding the A button to change up your attack combos. But with the lag, it makes it difficult to time your swings and pull off higher combos, especially later on when the action gets intense where you have to switch between this and long ranged combat constantly.
The sounds and visuals are just about what you would expect from one of the last major titles developed for the Wii. The graphics, while decent, still feature some muddy textures on both the characters and backgrounds. The sound is one of the game’s saving graces, as all of the voice actors from the series are intact here -including Peter Cullen and Frank Welker – making you feel like you’re playing an actual Transformers Prime tale. The game is also slated to hit Nintendo’s newer Wii U and will no doubt feature better graphics, but I’m curious if they’ll just upscale the character models used here for a quickie release.
There’s also an offline multiplayer mode featuring the usual suspects such as deathmatch, a capture the flag-like mode, etc., that can be played with one player against the computer or with a fellow human via a splitscreen. You can only choose from any of the Autobots at first, but as you play through the multiplayer mode you’ll can unlock Decepticon characters to use and join in on the fun as well. Having multiplayer is a nice feature and welcome distraction from an otherwise blah campaign mode, but it’s hard to see even the most devout Prime fans spending that much time with.
For one of the last major Wii titles Transformers Prime: The Game is a decent, but flawed entry into Hasbro’s ever-popular franchise. Fans of The Hub’s hit animated show will most likely overlook its most obvious faults, namely uninspired gameplay and laggy motion-controls, though others will look elsewhere for their robot fix. With a bit more polish, Classic Controller support and possibly some online multiplayer to complement its offline options, this could’ve been a great title to help the Wii go out with bang. Perhaps the upcoming Wii U version will rectify some of the control issues to help make this a decent, if uninspired licensed game for fans. But as it is, Transformers Prime will sadly see the original Wii go out with a quiet whimper.
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