Most of us probably think of the original TV show when we hear the name Transformers. Transformers have made a bit of a resurgence since, with the original Beast Wars coming out in 1996. Since then, Transformers have had the TV series Beast Machines, Robots in Disguise, Armada, Energon, and Cybertron, as well as a Michael Bay movie that will spawn at least one sequel. The most recent reincarnation of Transformers has come in the Transformers Animated series. While some might not care for the anime styling of this new version, it’s probably the closest thing to the roots of the original series. Now the new series has a new game appropriately titled Transformers Animated: The Game (TATG).
TATG features Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead from the TV series. You’ll go through buildings and solve puzzles to get all your characters through to the end of the level. Can TATG actually make use of the license, or does it fall into the same mitigated crapfest that was last year’s Transformers: The Game?
TATG takes a lot of art from the TV series during the cutscenes. The dialogue has the typical
It’s surprising how much voice acting is in the game. Each of the voice actors read their lines for each line of dialogue in the game. Every cutscene is voice acted. Occasionally Ratchet will give you hints on how to control the next section of the game or give you hints for solving a puzzle. You hear Optimus, Bumblebee, and Bulkhead say little things to each other as you switch characters. While they don’t have a large repertoire of phrases, it’s a nice touch.
The sound effects are realistic for a game like this. Each Autobot sounds different with each movement. Bulkhead is heavier and lumbers as he walks, while Bumblebee is nimble and is very light on his feet. Optimus Prime’s ax swishes as it flies through the area, while Bumblebee’s stinger sounds like an electric buzzer. The explosions are a little weak, but when the enemies are as small as they are, you don’t expect much.
One nice touch that I must mention is what happens when you close the DS while the game is still playing. When you shut it, you hear the transformation sound. When you open it back up, it makes the transformation sound again. This is a nice detail that you won’t find in other games.
During the puzzle sections, movement is controlled with the D-pad, and switching characters is handled with the L and R buttons. The A/B/X/Y buttons all perform different actions, depending on who you are controlling. For example, while using Bumblebee you use A to jump and Y to fire his stinger. With Optimus, you use Y to swing his ax, B to block attacks, and up on the D-pad to fire his grappling hook. While this may sound complicated, it actually becomes second nature quickly.
There are a lot of things you can do with the touch screen as well. When enemies are on the screen, you can point Bumblebee’s stinger attack directly at the enemy. You can draw a path from Optimus Prime to have his ax go in the direction you want it to, which is something you have to do to solve some puzzles. You can also use the stylus to activate switches or attack enemies as well.
When I started playing this, the first thing that I thought of was The Lost Vikings. You have three characters that you guide through a level. Each one has their own special ability. Bumblebee is the only one that can jump across gaps. He can also jump up walls Ninja Gaiden-style. He can also power generators with his stinger. Optimus Prime has the ability to get through scaffoldings by using his grappling hook. He can also guide the direction his ax goes when he throws it. Bulkhead can heavy objects to hold down switches. He’s also the only one heavy enough to activate ground switches by himself, and can smash certain doorways.
The object of most levels is to get all three of the Autobots from the beginning of the level to the end. Most of this is done by solving puzzles by using the special abilities of each Autobot. For example, you may have Bumblebee jump up walls to get to a generator which will open a wall door. Then Bulkhead and Optimus Prime move forward and encounter a scaffolding blocked by a ceiling door. Bulkhead pulls a piece of heavy equipment onto a switch that allows Optimus fire his grappling hook into the scaffolding and move to an area where there is a target that he shoots his ax at. Once he does that, an elevator is powered up which all three characters can take down further into the level.
There are other puzzles, such as fans that blowing fans that require the use of Optimus’ ax. Other puzzles involve switches that can be flipped to activate trap doors or elevators. You also have platforms that move up and down that you use to get to different areas.
While most of the game focuses on puzzles, there are some enemies on the screen. There are drones that have gone crazy that you need to destroy. Some are small and fly towards you, while there are other bigger drones, some with shields that you need to attack from the back. Each character starts out with 100% health, but that can be lost from attacks from enemies. You can pick up Energon cubes to restore that health. If you lose all of your health Sari comes in and heals you completely with her key, but that can only be used three times in a level.
All of the levels are relatively short, but that’s to be expected of a Nintendo DS game. Levels run from a couple minutes to just under 15 minutes. Part of this is exploring the level and figuring out where you need to go and which Autobot you need. The puzzles are relatively simple, but considering the intended age group, that’s not a bad thing.
There is one other mode in TATG. There are short driving sequences that place you on a wide highway to your destination. Here you move faster in vehicle mode, but to shoot enemies you have to go into robot mode. You tap on the touch screen to shoot at the enemies. While it’s unfortunate that this is the only sequence where you actually transform, it’s understandable given the type of game that was designed.
The game can be completed in a handful of hours. At least by an adult with a puzzle solving nature. With younger kids, it will probably take them a little while to figure out some of the puzzles. It shouldn’t take them too much longer.
There aren’t any real unlockables in the game. You get short video cutscenes taken straight from the tv show, but you have seen those already while playing the game. Still, I can think of worse ways of entertaining the kids.