Transformers Prime: The Game|
As we witness the birth of the newest Nintendo console, the Wii U (which will already be released by the time this review posts) we are tasked with sorting through the dwindling list of 11th hour Wii releases. Sadly, as we have experienced in console progressions over the years these last minute releases generally tend to be less of a favor for the old console’s holdouts, and more of an attempt to cash-in on the new console’s excitement by offering an uninspired and underdeveloped port of a title that was developed around the new hardware.
Such is the case with Transformers Prime. This late stage in the Wii’s lifecycle, a game exhibiting the visual and technical drawbacks of Transformers: Prime yet simultaneously delivering exceptional presentation in the form excellent storytelling and solid voiceover work – it becomes apparent that Japanese developer Now Production (or NowPro of Katamari Damacy fame) was asked by the Transformers license holder Activision to address the Wii crowd as well as the intended Wii U audience.
But all is not for naught; given the confines of the Wii’s SD hardware limitations, Now Production has still managed to craft a title in which the positive aspects outweigh the negative, resulting in a game that is every bit worthy of the Transformers license, especially for those younger gamers and fans of the series. As I alluded to earlier, Transformers Prime really shines in terms of the television-like production value demonstrated by the remarkable storytelling and impressive voice work – all of which is delivered by the cast of the Hub network’s Transformers Prime television series. The game even starts with the opening of the television program, as if it were simply another episode (or side movie) in the series.
The story is about as convoluted as any Transformers game gets; The Autobots investigate a Dark Energon meteor that has suddenly appeared in the sky, only to find it the property of the Decepticons who are towing it with their ship The Nemesis in an attempt to harvest its Dark Energy. A fight ensues, and the meteor splits open releasing its hidden contents; a super powered Unicron loyal, Thunderwing. Thunderwing is a friend to none, and serves as a great antagonist in this three-way battle for supremacy.
Yes, admittedly the storyline is a little hokey – but it is told in such a way that children and parents alike will be riveted to the game’s fantastic pre-rendered cutscenes to find out what happens next. This might not be the case if Now had not have used the actual actors and assets from the television series, so they deserve credit for staying true to the subject matter. The gameplay is in the vein of an old school brawler, with a heavy emphasis on motion-controlled melee action.
This hand-to-hand combat is precisely the point where Transformers Prime’s technical complications begin to pop up in the form of noticeable – often severe – lag between the gamer’s physical motions and the onscreen actions. The subsequent feeling of disconnect is only made more conspicuous by the fact that there does not seem to be a correlation between the gamer’s choice of motion and the resulting actions on screen, effectively placing strategy on the back burner in lieu of mindless waggling and button mashing.
Level design is expectedly linear; gamers progressing through a succession of walled levels facing wave after wave of disposable minions on the path to the final boss-battle prize at the end of the level. None of the bosses are all that difficult to finish off, but it might take a few tries to recognize their weaknesses. Thankfully, Transformers Prime does a great job in offering mid-mission restart points so gamers don’t have to continually slog through the same levels over and over. Any Transformers game wouldn’t be worth its weight in salt if it didn’t feature a driving level or two. No surprise, the Wii driving mechanics are less than optimal and don’t do much to deliver an exhilarating sense of speed. Still, the driving levels are a nice change of pace from the constant arm waving of the melee battle, so all is not lost.
While Transformers Prime might shine in terms of voice work, it fares worse than expected in the visual realm. At this point more than any other in the Wii’s long life span, developers should be delivering visuals that are better than this. Yes, we know the Wii can only output 480p at best, but even the PS2 was pumping out more pixels than we see with Prime. Noticeable tears in the scenery, clipping, and pop-up smatter the otherwise bland environments to look even worse than the prior Transformers releases. This lack of visual optimization more than anything is an indication that this Wii version is no more than the Wii U version that has been crunched through a porting program to strip away the lowest hanging fruit (the visuals), reducing the processing requirements allowing it to run on the low-powered console.
Transformers Prime offers an interesting array of multiplayer, although it is only available for local split-screen action rather than online. Gamers can tackle the 1-on-1 Brawl mode, the energy-stealing king of the hill-styled Energon Battle mode, or the capture the flag variant Emblem Match. All are fun, but being confined to local play only severely limits the enjoyment that could be had.
I realize I have touched on a number of serious issues with Transformers Prime; however, I feel compelled to emphasize that even with its warts, Prime is still a solid entry in the Transformers lineage. At this point, we have poorly implemented Wii motion controls are no surprise, and we have become accustomed to making modifications to our behavior to make games play correctly on the Wii. For that matter, as an owner of both the Xbox Kinect and the PlayStation Move, I can safely say that this lag, delay, and imprecision are really just the nature of the beast with motion control.
And yes, while Prime could have stood for a bit less linear gameplay and a little more love in the visuals – overall it tells a cool story with fantastic delivery resulting in an enjoyable experience that the whole family can appreciate.