Transformers: Animated is the latest cartoon incarnation of the Transformers, a staple household name once again since the successful 2007 movie. It’s the first American-produced Transformers show in 20 years (recent offerings have been Japanese or Canadian) and takes the moonlighting robots in a new direction with its own unique character design and re-imaginings of characters loved by fans old and new. For the first time ever, Optimus Prime is no longer the ‘Big red truck’ for in this canon he is a young underdog (think Lion-O or Prince Adam) which makes for an interesting and challenging character to use in a video game.
Rather than exploring cityscapes and driving around sandbox style as in the 2007 Transformers Movie game, this outing on the DS involves teamwork and puzzle solving. Can anyone remember a popular SNES title called The Lost Vikings which focused on a trio of attributed characters who help each other? If yes, this game is basically the same idea with Transformers and driving levels mixed in.
The game first greets the player with the starting intro from the cartoon, then things move onto the narrative explaining what to do. Your main three Autobots: Optimus Prime (the young leader), Bulkhead (the tough guy), and Bumblebee (the mouthy boy racer) are introduced and given a task or two to complete as training levels. The training levels at the start give the player a chance to get to know these characters and their abilities as well as switching between the characters to work as a team. The bots heavily rely on each other to progress onwards – Bulkhead being able to smash through walls and hold down switches, Optimus Prime having a grappling hook to climb with and Bumblebee being the only character that can jump. Megatron and his Decepticon nasties won’t make the going easy though.
The protagonist trio are not alone, as grumpy medic Ratchet appears via comlink to offer advice on controls and tips. Ratchet also offers training on using the stylus pen to control Bulkhead’s wrecking ball, Prime’s axe, and Bumblebee’s hand stingers (much like action figure accessories). Using the DS stylus to control the signature weapons works really well and suits the side-scrolling 2D layout of the game.
Aside from the 2D levels involving the main trio, there are driving levels which involve the resident motorbike ninja Prowl (and sometimes Bumblebee) as he takes to the highways in pursuit of Decepticons. This is the only part of the game where you can transform from robot to vehicle whereas the 2D teamwork stages are permanently static.
Graphically the game moves well and the levels (both puzzle and driving), whilst not very gripping serve their purpose as playgrounds. Videos also feature the show intro and transforming sequences, earned as extras. In terms of sound, the game is rewarding with in-character speech that features the voice acting cast from the show, whilst the music is so-so.
Transformers: Animated has been well approached and is a good experience set around the new canon of the much loved robots in disguise. Some may not like the lack of free-roaming navigation and transformation that Activision’s previous game had, but the main focus is on the characters and what they can do to come together to provide more of a thinking man’s approach. Fans of the Transformers: Animated TV show and toyline will definitely enjoy this aspect and the game is certainly worth a pop if you like a puzzle to solve. Although this won’t move the earth any time soon, it is a very good game and works perfectly on the DS format.
Activision £24.99 – Out Now