Growing up my mother always told me that if I did not have anything nice to say that I should not say anything at all. Luckily I have never been all that good at following mom’s orders or else this would be a fairly short and concise review to say the least. Transformers Prime: The Game is not completely horrible, but when compared War for Cybertron, and its sequel Fall of Cybertron, you are left with a lackluster debut for the Transformers franchise on the Wii U. As it stands it feels like a missed opportunity to make a big splash on a new console. Do consider the fact however, that I am a 35 y/o grump with two kids and a wife and this game is quite clearly for those kids of mine… the little darlings that they are.
Befitting to a Transformers game you start out as the almighty Optimus Prime on the quest to…wait for it…shut down Megatron and his band of evil Decepticons. I know, surprising right? It is fairly standard Transformers fodder and pretty much all you really need to know about the storyline. The game is certainly geared towards the younger audience of its TV show inspiration and it does a decent job of keeping you interested while keeping true to its source material.
Advancing through the stages you get to take control of all the core members of the Autobot team including Optimus Prime, Arcee, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and Bulkhead, but regrettably each character and stage feels like a re-skinned version of the last as you find yourself fighting the same four or so Decepticons until the level’s merciful end. You will find yourself using the same three combos and the exact same shooting mechanics with each one. Every once in a while, after you have built up enough power from beating enemies, you can push the upgrade icon on your GamePad to get a short burst of butt-whooping speed and strength, but again, it feels identical with every robot you use. Adding insult to injury is how every one of the 13 levels and their boss battles felt too similar. Perhaps, fitting with the younger gaming set, this is not a big issue as it favors simplicity and ease of play, but I quickly found myself bored with the button mashing. My 4 y/o on the other hand was quite pleased with the mashing aspect, as was his 9 y/o cousin.
Peppering in a little bit of variety, you will find some high-speed chase/driving sequences that can be fun, although a bit difficult to control. You use your GamePad as a steering wheel and while it lacks precision it is a fun departure from the rest of the game’s grind. My only complaint here is that I wish there were more of these as I enjoyed them quite a bit more than the rest of the stages.
All said the campaign is short and sweet coming in at around 4 hours or so. Each stage takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete. You can of course stretch this out by replaying stages in an effort to search for collectibles or to upgrade each levels grade (letter score), but whether or not you want to largely relies on whether or not you are a glutton for punishment. Realizing my take on this I do have to be fair in saying AGAIN that overall this just does not feel like anything geared towards a gamer over 13 years of age or so. I truly can see the little autobots in the family getting lots of enjoyment out of this title especially if they are fans of the TV show.
The accompanying multiplayer, while deserving of a mention, follows along with the campaign in its simplicity. It is a local affair only and does not take advantage of the Wii U’s online capabilities. It only allows two players in total and the on-screen number is then raised to four as CPU controlled foes join the fray. There are three total game types (Brawl, Energon Match and Emblem Battle) and while they offer up a way to play with a friend they are unfortunately mostly forgettable. In keeping with the theme it will certainly provide your young ones a few hours of fun. I think the real shame here is that the game could have easily supported a co-op mode for the campaign and could have amounted up to a few more hours of entertainment in what shapes up to be a really short game.
When firing up Tranformers Prime on your shiny new Wii U do not expect a big show in the graphics department. This is pretty much a direct port of the Wii/DS versions, so despite noticing a little bit of graphical upscaling it will not wow you. It keeps well with the show, but textures are almost non-existent and overall you just get the feeling that you are playing a slightly shinier Wii game. The nice thing here though is that there is no framerate slowdown, which is something I always appreciate.
The best move the developers made was to make sure that all the TV shows cast voiced their characters in the game including the great Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime. I know the day will come when Peter will not be able to voice an Optimus character, but until that point I cannot even imagine someone else doing that job. I WILL NEVER TIRE OF HEARING OPTIMUS SHOUT “AUTOBOTS, ROLL OUT!” Seeing as the voice cast know their jobs quite well from being on the show the quality of the voice work is superb and serves the game well from start to finish.
The big innovation that the Wii U obviously brings to the table now is the dual screen format with the GamePad. Aside from the two features mentioned previously (upgrade button & steering wheel function) you only get what equates to a second screen with statistical info on how much damage you have taken, how many collectibles you have found, and how long you have spent in the level. This should not be knocked mind you because while falling short of amazing it still is nice to have that stuff on hand. Let us not forget that you can of course play the game itself on the GamePad too.
Transformers Prime: The Game might not be the hardcore experience that a lot of gamers want or expect, but I really don’t think that this was ever its intent. Although it is a solid experience for the young gamers in your family it is one that parents are likely to navigate away from. For what it is worth I would advise waiting until a price drop before picking this one up because if you can find it for cheaper then the regular retail price it would be a worthwhile investment that could keep the kids busy for an afternoon or two.