Developer: Now Production.
Release Data: Released on October 30, 2012 at a suggested retail price of US$39.99
All images in this review have been provided courtesy of Activision. Only images specifically noted depict actual gameplay.
The recent history of Transformers games on the Wii has been less than impressive, thanks in large part to needing to be redeveloped off the framework of games for more current systems. Transformers Prime: The Game moves to break this trend of shaky-at-best ports by developing a new software title specifically for the Nintendo platforms. This effort has definitely not been misplaced, as we seem finally to have a Transformers game for the Wii that's actually worth playing.
Transformers: Prime for the Wii makes a determined effort to feel like a storyline within the TV series continuity even from the first moments of the game as the TV opening sequence plays leading in to the main menu. In practice it comes across sort of like a Transformers: Prime movie, with a new, self-contained story rather than utilizing elements from existing episodes or other secondary media. The story is based around the discovery of a Dark Energon meteor which is found to contain Thunderwing, who is affiliated with Unicron in this continuity and serves as an "Ultimate" style bridge between Marvel and IDW comics' takes on the character. The story mechanics are very true to the TV series, which I feel is a noteworthy accomplishment here. The continuity with the series is not entirely perfect - most evidently by what characters are here, and may be informed by what voice actors were available to take up their roles. The story is solidly within season 2, but the Decepticon roster does not reflect any combination that actually happened within that timeframe. Starscream is among the Decepticons, which had not been the case for the majority of this season, and is present at the same time as Dreadwing and Airachnid, posing additional problems in reconciling where in the series this story might fit.
Actual gameplay image
Another place where the game really has success in recreating the experience of the origin media is the sound. The music is properly in the style of Transformers: Prime, even going in to major battles where the music is well and truly determined to let you know this is serious business. The sound effects are all very accurate to TV, which is probably the second most important audio element to get right in order that the game should feel like being "inside" a story you might otherwise be just watching. The most important of course being the voice performances. All the characters are voiced by their regular actors, although in some cases the read of the lines can seem markedly different to the TV show. This happens most frequently in cases of voiceovers for off-screen characters, while the cutscenes wind up very similar to the delivery you'd be used to from the cartoon. Overall the majority of the voice work is really excellent, and the only character who sounds consistently "off" is Dreadwing, but not to a degree where I would suspect they tried to get a soundalike to fill in for Tony Todd here.
A lot of care was paid to make sure the character models in the game were as accurate as possible, and in many situations the character models demonstrate a surprising level of quality during gameplay sequences. But where this effort was made to producing what's likely to be the best models the hardware can support, the Wii's inability to adequately format its output to a modern HDTV is a serious detriment. I fear the game might be blamed for these failings when Activision's modelers should in fact be praised for what they've given us. I suspect it might display more faithfully to what it's meant to look like if the Wii were hooked up to an older CRT TV like the console was really made to work with.
Another area of great care and which is delivered better in general is the environment designs. Because as much was done to make sure all the characters looked just right, , the levels take it a little bit farther. Where the characters have to recreate exact appearances, this is where the designers and modelers can really have some fun - and it's pretty clear they did. Every mission stage looks really true to the style of locations you would see in the show, as well as stages set in established locations like within Nemesis that look entirely accurate the the specific appearance of those places, but take their opportunity to get a little imaginative and expand on them. Lots of details are laid out on each level just to give visual consistency. It's a really good job of production design, and my lone regret here is you'll spend most of your time on a level too busy to get a chance to examine and appreciate it all.
Actual gameplay image.
The gameplay really suffers from being bound to the Wii. While most functions are of course tied to buttons, melee combat is fully reliant on the motion of the Wiimote. The motions don't relate to any action the character being used performs, it's just a basic up-down swinging motion to launch a physical attack on a target. That in itself might not be a serious issue, but there is a pretty discernable lag time before the action registers, and in this game timing is very critical in a fight. I've found great difficulty in reliably engaging a target and more often than not end up on the receiving end instead. The combo system is tied to this and is similarly hard to manage. Different numbers of shakes of the Wiimote followed by holding A and swinging some more are meant to vary your attack patterns and increase the strength of your attacks. In an ideal situation this would and can work, but in a fast paced fight, the precise control of movements is easier said than done, leaving you likely unable to utilize strong hits when you'd most need them. Having at least an option to use a Classic Controller in place of motion controls would have helped immensely, especially since the existing movement operation does not do anything to make you feel more connected to the events of the game at all. Quite the opposite in fact, the poor response generally serves to reinforce how detached you really are from what's happening on screen.
You're equipped with a defense shield, and though the game suggests perfect timing with it will allow it to act as a counter attack, I have yet to be able to execute this to confirm. This and vehicle mode recovery from attacks are the major areas where the control lag really feels like it extends beyond the movement controls. The options to do these things in a fight would be very welcome, if only for actually being able to perform them as needed.
Each mission in the game allows the use of a single Autobot. While I at first believed it might be a situation of designing levels to work around specific traits of that character, I came to find later that there was no particular aspect that made any level seem more geared to, say Bumblebee instead of Ratchet. For purposes of story progression, I have no issue with set characters for a given level, though I think allowing for character selection on subsequent visits to a level would have been an easy way to increase the replay value of the game. As it is, there's little motivation to revisit any mission outside of a sense of completion by obtaining all the unlockable content markers.
The difficulty feels to me like it takes a sharp increase as you progress. Not as a function of more complicated level design or changes to strategy. It just piles more of the same things at you at once as you move forward. While I managed pretty well though the early levels, I found it very hard to pass later stages without failing the mission at least once and having to restart from the last checkpoint. A welcome mercy is the option at the continue screen to receive a boost of health beyond the bar's normal maximum. More than once that bonus has made the difference for me in whether I could move on. Given this game is intended for younger gamers, it's a very good move on Activision's part to offer that. Of course for those looking for more challenge you can decline the health boost and just go with the standard amount.
The "upgrade" function is the game's super bar. Once filled you can get around ten seconds of increased speed and strength, as well as the characters getting physical modifications. Among the more interesting is Ratchet growing a giant crescent wrench from his forearm. The upgrade effect is most pronounced in close combat, but the limited period and the tendency of enemies - especially bosses - to rarely stay long in close range makes it very hard to utilize to its fullest. And if you pursue an opponent to try to press the upgrade advantage, you have just as much chance of getting attacked back by your target before you can get the melee combo moves done right.
The level design, while showing a great deal of visual care as I had already noted, is very linear. While a couple places are built to have the illusion of level exploration it still comes back to a matter of following the path in functionally a straight line from start to end. Though this helps make sure you can reach your objective eventually, it also really limits level design and takes away the chance to do interesting things with the environments. Every game might not be able to be sandbox or sandbox style, but I do think other games can learn from their examples and offer a little freedom, even just something as simple as making an alternate route to the objective so that you have to consider the advantages and disadvantages of both options when choosing how to move forward.
If you have friends or siblings and a second Wiimote set, the multiplayer will probably be what gives the game staying power. Multiplayer can be played against one player against the computer as well, but has the most potential for lasting fun when played with another person. Provided they're in the same room. The multiplayer is only local splitscreen on this game. However, what I've played of games on the Wii with online multiplayer, it's just as well off without that option.
The roster includes the Autobot cast by default, while the Decepticon characters have to be unlocked for use by either player or computer, which will happen as you progress through the game. The final roster includes the following:
I know many will be sad to be unable to play Breakdown; I was.
Ultimately you'll gain access to a total of five arenas, some more firmly connected to levels played in the story mode than others. In particular, the desert arena is set up well for a group battle with its large open space and central high ground that can offer a ranged attack advantage. But mainly you'll end up choosing based simply on what suits your play style best. If you like to make a habit of throwing opponents off ledges, you'll likely find a preference for the energon mine, for example.
The multiplayer is divided among three modes.
Brawl is the most straightforward. You can fight against up to three opponents, one able to be human controlled and the rest handled by the computer whether in one player mode or two. I found that the computer fights distinctly less hard in this mode than the regular game. That would probably be welcome to anyone having trouble fighting in story mode, but if you seriously want to be challenged in one player mode you may need to face two or even three enemies.
Energon Battle lets you compete for points based on acquiring energon. Energon refill boxes appear once per player spawn cycle, and you can optionally set the game to allow players to steal energon from each other. This mode has potential to become very unbalanced if one player takes on a flying Decepticon. The flyer needs to only acquire energon and defeat the opponent once and then transform and fly around out of reach until the timer runs out. If played with two players, it would be important to agree to rules beforehand like both or neither taking flyers since it's very difficult or impossible to hit a target in the air.
Emblem Match is sort of like capture the flag and keep away. A token pick up sits in the middle of the arena for whoever can reach it first, and points are earned for as much time as it can be held. But to prevent a situation like Energon Battle mode, transformation is disallowed while holding the emblem. A player may obtain the emblem by attacking their opponent to cause a knock down. Between two skilled players, this could easily be the most engaging game mode of the lot.
All modes have Rules options, which can be as simple as setting the time limit to as much as determining stage end bonus levels. In general practice the rules by default are the easiest form of a stage and each change adds to the gameplay complexity or challenge as the conditions are adjusted.
I think Activision has made a good game here, especially at the end of the Wii's life cycle where you'd be hard pressed to find any truly good new titles. It simply comes down to the hardware not being able to deliver the experience that the game might otherwise be able to provide. In the end, what hurts Transformers: Prime for the Wii most is the Wii itself. The need to apply motion controls to the game is the greatest source of harm to the gameplay mechanics in what would otherwise come across as being an enjoyable diversion at worst and at best a solid Transformers: Prime story that can almost fit without question between episodes. And really, I think the slight continuity problem with character selection has more to do with the realities of getting a game produced than it is indicative of any accidental oversight. As much care was put in every other creative aspect of the game, I really can't believe they'd drop the ball at character selection if they could have at all helped it.
I would be very comfortable recommending this game especially for households
with kids that might be a little on the young side for War
For/Fall Of Cybertron ...if there was an option to bypass the
motion control. It's great that the game ultimately does not penalize you for
the hardware not being able to respond quickly enough to your input and instead
offers HP boosts to help overcome failed missions, but I'd be lying if I said
it didn't get frustrating along the way. But to anyone who has been
disappointed by the ports of previous major console games down to the Wii
level, you've finally got something that makes the very best of this console,
and if you were to choose only one title to represent Transformers in your Wii
game library, hands down I would recommend this to be it.
|Date||October 30th 2012|
|Score||(6 out of 10)|
|Link||Transformers Prime: The Game Screenshot Gallery|