We all know the big Transformers titles. Devastation, War for/Fall of Cybertron, Age of Extinction (though we’d all like to forget that last one, as does the director of the movie with the same title) – these have all carried the Transformers torch over the years, and we all know it’s a heavy torch to bear due to its widely-adored mythology. Forget the largest critical successes for a second, however, and let’s take a look at some of the other Transformers games out there, ones which are oft forgotten in favour of the most critically-successful or heavily-pushed games. Stepping out of the shadows cast by their ultra-successful siblings are games like Rise of the Dark Spark, Dark of the Moon, and the only Transformers title to hit the Wii U, Transformers: The Game.
Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark
A confused, muddled storyline is one of the most glaringly obviously reasons why Rise of the Dark Spark didn’t gain any traction from either critics nor fans alike. It’s got a campaign that hops between the Decepticon and Autobot perspective at often arbitrary moments as well, and there are problems galore with the bland visual style and the obviously unimaginative levels designs.
It’s not all bad, though. If you’re a serious fan of shooting games, Dark Spark has a hefty arsenal of 20 guns on offer, each with their own unique feel. From shotguns to machine guns through to futuristic weapons like energy beams, this game’s got you covered from a shooting-fan standpoint. Customisation is also a feature, as are upgrades to your weapons and hardware in general. Multiplayer is definitely the shining gem of the game (as it is with Fall of/War for Cyberton); Escalation mode is simply too fun not to play constantly.
It’s obvious why Rise of the Dark Spark didn’t do that well: its lacklustre campaigns, poor level designs, and blank visual designs all work against it. Its weapon selection and multiplayer are its bright sparks, and good enough to get the game a mention here.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (PS3)
From the outset, it can be stated that Revenge of the Fallen is already superior to its predecessor, due to said predecessor’s generally lacklustre approach. Revenge of the Fallen is a game that actually injects a bit of fun into the proceedings, but don’t expect any serious innovations or additions to distinguish it from the Transformers crowd.
The gameplay here is standard third-person fodder, with weapons upgrades, a two-tiered shield/health system, and the ever-enjoyable multiplayer dragging the single-player game up a few notches. The control system is a rather complex beast, but if you can get the hang of it you’ll likely enjoy the game’s challenging nature. Transforming into your chosen robot’s vehicle form can be fun (the right-trigger holding is a pain, however), but it still doesn’t carry as much awe-inspiring weight as it should in a game whose only real distinguishing premise is the transformation between robot and vehicle.
Transformers: The Game (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PSP)
An adaptation of Michael Bay’s Transformers movie, Transformers: The Game was also panned by critics. It’s also easy to see why, what with the barely-changed gameplay mechanics and over-reliance on the kind of shallow, explosive action that Michael Bay has become famous for.
The plot here sees the Transformers looking for the all-important AllSpark, which is the key to either saving or destroying humanity depending on which side you’re on. One redeeming factor is that the game’s action is split into two main campaigns, one each for the Decepticons and Autobots. This contrasts with the usual flittering between the two that has become common with the other Transformer games.
If you’re going to indulge in Transformers: The Game, it is recommended that you play the Decepticon campaign as the robots’ abilities are much more entertaining and the mechanics are just more fun to play about with. This game also has the advantage of being developed for the Nintendo DS by Vicarious Visions.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PS3)
Dark of the Moon is a game that suffered due to the impractically short development cycle that typifies pretty much any movie-based video game. Dark of the Moon’s gameplay is much like Fall of Cybertron, but its developers chose to make the shooting mechanics much simpler whilst cutting down the length of the game (down to around 6 levels from the original 10) and ensuring that each of its levels’ environment veered on the blander side of things.
The level design choices seem bizarre, as they don’t really encourage the player to make the most of each robot’s transforming abilities. There is an attempt at innovation, demonstrated readily by the mission that involves playing as Mirage, but sans transforming-abilities; it’s like a scene from Tomb Raider or Hitman considering the stealthiness involved, but this just demonstrates that High Moon Studios essentially failed to play to the Transformers’ strengths. As for the diverse, “unique environments” promised by the official Activision Dark of the Moon page, they exist but are much blander than they should be.
Transformers Prime (Wii, Wii U, 3DS, DS)
The cross-platform nature of this game is likely to be its biggest strength – it was released for the Wii and Wii U as well as the Nintendo 3DS and usual Sony/Microsoft consoles – but it’s also got other things going for it. This is a video-game version of the Transformers Prime Cartoon Network series, and it’s safe to say that there are actually some innovations (which is more than can be said about many of the other Transformers games).
The game’s campaign is shared between five of the good-guy Autobots. It’s refreshing to see developers Now Production give each of the campaigns a different feel as well as different mechanics. One campaign involves a long stretch of driving whilst Bulkhead’s mission is more escape-based. Combat mechanics have also taken a distinctly impressive turn, with a lot of variety in melee and long-range attacks. It’s almost as if this game doesn’t belong with many of the generic box-office over-the-shoulder shooters, and for that this game has to be praised.