As with most popular games released for 8-bit computers in the 1980s, they were usually issued for the Commodore 64 and Spectrum simultaneously, and this first-ever Transformers game released by Ocean was no exception. As seemed to be the trend in the games industry, the game retailed at a massive £1 cheaper for the Spectrum version (it may not seem like it these days, but it was a bone of contention for gamers back then!).
With regards to the game specifics, it’s basically the same game as the Commodore 64 version which I have already reviewed on the site here so I won’t go into too much detail about it but to be brief, the Autobots are facing an energy crisis and have to recover pieces of the Autobot Energon Cube and return them to the Autobot Centre while avoiding attack from the Decepticons who have mastered cloning techniques so the Autobots are under attack from a seemingly never-ending horde of assailants. That’s the game in a nutshell – take control of five different Autobots – Optimus Prime, Mirage, Bumblebee, Hound, and Jazz – in a platform-based shoot-em-up finding four cubes, return them to the base and then start all over again once you’ve done it!
I will be honest and say that I was never a Spectrum enthusiast when the game was first released and I started with Commodore machines beginning with the Vic 20, then progressing through the Commodore 64, Amiga and so on. However, I have amassed a collection of over 30 consoles and computers over the years including ones that I never even considered owning in my youth, and I think my gaming preferences will always lie in the past!
Anyway, looking at Transformers the gameplay is identical to the Commodore version in every respect, and that’s its main downfall. The controls are still unresponsive, and it’s far too easy to crash into the scenery or be killed by a Decepticon that you can’t see because they’re off the edge of the screen. When you’re in vehicle mode, it’s all too easy to drive straight off the edge of a platform to certain doom, and if you’re in robot mode and try to land on a platform, you have to be facing the right way or in the right position or you lose a life.
There are some differences between the two versions of the game, but these are mainly cosmetic. The title screen now only features Soundwave and not Jazz, there is no music in the game at all, the platforms are no longer metallic, and the color of them change depending on the Autobot you have chosen (to minimize the in-game color clash), and instead of scrolling, the game is now flip-screen. The latter is the biggest change, and this is more a technical issue with the Spectrum as scrolling isn’t its strongest point. However, this does make the game even more difficult than the Commodore 64 version as it’s even harder to see what’s coming ahead or where you are going.
It’s not a game that stood out back in 1985 as being anything particularly special, and now the only real thing that it has going for it is the historical significance of being the first-ever Transformers game that was released.