Transformers Prime: The Game – DS
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Altron
Release Date: Oct 30, 2012
Genre: Action
Reviewed by Arend Hart

Review Score: 3 of 5

It’s always nice when a developer gives a little love to the older devices; whether it be for the sake of nostalgia, or to help those late adopters (for whatever reason), it is always a pleasant surprise to see a game pop up on the market to fill the bill. Case in point: Transformers: Prime for the Nintendo DS.

To be completely honest, it is not like Hasbro and Activision have come out with a DS exclusive here – with versions optimized for the DS, 3DS, Wii and the recently released Wii U, Transformers: Prime is making an all-out assault on everything Nintendo. It’s just the fact that they considered DS owners that makes Transformers” Prime it all the more special – it’s the thought that counts, right?

And honestly, pound for ground-pound, Transformers: Prime is not a bad package to be presenting DS gamers after all these years. With exceptional production value, solid button-mashing brawler action, and fairly impressive polygonal graphics, Prime was infinitely more enjoyable than I expected it to be.

Prime fits into the universe of the Hub network’s Transformers: Prime television series, while not directly in any particular season or storyline. This tie-in shows in the television-like production value that this version delivers. While obviously not as impressive as its console brethren, it still manages to deliver a story in a series of quality full-motion and still-motion scenes, overdubbed by fantastic voice work delivered by the show’s cast. The look might be a little more like a motion-comic than a cartoon, but it still is impressive on Nintendo’s aging handheld.

Like any quasi-mecha anime storyline, the script can get a little confusing. The Autobots travel to space to investigate a Dark Energon meteor that has suddenly appeared in the sky. They find it the property of the Decepticons who happen to be towing it with their ship The Nemesis in an attempt to harvest its Dark Energy. Naturally, a battle ensues, and the meteor splits open releasing its hidden contents; a super powered Unicron loyal, Thunderwing.

Thunderwing is a friend to none, serving as a great antagonist in this three-way battle for supremacy. All parties involved fall to Earth, and the good vs. Bad vs. Worse battle begins.
The gameplay is in the vein of an old school brawler of the linear button-mashing variety, consisting almost entirely of entering a level, smashing and/or blasting everything in sight, and proceeding on to the next level and eventually onto one of the game’s handful of bosses. None of the bosses are all that difficult to finish off, but it might take a few tries to recognize their weaknesses.

The controls are conspicuously old-school – which is absolutely perfect compared to the wonky motion-controlled mess that comes attached to the console versions. I found it much more natural to simply smash buttons rather than throw out my elbow once more like I did on the Wii version I recently reviewed.

The controls are far from perfect, though – while button mashing works for 90% of the game, there are times where precision is required, but not achievable. This is especially true when it comes to the driving. Utilizing the directional button for brake and gas as well as the traditional turning, driving is hard to master with any precision. This becomes particularly infuriating when the game requires players to switch from vehicle mode to robot mode for special melee attacks and it becomes almost impossible to line up squarely on an enemy or an object, and often results in missed opportunities and undue harm.

The visuals are surprisingly solid on the DS, even If they seem rather prehistoric compared to the current glut of smartphone apps most people are enjoying nowadays. Yes, there are definite seams and tears in the bland backgrounds, but it really could not get much better on the aged device. To put it in perspective, the Wii version didn’t look much better than this on the big screen and that is unforgivable – on the DS it is perfectly acceptable.

Transformers: Prime will require only about 3 to 4 hours of the gamer’s time to completely finish the story. Given that the game does not offer an online or multiplayer action, the only replay value comes from returning to previously completed levels and trying to improve your grade-letter score. This was hardly enough incentive to bring be back for more, but it is a bit of a bone for those self-competitive types.

The fact that Activision and Hasbro saw fit to release a DS title this long after the handheld’s prime (no pun intended) is enough to warrant kudos from me. The gift is made even sweeter by the fact that Transformers: Prime is actually a fun gaming experience – at least for a few hours. While I would have liked the game to offer a bit more in the replay arena, it is still a worthy gift for those late adopters who haven’t ventured onto the 3DS.