We usually get an uneasy feeling every time we sit down with a game that is simultaneously released with a summer blockbuster, and Transformers: Autobots is no exception. While the console version of Transformers lets players choose whether to play as the Autobots or the Decepticons, DS players are forced to choose sides using their pocketbooks, as each side has its own game. Our first thoughts were that the two titles would be the same experience, with the only exceptions being voiceovers and robot skins. Thankfully the developers created two completely different story arcs for each side. We wouldn’t go as far as to say that the developers aren’t milking this license; the graphics and gameplay are completely the same, but the titles have their own robots, separate missions and completely different conclusions.
In Transformers: Autobots you’re working for Optimus Prime, everyone’s favorite semi, to find the All Spark before the evil Megatron and his Decepticons find it and destroy all humanity. The first level acts as a training ground where you learn to use the radar, jump, randomly battle Decepticon drones and meet Bumblebee, who assists you in learning how to scan vehicles and transform into them. Once the training is over you’re allowed to freely roam the world map and enter mission icons to progress the story.
Those of you looking for a graphic powerhouse that pushes the limits of the DS will want to look further. While the game runs at a fairly decent framerate, the detail of the polygons took a drastic hit. We found it difficult at times deciphering between the Autobots and the Decepticons, although for the most part any robot you come across will more than likely be the enemy. The level maps also lack detail, and at times it became frustrating trying to figure out where to go. Thankfully, the developers included a radar at the bottom half of the DS to pinpoint the general direction you should go, but it would have been nice to see a little more detail. Perhaps the 3D environments are too expansive for the DS hardware.
Our biggest complaint about the DS versions of Transformers is the controls. While we understand the need to make the controls slow because these robots are huge in scale, it doesn’t translate well when you’re trying to get around. We’d like to think we play games to have fun and it isn’t very fun when you keep missing turns because you can’t stop in time or the cumbersome five point turn to navigate down a road you missed.
Another lame feature of this game is the battle system. While we should give kudos to the developers for incorporating an experience system that allows the player to level up and gain access to better weapons and vehicle transformations, we would have like to have seen a better combat system. There really isn’t much to it. Mash the attack button and you’ll do a series of standard punches and kicks or the gun button and you’ll get an autolock to neutralize the enemy. One oversight that we found interesting was the lack of a block button. You’d think with all that technology the transformers could develop a shield or something, but nope, you must endure every blow unless you become a master at strafing. We found the ability to uproot trees, poles and park benches was a cool feature, but again the limitations of the DS hardware made it look like you’re carrying blobs of steel around.
The multiplayer is limited to local area connections, so there won’t be any worldwide deathmatches. But, we have to admit the Capture The Flag mode was cool — if you can get three other players. The online functionality is limited to a record-keeping system that tracks everyone’s best score, but that seems hardly worth anything.
It’s definitely cool that developers tried to create a console experience within a limited amount of time and the limited hardware specs. The open world was welcome, as was the ability to scan and transform at will into 100 different vehicles. The voice acting was top notch, and the story arc for both titles was unique and somewhat interesting if you’re a fan of the series. But, and this is huge, a game of this size is better suited in a console environment. While there are fleeting moments of brilliant ideas, they just don’t come into vision with the limitations of the DS hardware. The lack of detail and overall controls are frustrating, to say the least, and no amount of voiceover work is sufficient to make us recommend this title as a must have, even for the dedicated fanboy.
- Overall: 5
- Transformers: Autobots is a console-sized game for the DS, but the limits of the hardware hinders the gameplay experience.
— Jason Thomas