|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: A2M||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 24, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Since last year's blockbuster movie, Transformers fever has died down a bit. Still, the morphing robots' cartoon TV show continues, so developer A2M decided to use that as the basis for its new DS title, Transformers Animated: The Game. A 2-D platformer with puzzle and racing elements, it can be interesting at times, but ultimately it's a little too tedious to be worthwhile, especially for its (presumably) young target audience.
There are 20 levels total, and each is played in one of two ways. Most of them work like basic platformers, but with a twist: you control three characters at once, switching between them with the L and R buttons. Bumblebee is the only character who can jump, and he also shoots electric bolts. Bulkhead is big and powerful (he's heavy enough to depress some floor buttons by standing on them), he can push and pull objects, and he has a projectile he can hurl. Finally, Optimus Prime can rappel and throw an axe with a curve to reach out-of-the-way switches. (None can transform, which is more than a little weird, considering that's the series' name and the robots' defining characteristic.)
In these stages, you run around, taking advantage of each character's special attributes to reach new areas. Once you get to a new place with one character, you need to find a way to bring the other characters too because all three need to get to the end of the stage to pass to the next one. It is quite similar to LEGO Batman in that regard, except that when you pave the way for the other characters, they don't follow automatically; you have to take control of them and steer them over, which sometimes can be a little annoying. It would be nice if the game had a "follow" command.
Also like Lego Batman, this game is quite forgiving. A repair bot named Ratchet will fix downed Transformers up to three times before it's game over (you'll be hearing Lego Batman comparisons a lot in this review).
These platform-style stages take anywhere between three and ten minutes to complete, depending on whether you get stuck. Occasionally, the problem is that all the tools for solving the puzzle are in front of you, and you just need to get all your guys using the right abilities in the right places to pass the stage. But more frequently, the issue is that you've gotten pretty far in the stage, your robots are spread all over the place, and it's hard to tell where they are relative to each other (despite the little icons indicating what general direction the non-selected characters are in) and what they need to do.
So, you grab each of your three Transformers individually and roam around until something happens. Sometimes, it's easier just to start the stage over from scratch. A map of the whole stage (they are available through Activision's website, but not within the game), more intuitive level design, or even just the ability to zoom out and view more of the stage at once could have fixed this and saved players a lot of frustration.
The game breaks up these stages with the occasional driving stage (again like LEGO Batman). Most of the time you'll take control of Prowl, who looks and functions like a vehicle until you stand him up by pushing a button. You'll usually be staying on the track, trying to avoid cars, and standing up every once in awhile to attack enemies. These stages are a lot more action-packed than the others, but they're very easy and repetitive.