|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: High Moon Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Activision||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 22, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Steve Haske
June 8, 2010 - High Moon's impressive HD War for Cybertron may be getting all the attention in the press, but that doesn't mean you should discount what Vicarious Visions has done with the game's DS counterpart. Like past portable Transformers efforts from the studio, War for Cybertron DS is split into two different cartridges, with the Autobots and Decepticons each given their own campaign.
The story follows the same basic plot points of the console War for Cybertron, but in between console and handheld design, the similarities essentially end there. I recently had a chance for some quick hands-on time with the Autobots version and was impressed with how much Vicarious Visions has been able to cram into a little DS cart.
In fact, Autobots core design - that of an action RPG to High Moon's Gears-style third-person shooter - is likely so different because the developers wanted their handheld entry to standalone on its own two feet. Rather than controlling one Transformer at a time, you can choose a team of two from an unlockable roster (there's 15 Autobots and Decepticons to earn in each respective cart), that can be tagged out like fighters in the Capcom's Vs. series. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses, as well.
I tested out a level with Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, who were effective using plasma-type damage and melee, respectively. Bumblebee could absorb damage with his sword and shield combo, while Optimus was able to decimate enemies that were weak against his plasma-rifle (each Transformer also carries a secondary weapon - Bumblebee has a laser rifle, while Optimus wields a giant axe). The different damage types are key to combat; all enemies (as well as allies) are vulnerable or strong against certain damage types, and it's up to you to choose the best team of bots to exploit them.
Surviving combat is a breeze thanks to a pretty intuitive lock-on system, and as you gain experience in battle, you're given points to level-up your stats and gain new abilities, Mass Effect-style. If you do end up damaged, though, tagging your damaged bot out is as easy as tapping your thumb on a handily-placed Transformers icon on the bottom right of the touch screen. When not in combat there are some light timed-switch-style puzzles as well as routes that only certain Transformers can take - I ran across a small tunnel that only the more diminutive Bumblebee could pass through in vehicle form.
Multiplayer hasn't been neglected either, and there are four modes that can be played over local Wi-Fi. The most interesting component of battling it out head-to-head, however, is the ante system - basically, you're allowed to battle for pinks, only the prize is someone's leveled up Transformer. The winner takes the prize, while the loser is forced to recover their "captured" bot through a single-player rescue mission separate from the regular campaign. No word on whether these rescues will vary depending on the Transformer, but it's a pretty cool, if a bit lopsided, idea, nonetheless.
While the gameplay isn't as fast and furious as its console counterpart, Vicarious Visions has done a great job putting Autobots (and, one would imagine, Decepticons) together so everything runs smoothly. The game features some very impressive lighting, effects, and texture work, and the Transformers themselves control easily, with an impressive array of character-specific animations. Given the DS iteration's changes from the War for Cybertron's HD efforts, this one should be good for younger fans (it seems a bit easier than the PS3 and 360 versions) or diehards who just can't get enough of Transformers no matter what the medium. Look for both Autobots and Decepticons to ship alongside the console titles June 22.
CCC Freelance Writer