Transformers, in the palm of your hands!
July 5, 2007 – It goes without saying that all of this Transformers movie stuff is a serious bone of contention for some. A lot of people are really upset that their favorite animated TV show growing up has been modified into the summer blockbuster of the year. So I want to add a little disclaimer before the review and say that I am going to completely omit any substantial references to the Transformers animated series, and treat this review like any other. So, no hate threads, okay?
But now on with the review. The premise of the game is by and large based on the upcoming movie, with only a few minor tweaks to make the story more conducive to gameplay. One very cool thing is that you’ll play as both Autobots (the good guys) and Decepticons (the bad guys), each with different objectives that you must complete to further each faction’s agenda. You begin the game in a tutorial mode, playing as the granddaddy of all Transformers, Optimus Prime. You’ll be introduced to the mission-oriented nature of the game, with different missions popping up for you almost every minute. You’ll also be thrown into the game’s excessively complex control scheme, with little memos popping up informing you of different controls. But believe me, these controls are intricate. But there is some good news. If you get confused by all the information that’s being thrown at you, the game’s pause menu can help refresh you on your controls (you can flip through the FOUR pages of them to find the buttons you need) and the select menu can help you keep all those missions straight and even includes a map which shows you targets and goals for each mission.
Once you progress past the first level, you’ll notice that each subsequent level will not only become more challenging, but will put you in the shoes of a different Autobot or Decepticon. This is pretty cool, but I think it would have been better if you were able to pick which Transformer you could be. Character assignments aside, each level plays out basically the same way. As I said before, you’ll have several missions which will change every few minutes, and you may have to lay the smackdown on a few opposing forces. Unfortunately, laying the smackdown and performing the same old missions can get sort of boring. Especially if you’re playing as a Decepticon since all your missions seem to be of a “destroy the (blank)” format. And as good as it feels to destroy things, it does make for some really monotonous gameplay. The game, however tries to make up for its lack of varied gameplay by enticing you to stick with it by offering some exclusive movie content. But trust me, this content mostly in the form of movie stills and art is definitely not anything to get all worked up over.
Just when you thought you couldn’t get any more annoyed with the monotonous gameplay, it’s all over. One of the biggest shortcomings of the PSP version of Transformers: The Game, is that it is way too short. I mean. Handheld games are rarely sweeping epics, but one expects them to have a little bit of substantial time behind them. Then again, this is a game based on an upcoming movie, so maybe you’re supposed to be able to play the game in its entirety before the movie comes out. But that’s my hypothesis, anyway.
Visually, however, the game isn’t half bad. The cutscenes, especially the initial one at the start of the game, are some of the best I’ve ever seen on the PSP. I must say I was impressed and expected to see these beautiful cinema scene graphics translate well into the gameplay. However I was saddened when I found the in-game graphics to return to the standard quality PSP graphics. Instead of the sweeping detailed imagery that was present in the opening scene, there were blocky models and uninspiring environments. Oh, well.
The sound quality, though, was a completely different story. I was impressed from the get-go, and remained impressed with the quality of the music, sound effects and dialogue. The music is varied and features a different tune for each level. The sound effects were smartly done, and are nicely specific and break away from the standard cue of having the same noise as the sound effects for everything. But the best point about the sound has to be the voice acting. Peter Cullen joins several other Transformers veterans in lending their voices to the game, and of course, they all do a fantastic job.
Controls, which I spoke about briefly before, are a little too complicated. Okay, maybe a lot too complicated. Depending on which form you’re in, the controls become drastically different and slightly counterintuitive. You’ll be using face buttons both to aim and to fire weapons, which makes for a little dance of the fingers, while the directional buttons, which would make more sense as an aiming device, function as tools to cycle weapons and to save your game. It honestly makes no sense, and I feel safe in saying that these controls will confuse just about anyone.
Overall, I would have to say that the PSP version was really a letdown. Aside from the counterintuitive controls, the backsliding graphics, and the very short play time, I would just say that I felt completely disappointed by my Transformers: The Game experience on my PSP.