out of control
with James Whittle
After playing Transformers: The Game for the PlayStation Portable, I recalled the lyric from the old cartoon show's theme song: 'Transformers, robots in disguise.' This new action-movie tie-in, developed by Los Angeles-based Savage Entertainment, should've been called 'Transformers: The Game in Disguise'.
Movie tie-in games seldom fulfil their potential, but Transformers gave me hope. The concept is simple: two groups of big, well-armed, shape-changing alien robots fight on Earth for control of a powerful cosmic artefact. How could the developers mess it up?
Well, to start with, the controls for this game are among the worst I've encountered. The most basic moves, such as morphing a robot into a vehicle, require a player to push both shoulder buttons on the PSP. To use the lock-on-target button the player must abandon the analog stick that guides the directional movement of the game's lead character, Optimus Prime, to press the down key on the eight-way control button - a far from ideal scenario.
Even when you get the hang of this awkward set-up - no mean feat - the problems are repeated in vehicle mode. It doesn't get any better, no matter what souped-up vehicle the character changes into. But there's more. The game also allows a player to change characters, from a heroic Autobot to a villainous Decepticon. And, of course, there's another set of controls to master when a player changes into Blackout, the combat helicopter used by the Decepticons.
Unlike the versions of the game for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles, a player can't choose sides, which is a big let-down. A player must alternate between Autobot and Decepticon to advance the game's storyline with each new level. The first few levels are awful, but the gameplay improves as you go further.
The shoddy graphics, meanwhile, are no better than you might expect to find on the obsolete PlayStation One console. For example, deadly laser fire appears to come from random parts of the Transformer's body instead of emerging from its gun. The PSP platform is capable of much better.
Pros: You get to control Autobot commander Optimus Prime and kick plenty of Decepticon butt.
Cons: Horrible graphics and audio plus bad gameplay design equals a product destined for the bargain bin.