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As far as licensed games go, Transformers Prime: The Game is fairly decent. Rather than churning out an easy cash-in, as most developers saddled with a kids’ property are wont to do, NowPro treated its source material with some degree of respect, creating a title that very much feels like an episode of the cartoon series on which it is based. This already puts it leagues ahead of most other children’s tie-ins, but like them, there are some inherent design issues in Transformers Prime that keep it from appealing to anyone outside of its target demographic.
It’s clear that a lot of effort went into making Transformers Prime an authentic Transformers experience; the story plays out like a virtual film, with plot twists and references to the series’ continuity, and the voice actors from the television show were even brought in to reprise their roles for this adventure.
Beneath this sheen of polish, though, Transformers Prime is a fairly standard brawler. The campaign is divided up into missions, which take each of the game’s five Autobots through unique stages and pit them against wave after wave of enemies. The gameplay is very simplistic, featuring the same mindless combat that’s long been a hallmark of the genre, but it can be actually quite fun. Each Transformer controls differently than the previous one, though they all share the same ranged attacks and melee combos. You’ll pummel Decepticons with a surprising level of grace, especially considering the game skews toward a younger audience, and the dramatic use of slow-motion before landing a big hit really makes these fights feel satisfying.
As enjoyable as the combat is, however, it becomes repetitive very quickly thanks to the lack of variety in missions. Each one amounts to beating down the same enemies over and over again, capping off in a one-on-one battle with a major Decepticon. To its credit, NowPro does try to break up this monotony with the occasional driving section, but these likewise fall short because of some unnecessary gimmicks. Unlike the rest of the game, the driving sections make use of the GamePad’s built-in gyroscope, so you’ll have to tilt the controller to steer your character through the obstacle courses laid before you. There is some excitement to be had here, as you’ll be dodging and firing at enemies while speeding through the stages, but the motion controls lack the precision of a traditional control stick, making these segments often more frustrating than enjoyable.
The game is rounded out with a handful of multiplayer options, but these, too, lack the variety needed to keep them entertaining for long. You can duke it out with up to three friends in Transformers-themed variations of the usual battle modes, but there isn’t enough depth to the battle system to play this title over any other party game on the console.
Young gamers, especially those who enjoy the Transformers Prime cartoon, will find a lot to like in this Wii U adaptation, but everyone else will be put off by its simple gameplay and lack of content. The combat is surprisingly fun, but it’s wrapped up in a repetitive campaign that doesn’t offer enough variety to sustain most gamers’ interest. There are flashes of potential here, particularly in the care that NowPro took in replicating the feel of the show, but as it stands, Transformers Prime is an introductory beat-‘em-up for gamers too young to play something like Batman: Arkham City.