What would you rather be today? A robot, a plane or a big ass truck? I have always enjoyed the Transformers, and their ability to transform. From bulky heavy weapon wielding robots to agile cars and planes. The idea has always appealed to me, and even in my thirties I can find myself enjoying the transformation aspect of the Transformers. I would definitely enjoy being Optimus Prime, and transform from big rig to menacing robot whenever someone flicks me off in traffic.
There have been some attempts at turning the Transformers brand into a decent game. So far those attempts have left few impressions, and I didn’t feel too enthusiastic about the new attempt by Glu. Once I understood that the new Transformers game is based on the classic animated series from the mid eighties my interest started to awaken. When the fact that the game is a turn based strategy game in the vein of Advance Wars I just had to play it. We have a handful of turn based strategy games for the iPhone such as Luc Bernard’s Mecho Wars, Hudson classic Military Madness : Neo Nectaris, online enabled UniWar, Gameloft’s Rogue Planet and the fantasy oriented Battle of Wesnoth and Reign of Swords. Compared to other genres in the App Store the quality of turn-based games has been generally high. Still compared to other strategy games turn based games are a rare breed, and any new additions are welcome.
In Transformers G1: Awakening a volcano awakens the transformers, and a battle that has been dormant for four million years is back on. Travelling to Earth to wage the war the struggle continues through woods, cities and fields. The good AUTOBOTS are the heroes you control through the 17-mission story mode. The evil DECEPTICONS are up to no good, and has to be stopped right now.
What sets Transformers G1: Awakening apart from most other turn based games of the Advance Wars formula is the lack of unit production. Instead certain large Transformers can summon other AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS. To do this you need to have enough Energon power. Capturing key buildings and nodes generates Energon power. Energon power is also needed to upgrade or repair robots. This game mechanic limits the game from becoming a slow grinding game with a constant flow of new units. Instead you have to rely on about 4-5 friendly units each battle, and perhaps introduce one or two new ones if you have enough Energon.
The objectives in the main campaign are varied but overall way too easy to achieve. Simply finding a narrow passage to surround them in can often do spell death for the opposition. As the enemies walk into the obvious trap it is easy to kill even the strongest units thanks to nearby unit support. Repairing key AUTOBOTS such as Optimus Prime is always a good strategy. Only a few Transformers have the ability to repair units, and it is key to keep them safe. Each Transformer is unique, and you can never have two of the same. And obviously a large part of the gameplay is transforming them into their car or plane form to travel with speed.
The presentation found in Transformers G1: Awakening is top notch, and pays homage to the original animated series. Retro styled graphics that still retains both depth and warmth. The interface is easy to use, and the touch controls are responsive. The only gripe I have with the game is the “end turn” button that is located at the top of the screen. I tend to press it as it looks almost identical to the attack icon, and instead of the planned attack I give away a turn. The obligatory battle animations are cool with Transformers acting out being hit.
The music is classic easy listening animated series techno, and the sound effects are what you expect. No voiceovers strike me as odd as there is a full library from the original series to work with. You can listen to your own music either by declining game audio upon start-up or by accessing your iPod library within the game.
There are two game modes available outside the main story: showdown and Cybertron arena. In showdown you get a couple of extra missions for AUTOBOTS. In Cybertron arena you get to play as either faction, and can even choose to play against a friend in local pass n play multiplayer. These two modes feel more like an afterthought, and it is even confusing accessing them. You have to load up a previous game to choose game mode. As there is a new game button as well it confuses somewhat. The new game button lets you create a new save game in one of the three slots, and then throws you into the first mission of the story mode.
It took me about two hours to complete the story mode, and I never felt challenged at all. This is the main concern I have with Transformer G1: Awakening. There isn’t enough content, and it is too easy. I enjoyed myself immensely but see little to no reason to replay the game. It ends kind of abruptly with a battle that seems impossible to loose. Had this been a 99-cent game I would have thought the value was about right, but at five bucks it is really thin. Hopefully Transformers G2 will give a lot more value for the money. Better still I would like to see the following chapter integrated into the first game giving those already purchased it more value for their money. Or add upcoming chapter as DLC for the first game.
Transformers G1: Awakening is a quality title paying homage to one of the coolest animated series from my youth. Highlights are the graphics, the camp story and the music. The game is too easy and short though, and won’t pose a challenge to anyone but the total newcomer to the genre. In my mind it is a must for a fan of the series, but certainly nothing for the hardcore turn based strategy fanatic.
Transformers G1: Awakening $4.99
Seller: Glu Games Inc.