The first Transformers video game appeared back in 1985 on the Commodore 64. Since then we’ve seen a wide variety of game genres embrace the franchise, some with more success than others. While we all love the idea of taking direct control of our favourite characters and recreating skirmishes between the Autobots and Decepticons, most games have taken a more formulaic approach instead.
Some publishers have managed to release games that deliver almost everything we could ask for in a Transformers release. Sadly others have given us games that are merely cash-ins on the franchise. It’s not easy knowing what we want from a Transformers video game as we are a demanding lot! But here’s our top five of what we think makes a perfect game…
1. If It Ain’t Broke…
… Don’t fix it! One thing that has been clear from the very first Transformers game is that some eras of the franchise have been more popular than others. Just because a TV show is current, it doesn’t mean that any video game should be based on that – far from it. Transformers fans can be very demanding of their video games, just as they are with the shows and movies. But sometimes those target audiences aren’t the same groups of people.
The Michael Bay movies, for example, were aimed at the general movie going public. The majority of the Transformers hardcore fan base cared little for them. Any Transformers video games based on them was already going to have an uphill struggle getting them into the hands of gamers who had no interest in the original source material.
Games publishers need to make sure they understand the audience they are developing for. Go to a usa online casino and you’ll find the types of games that the developers know their players want and enjoy. And the same should apply with Transformers video games. The most popular to-date have have a focus on arcade gameplay and set in the G1 universe. Despite being with us for over 30 years, we can’t seem to get away from the original incarnations of the characters but it’s clearly a winning formula. More importantly, it’s a formula that appeals to the gamers with the disposable income to buy the games!
Chances are that we’re drawn to Transformers video games following on from our love of the TV show. With that in mind, not only do we want to see our favourite Autobots and Decepticons on screen but we want to hear them as well. Most of the voice cast are still with us from all eras of Transformers and even a small amount of dialogue adds an incredible amount of depth and atmosphere to even the most basic of games.
While it may have been a basic beat-em-up, Beast Wars: Transmetals on the PlayStation really came to life thanks to the character voiceovers. The game was lifted above being just an average fighter and brought each combatant to life.
3. Engaging Storylines
As much as the idea of giant robots battling each other sounds like fun on paper, it can make for a pretty monotonous video game. It’s been done with Transformers before as I mentioned with Beast Wars Transmetals, and while it was fun, it didn’t have a great deal of long-term appeal. What works is a game that blends the best of the fight scenes seen on television and the movies, but the storytelling of the comics.
Wrap that up in an episodic format for presentation or smaller chapters to keep the flow of the gameplay tight and you’re on to an absolute winner.
4. Great Graphics
Normally I’m not an advocate for an emphasis on visuals in games. I firmly believe that games can stand on their own two feet without the need for state-of-the-art graphics. Infact, this still rings true for any Transformers game. But what is needed are visuals to bring the characters we see to life.
Every Autobot and Decepticon has to be instantly recognisable in whatever mode they are in. Transformation sequences need to look convincing and wherever the story allows we need some visual diversity in the worlds the games are set in. The more the game looks like the shows we watch, the more we are going to want and enjoy playing it. Probably the most memorable to-date would be the cel-shaded visuals of Transformers: Devastation that has recreated the look of the G1 cartoon perfectly.
However, with all of that said, a good Transformers game isn’t just about making the characters look right on screen. If they don’t behave the way we expect them to during the game then it simply won’t feel right. The first Transformers game for the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum in 1985 was a basic platform game but it’s main flaw was that all the playable Autobots felt exactly the same during use apart from their basic weapon strengths/shields to protect themselves from attack. The graphics could have been swapped for each and it wouldn’t have made a difference and the fact that all the Autobots were able to fly – while needed for the gameplay – made no sense.
Similarly, for the first ever Beast Wars game, Dinobot was altered and given a gun as his primary weapon instead of his fan favourite eye lasers. To an outsider, these may not seem important but they are fundamental character changes. When things like this happen, it breaks the illusion that you are in charge of characters that you know and love.
6. Keep It Relevant
We’ve seen all manner of game genres attached to Transformers. Stern released a pinball machine for the arcades (which sadly has yet to have a home conversion). There have even been Transformers slots games that you could find online at australia online casinos but are these really a good use of the Transformers license?
It’s a franchise that lends itself to grandiose storytelling, epic set pieces, and heart-stopping action. What we don’t expect to see are platform, puzzle or racing games. The best way for developers to look upon Transformers video games is to ask themselves what their games would be like without the Transformers branding. If they say no different then the game doesn’t belong in the Transformers universe in the first place.
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The Transformers license may have been lost by Activision now, giving free reign to a number of other companies to join the ranks of those who have brought games out over the last 36 years. Whether this more open approach will be good for the future of Transformers games is yet to be seen. However, the lack of exclusivity should drive developers to give us the best games they possibly can and not become complacent knowing that we’ll buy anything they give us for as long as they have the rights.