- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available: Transformers: The Game, from Activision for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, rated T for teen, $59.99.Hasbro’s popular line of convertible toy robots has transformed into a summer blockbuster but only an average third-person adventure.

Though the developers have perfected the fantastic look and movements of the bots and their ability to change to lifelike vehicles, they have forgotten the importance of variety, consistent design and taking advantage of the console’s technology.

Although a player will feel like an empowered giant for the ability to single-handedly climb over, pick up or destroy nearly everything in his path, after a while, he just goes through the motions in a series of unending rock-‘em-sock-‘em robot-style matches.

The game enables the player to sort of follow the film and choose his path as either the Autobots (good guys) or Decepticons (evildoers) while both search for the life-force relic called the AllSpark.

Of course, being the bad guy is way more fun, as is demonstrated in the first 15 minutes of the missions. The Autobots spend too much time driving around a city as vehicles while the Decepticons’ first mission involves the obliteration of an army base.

Eventually, the whole cast takes part in the epic, as familiar legends, including Optimus Prime and Megatron duke it out with the fate of Earth in the balance. The voice-over actors from the classic 1980s cartoon series and the movie principals participate, but that does not assuage the mediocrity.

The biggest miscue with the game is also the most obvious omission. How does Activision create a game based on teams of characters built to beat each other up and not offer any cooperative mode or, even worse, an online multiplayer component to challenge Transformers around the world.

However, the smarter and way more robust Nintendo DS version of the game (Activision, rated E10+ for players 10 and older, $29.99) offers multiplayer action.

Sure, the graphics need some help, but developers cleverly offer two versions of the title, one just for Autobots and one for Decepticons, and each can link to the other via the DS’ wireless system.

So the player first can battle as a unique Transformer through a solo campaign comprising more than 40 missions, gain experience to upgrade powers and use the DS touch screen to transform into a variety of forms.

Once the story is exhausted, that player can grab a pal with a DS and cartridge and either enter a death-match arena or take part in a mutated soccer challenge (it may sound weird, but scoring a goal is fun).

More important, this version has a worldwide tie-in through the DS’ Wi-Fi connection. The player can download minichallenges every day, such as a mass-destruction mission, rack up points and upload his score to join his numbers with those of teammates online to take control of the AllSpark every 24 hours.

A Web site (https://ds. transformersgame.com/) keeps track of the events and adds a community atmosphere as well as added value to the DS version of virtual Transformers’ world.

For those thrilled with some of the less popular Transformers populating the games, Hasbro hears your giggles. The toy maker has released a deluxe series of action figures based on their exclusive video-gaming counterparts.

The lineup ($9.99) includes Swindle (changes into a Red Drone sports car), Dreadwing (changes into a MiG 29 Fulcrum jet) and Longarm (changes into a tow truck).

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washington times.com).

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