Transformers: Cybertron Adventures has little in common with its HD console cousins. Instead of the third person action trappings of War for Cybertron, the Wii-exclusive Cybertron Adventures goes the curious route of lightgun-shooter-meets-old-school-driving-game (circa F-Zero). This isn’t necessarily a problem, given the host of excellent on-rails shooters on the Wii, including Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, House of the Dead: Overkill, and the criminally under-appreciated Dead Space: Extraction. Unfortunately, between its poorly-aged mechanics and abysmal production values, Transformers: Cybertronian Adventures packs all the disappointment gamers used to expect from licensed titles.
Typically, I’d avoid comparing a Wii title to games on other platforms, since it’s hardly a fair comparison (and often a different audience entirely). However, for whatever reason, it would seem that Activision and developer Next Level decided to create Cybertron Adventures as a collection of side stories to the greater narrative of its Xbox 360/PS3 sibling War for Cybertron. Players expecting a fleshed out story will be disappointed. In fact, my co-op partner for Cybertron Adventures (who had not yet had the opportunity to play War for Cybertron) was effectively clueless as to what was going on; the narrative bounces around major events from War for Cybertron with little rhyme, reason, or explanation.
Gameplay wise, Cybertron Adventures bears the most resemblance to arcade shooters like Time Crisis: players aim and fire with the Wii-mote, selecting weapons with the Nunchuk’s analog stick and taking cover to reload and avoid enemy fire. During certain sections of each stage, the game shifts from on-rails to a limited driving sequence or reined in space combat scenario along the lines of the original Star Fox. This is the only point at which players will actually see their characters Transform™, and these changes are strictly determined by each level.
Other games have taken similar constraints and made games worth playing on the Wii. For on-rails (or guided) experiences, the “experience” aspect is particularly important, and it’s here that Cybertron Adventures fails the most. From a visual standpoint, Cybertron Adventures is an awful looking game. The main Transformers character models look alright, but the small details that make the redesigned characters interesting on the HD platforms has been lost on the trip to to the Wii, with blurred, poorly optimized textures and uninspired animation. Of course, the Transformers themselves are in a class by themselves in comparison to Cybertron Adventures’ blocky, virtually untextured environments. There were moments where I half expected the Super FX Chip era Andross to rear his head during my time with Cybertron Adventures – the game just looks that bad.
The lacking visuals aren’t helped any by some pretty poor level design and the absence of any challenge whatsoever. There’s little point in switching between the four weapons every Transformer has at their disposal when enemies seem incapable by design of killing you in all but a few situations, and taking cover will refill your health bar within seconds. The primary source of the few deaths I did suffer in Cybertron Adventures was awful collision detection during driving sequences that caused my character to clip through the “ground” into nothingness for no apparent reason. Boss fights are exercises in repetition, which is surprising given that the average completion time for a chapter is around 11 minutes.
Which leads into the final nail in Cybertron Adventures’ transforming coffin. While it was something of a blessing as a reviewer, most gamers are likely to find little but rage in Cybertron Adventures approximately three hour completion time. This would be a bigger problem, save that by the time those scant few hours are up, you’ll likely be glad it’s all over. Even cooperative play fails to save things, defying the adage of “misery loves company,” as Cybertron Adventures is more likely to damage your existing friendships as the second player waits for extended periods for anything at all to do – multiplayer is akin to a dumbed down iteration of Super Mario Galaxy’s “girlfriend mode,” as the the second player controls a second cursor onscreen that can also shoot or give a multiplier to the single score both players share.
If there’s one shred of redemption to be found in Cybertron Adventures, it’s in the Peter Cullen’s performance as Optimus Prime. He is Optimus in the hearts and minds of children young and old, and along with a fairly good supporting cast, Cullen and co. save the game from being a total loss.
Where Transformers: War for Cybertron exceeded any expectations to become one of the best action games in recent memory, Cybertron Adventures is the culmination of decades of awful Transformers games and licensed titles in general. Lacking any of the charm or appeal of its license and ignoring progress in on-rails titles from the last 5 years, Transformers: Cybertron Adventures is a title to be avoided by any but the most die-hard Transformers collector, particularly when it arrives at the same time as the eminently superior on-rails shooting of Treasure’s Sin and Punishment, also for Wii.