It's rough around the edges and quite short, but Transformers fans may still want to give Decepticons a look.

User Rating: 7 | Transformers: Decepticons DS
Transformers: Decepticons is one of two games developed for the DS by Vicarious Visions to tie in with Michael Bay's movie about the famous robots in disguise. Unlike many games based on films, it's clear that a good deal of thought and work went into making this game, and fans of the Transformers may find that their time with the game is well-spent. Still, the game is pretty rough around the edges and quite short, keeping what could have been a great game from being wholly recommendable.

Transformers: Decepticons tells the same basic story as the film, although it cuts out the human element entirely, focuses on the Decepticons, and has the bad guys win in the end. Essentially, the Autobots and Decepticons are racing to find a powerful object called the Allspark. You'll spend most of the game playing as a unique Transformer you name at the game's outset. Your versatile Transformer can take on the form of just about any vehicle you encounter, and earns experience points as you play through the game and defeat Autobots, unlocking the occasional new ability (such as the ability to climb walls), as well as new weapons and new attacks. The game starts off with a few basic tutorial missions in what is supposed to be a Las Vegas Strip-like area, although the complete lack of neon signs and flashing lights means it doesn't actually bear any resemblance to such a place. Before long, though, you're whisked off to the large town of Tranquility, where most of the game takes place. You'll also visit the Qatar and Hoover Dam before all is said and done. The areas aren't especially detailed, but it's nonetheless impressive to have such sizable free-roaming environments on the DS.

You can spend time wandering around the city, destroying the occasional anonymous Autobot you encounter, as well as increasing your threat level and battling human law enforcement vehicles. There are also several challenge missions scattered around which task you with doing things like racing to collect orbs or doing as much damage to the city as possible within a time limit, but unless you're going for 100% completion there isn't a good deal of incentive to do these missions. You'll most likely spend most of your time tearing through the game's story missions instead.

The story missions have a pretty decent variety to them, sometimes having you blast lots of Autobots, sometimes having you race around town to collect or scan various things while blasting the Autobots who get in your way. Unfortunately the potential fun of all this Autobot-blasting is hampered somewhat by a really lousy targeting system. The camera doesn't stay trained on your target if the target moves around you, so you'll spend a good deal of many firefights wrestling with the camera, just trying to get your opponent back in your sights so you can shoot at him. At least you're not limited to shooting at your enemies. You can also get up close and use melee attacks, as well as grab handy objects like trees, light posts, or cars to throw at them or smash them with. In addition to these missions, there are a few boss battles throughout the game, and in these missions, and a few others, you get to play as a recognizable Decepticon such as Starscream, Barricade, Brawl, Blackout, or Megatron.

Most of the game's missions aren't particularly tough, but a few of them are still made quite frustrating by the fact that failure at any point requires having to repeat the whole thing. Some missions have several stages to them, and having to do the first few stages over again just to get back to the part that's giving you trouble can be tedious. It's also worth noting that on a few occasions we encountered a technical issue that resulted in us being frozen in mid-air, forcing us to restart the current mission. It didn't happen often enough to seriously affect our experience with the game, though.

Despite its flaws, and the fact that the game will only take in the vicinity of around six hours to finish, Transformers fans may want to give it a look. It's got plenty of solid voice acting, featuring Keith David as Barricade and Frank Welker, the original voice of Megatron from the cartoon, reprising the role here. On the whole, the story here isn't quite as satisfying as that of the Autobots game, but it's kind of neat the way the game reworks the film's story to focus on the Decepticons and to give your Transformer a pivotal role in the action. And although all that action is quite simplistic, and despite the issues with the game's targeting system, the variety of vehicles you can transform into and the occasional upgrade to your weapons and abilities keeps the gameplay reasonably enjoyable, for a while.

The game also includes a mode called Battle for the Allspark, in which players with either the Autobots or Decepticons version of the game can log on and download that day's mission. Like the game's challenge missions, this usually involves doing something like wreaking havoc on the town or catching as much air off of ramps as possible. At the end of the day the total scores from each side are tallied up and one side is declared the victor, while players on both sides are awarded tokens based on their performance which can be used to unlock exclusive vehicle forms. All in all, it's not much to write home about.

Transformers: Decepticons for the DS doesn't have enough going for it to make it worthy of a purchase, and the unwieldy targeting system may put off players who would otherwise enjoy some giant robot action. Still, it's an ambitious game that's far from a total failure. Dedicated Transformers fans may be able to look past the game's flaws and enjoy it regardless, though even they should be able to see all that this game has to offer with a rental.