Transformers

TransformersThe Game: The raging battle between the Autobots and Decepticons continues in this exclusive title for the Commodore 64 computer. Take control of five different Transformers in the Autobots’ quest for Energon. (Ocean Software, 1985)

Memories: Back before fantastic graphics and CGI cut scenes, videogames often included additional paper documentation to explain who the characters where and what you were supposed to be doing. Atari, for example, packaged comic books with many of their games to add depth and back stories to their titles. Some early games relied so heavily on this documentation that without it, the games were difficult to play and didn’t make much sense. Ocean’s Transformers title was one of those games.

Like millions of other Commodore 64 owners in the 1980s, my primary source of software was the file areas of local bulletin board systems. Unfortunately for us, without documentation many of these free games were confusing, difficult, or even impossible to play. For example, the Commodore 64 version of Transformers contains absolutely no text explaining anything, leaving the point of the game largely a mystery and the game play mechanics an exercise in trial and error.

TransformersIn the Transformers universe, the Autobots largely got the shaft by only being able to transform into cars and trucks, while the evil Decepticons convert into fighter jets. Let’s face it, who would choose a Volkswagen Beetle over a supersonic jet? Here, players get the opportunity to control Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, Mirage and Hound. Each Transformer can only die once, giving players a total of five lives with which to complete the game. Each character can transform between their robotic and vehicular modes, although players will discover within five seconds that the four-wheeled modes are essentially worthless. At least in their robot forms the Autobots can shoot and fly. Yes, fly. Like Superman, all of the Autobots can fly through the air with a flick of the stick.

One new detail I don’t seem to recall from the comics or television series is that the Autobots in this game are constructed of fragile porcelain. The slightest fall or collision into the background will instantly transform your Transformer into a giant flaming fireball. In fact, the only thing that doesn’t kill you is the one thing you might think would; attacks from the evil Decepticons, of which there are seemingly unlimited numbers. Each Autobot has a finite amount of shields which are depleted by the Decepticons’ attacks. Theoretically once your shields are gone your character is destroyed. I’ve never been able avoid being killed by stepping off a platform long enough to find out.

For close to twenty years I had no idea what the point or goal of this game was. Only now through the wonders of the Internet was I able to track down the documentation and discover the game’s back story – not that the information makes the game any easier to play, mind you. Apparently the goal of the game is to collect pieces of Energon while battling Decepticons, but as I previously mentioned your Transformers are so fragile that even without the Decepticons buzzing around and shooting you in the head, you’re probably going to kill yourself within seconds anyway by flying into something or stepping off a platform.

2 quartersOcean Software’s Transformers opens with an impressive splash screen and some terrific sounding music. The in game graphics are a mixed bag; the characters are detailed enough to distinguish from one another, but the backgrounds are extremely plain. While Transformers fans may enjoy recognizing familiar characters and running around the levels for a few minutes, only the most adept gamers will be able to get anywhere in this challenging platformer.

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