With Hasbro’s main Transformers toy line focused on reliving the excellent Beast Wars saga at the moment, where’s a Generation One fan supposed to go for their 1980s, robots-in-disguise fix? Red Games’ Transformers Tactical Arena is taking me back to the early days of the series, when Autobots were cars and dinosaurs, and Decepticons were guns and planes.
Out today on Apple Arcade, Transformers Tactical Arena opens with a gorgeous little animated sequence featuring Megatron, Starscream, Blurr, Optimus Prime, and Windblade doing battle on the surface of Cybertron. There are no human companions, no newfangled Mercenary factions, no bio-organic robot hybrids. Just old-school robots having an all-out war on their metal planet, as they do.
Transformers Tactical Arena is a card-based battle arena game in which two players compete to take down each other’s towers. Cards representing Transformers characters, drones, and weapons are deployed to the battlefield, marching slowly towards the opponent’s base. When units meet they do battle. Matches last a mere three minutes, or until one side loses their main base. It’s quick, fun, and a perfect slice of ancient Cybertronian conflict.
Between battles players use their winnings to collect and upgrade their troops, building out their own Transformer army. While games in this genre generally employ egregious pay-to-win microtransactions that ensure the player who spends the most has the best cards, this is an Apple Arcade game, which means there are no microtransactions. Success comes to those who know which troops work best against their opponents’ forces, with a little bit of luck factoring in when using in-game rewards to summon new cards.
Without having to worry about how much cash to drop on cards to keep my crew competitive, I’m free to enjoy the ‘80s cartoon feel I’m getting from Transformers Tactical Arena. The team at Red Games obviously has some fans of the series in its ranks, as evidenced by special battle abilities like Star Saber, which sweeps the battlefield of enemies, or The Quill of Alpha Trion, which rewrites history, erasing the last troop deployed to the battlefield.
I’m looking forward to advancing my transforming robot army into the upper ranks of Transformers Tactical Arena, or at least collecting all the cards and reliving some of those weekday afternoons back in the late ‘80s, when I’d rush home from school for that hot robot-on-robot action.