There's just something about a summer blockbuster the gets the blood pumping and the brain craving more, even if it's just more crap. Well, if it's more Transformers: Age of Extinction crap you're looking for, Activision and Mobage have you covered.
While Activision's Rise of the Dark Spark doesn't share a name with the movie, it does feature characters introduced in the film and was seemingly rushed through development to coincide with the movie's release, so it counts as a tie-in. There's nothing Mobage and DeNA can do to distance their Transformers: Age of Extinction mobile game from the film. Poor guys.
Which game should you play if Michael Bay infected you with the Transformers itch (ew)?
In 2010, High Moon Studios made Transformers: War for Cybertron, a very good Transformers video game which reestablished the pre-Earth continuity of the franchise. In 2012 they made the follow up, Fall of Cybertron. It was even better than the first. Between those two games, High Moon made Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a disappointing tie-in with Michael Bay's third live-action movie.
The console version of Rise of the Dark Spark isn't developed by High Moon Studios. Instead it was put together by the folks at Edge of Reality, a studio known for movie tie-ins and console ports.
I say put together, because the game feels as if it were assembled from bits of the previous games. None of the passion High Moon Studios showed for their original take on the robots of Cybertron is present, which is unfortunate, as that passion is what set War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron apart from the dull, lifeless movie tie-in that was Dark of the Moon.
Which makes sense, as the game merges the two continuities — Cybertron and movie — to tell a generation-spanning tale about an ancient artifact that was made up just for the game. The Dark Spark is the antithesis of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Quite frankly it deserved a better debut. Instead of jumping back and forth between timelines, the Michael Bay movie bots are used as the framing device for an extended Cybertronian flashback. How did the Dark Spark wind up on Earth? Ah, that's how. Back to kicking Lockdown's shiny metal ass then.
The shooting is solid. The Escalation co-operative multiplayer, when not ruined by lag, is enjoyable enough. Earning equipment boxes by completing achievements is actually pretty damn neat, and probably would have been a lot more fun in a better game. Instead it shows up in this uninspired, obviously rushed mishmash, destined for the bargain bin.
Want to experience the exact same story as the console and PC versions of Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark without all the third-person shooting? That's what you get in the 3DS version of the game — same story, different genre. Rather than an action-adventure, the 3DS version of the game is a turn-based tactics game.
Developed by Wayforward Technologies, one of my personal favorite 2D game developers, Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a game I had relatively high hopes for. I'm not entirely disappointed.
It's a bit bare bones in terms of presentation, and it is saddled to the same story as its console cousin, following the plot exactly and even using the same cinematics. That said, I really enjoy the combat system Wayforward's put together here.
Combat is a one-on-one affair, with attackers and defenders each getting three shots at each other. Abilities charge over time, so maybe blocking one round while waiting for that Heavy Punch to be ready could be a good strategy. Or just use low cost attacks, saving your charged special attacks for tougher opponents.
Battles take place in 3D, while map navigation is 2D. Stages are littered with objects to pick up, special items which can be assigned to specific robots to give them an edge.
Between its rock-paper-scissors style power chart and its 3D battles, this is pretty much the Fire Emblem of Transformers video games — just nowhere near as polished or deep. Not bad for a rush job.
Developer Mobage is calling it a combat runner, which is like an endless runner, only it's a) not endless and b) you're shooting and using melee attacks. Players shoot, slash and tilt-to-steer their way through a series of increasingly difficult levels, attempting to kill the most bad guys, collect the most Energon and earn the highest score, in that order. Doing so allows players to earn random new equipment that makes it easier to get those goals done.
This is not a fun way to play with Transformers at all. Controls are imprecise, the interface is muddled and confusing and the on-screen action is a mess. Enemy robots attack. If you drive past them they transform, speed forward, and then transform back to attack you again. It all seems so inefficient.
So it's a mess, and worse than that it's a mess that really wants you to spend some real money to unlock additional robots. You start with Bumblebee. It's never fun to start with Bumblebee.
At least it's free?
Right now? At this very moment? My advice is to just skip the movie tie-ins, vague or direct. If you want passionless representations of a beloved toy from your childhood, the movie is all you really need. Should the urge to press buttons and make Transformers do things become overwhelming, go buy some toys and see if that doesn't take care of it.