Transformers: Dark of the Moon Rolls Out on iOS

Last week, the third installment of the Transformers films hit theatres, and a day prior, Electronic Arts released the iOS game, Transformers: Dark of the Moon for both the iPhone and iPad devices. Currently ranked at #2 and #10 on top paid iPhone and iPad apps lists respectively, its drastic rise is due primarily to an Independence Day sale being held by the developer, dropping the price tag down to $0.99. Nevertheless, even were it not on sale, movie-based iOS titles, such as Cars 2, always tend to do well during their first couple weeks.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon, follows the same basic premise of the film, pitting players against armies of Decepticons in a hack-and-slash, dual-stick shooter. That said, the game play is fairly basic, and while it has a few interesting moments, it’s not terribly inspiring from a design perspective. Moreover, the controls often get in the way, and considering the fast pacing of the film, this iOS app feels overly sluggish and unresponsive.

Without going into any details about the story line, players take on the role of both Optimus Prime and Bumblebee as they move through various U.S. cities (and the moon) in their attempt to stop the Decepticon attacks on Earth. It plays like a combination of traditional, isometric, action role-playing dungeon crawlers (think very, very basic Diablo) and dual-stick iOS shooters.

With one digital analog stick, players control movement, while the other controls shooting direction. Beyond this, however, players can melee for extra damage when close enough to enemies, switch between an alternate weapon as the primary becomes overheated, perform special abilities, and, of course, transform.

To break down each element of this, the shooting aspect is fairly basic and is more or less identical to any other dual-stick shooter (e.g. Gun Bros. or Age of Zombies). As players destroy environmental objects and enemies, they will collect bits of Energon, which can then be used to upgrade a player’s arsenal in terms of damage, firing rate, and speed. As a side-note, Energon can also be used to unlock new weapons and upgrade Optimus and Bumblebee as well in terms of things like damage or defense.

By tapping the shoot button instead of holding it down, players can execute basic three-hit combinations. While this does far more damage than a normal shooter, it leaves the player avatar standing still for a second with the player unable to do anything. What makes this obnoxious, is that like other dual-stick shooters on the market, there are always swarms of enemies trying to kill the player, meaning that standing still for too long results in death (thankfully, this rarely happens, but the delay is still irritating).

The specials, albeit cool-looking, are equally annoying. Players are able to charge up an attack that will pretty much instantly kill anything it hits. If the charge is only partially full, the attack is basic (e.g. Optimus fires a single shockwave in a straight line). However, if it is fully charged, players can slow time and target multiple enemies at once, killing all of them at the same time. The annoyance, is that to activate it, players must tap and slide a tiny little icon that players must consciously stop and look for. Even then, if they miss even slightly, it will not register.

Lastly, the transform function is the only one that actually works “well,” though the term is used loosely. Players can switch to their vehicle form at any time to increase their speed, and shifts game play to that not dissimilar to Death Rally. The difference is that players are shooting Decepticons and must typically evade explosive bombardments from the sky. Unfortunately, the other difference is that the transformed mode handles horribly, leaving the player drifting and sliding all over the level.