Developer: Glu Mobile
Price: $4.99
Version Reviewed: 1.1.0

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★½☆☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★★
Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Transformers G1, by Glu Mobile, is really a fantastic foray into the transformers universe. Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low when I got my hands on the title a few days ago. The graphics looked dated, the movement and combat systems looked stale, and the Transformers story, while originally fairly good, has been horribly distorted by Michael Bay in the recent years creating a bit of disdain for the franchise.

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Fortunately for us, this version of transformers is true to the original plot lines, pitting you as the Autobots with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and the gang against the Decepticons with Megatron, Soundwave, Starscream, and many others. For those of you that were huge fans of the original show, not only is the plot the same, but it also uses the original transformer sound when you go from robot to car. If you find yourself like me, making the sound with your mouth every time it happens, I’d recommend playing this one in a secluded space.

This version of Transformers is a turn based strategy game, along the lines of the Advance Wars series. Like any other game in the genre, each unit has a certain amount of action points (although in this one they aren’t visible, you just get the hang of how much each unit can move) to either move, transform, attack, upgrade, capture, or in Ratchet’s case, repair. The levels too are fairly standard, comprising of a battlefield with a grid pattern overlaid.

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What makes Transformers G1 different than many other games on the iPhone is that the levels are all built around strategy, and not necessarily my go-to tactic… build all the units and raise hell. The typical level not only requires you to capture power plants so that you can upgrade and build units, but also requires defensive and offensive formations because of bonuses given to combat when you gang fight. On the flip side, getting yourself caught in a gang fight almost spells certain doom. Because each Transformer has different attributes and different skills, it is equally important to position the units correctly on the battlefield. Units like Optimus Prime give moral bonuses to surrounding units, Ratchet is fairly weak but can do repairs, while Metroplex can hardly move but is very strong and can build units. Every map is wide open to view from the start, so planning your attack well… don’t just make up a strategy on the fly.

The story mode of the game is comprised of 17 levels, which took me a few hours to get through. After those are completed, there is a showdown mode, putting you in bad situations that require a decent amount of strategy to win. This mode probably took me another hour or so to beat. Once that is done, there is an arena mode, which is definitely the weakest of the modes in my opinion, that gives you the option of a human hot seat battle as well as a battle against the computer. The maps here are fairly straightforward and are more designed for epic battles than fine strategy.

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My fear from the start with this version of Transformers was the graphics, and it was indeed the graphics that were the major letdown. Nothing about them made the game unplayable, but there were instances that I would like to have seen better visuals than PC graphics circa 1996. Everything in the game looks flat, rigid, and has dull. Even the text looks dated, particularly in the story sections where the text just scrolls choppily across the screen. I realize that the game just came out, but I’d love to see a Transformers G1: The Awakening Redux come out with some graphics that are updated for the 21st century. I can just imagine how great things would’ve been in the graphics department if it were handled by the Fieldrunners team.

Even with the graphics as bad as they were, the gameplay is such that the package is a must play experience. I won’t go as far as to say that this is the best iPhone game out there gameplay wise, but it’s not far from the top. If the game were a bit longer and had a real multiplayer mode, I would say that it would be right up there near my all time favorites, even while looking like it does. At $4.99, I feel like you owe it to yourself as a Transformers fan to pick this one up. Just don’t make the transforming sound in public, it’s embarrassing to watch.

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