Shape-shifting toys get into the game

  • By Anthony Breznican / Associated Press
  • Saturday, June 5, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

The “Transformers,” that race of gigantic, shape-shifting robots who turned into cars, airplanes and tanks, have returned in a new Atari game that will rekindle the nostalgia of 20-somethings who loved the toys in the 1980s.

Making a game out of these characters is a tricky proposition. When should they be robots? When should they be vehicles? When should it make a difference?

Atari has wisely given the player the option of deciding. If you want to turn into a car, fine – but you might find yourself stuck in an ice fissure. And playing as a robot switches the format to a third-person shooter – you can shoot, jump, fire rockets – but some leaps from cliff to cliff require wheels and a driving start.

Here’s the back story: Autobots are the good guys, Decepticons are the bad guys. They come from an alien planet, called Cybertron, which has been ravaged by civil war, and now the robots have brought that war to Earth – hence the earthly vehicle disguises.

You can play as three different robots – Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader who becomes a sturdy tractor-trailer cab; Red Alert, an emergency SUV; and Hot Shot, a rookie warrior who becomes a sports car.

Older fans will be disappointed that the characters have updated designs aimed at the current crop of young kids who still play with the Hasbro toys. The modern incarnation is called “Armada,” probably the closest the “Transformers” have come to the original design since they became robotic apes, tigers and other critters in the 1990s.

Optimus Prime remains the most recognizable. His red, white and blue color scheme and John Wayne-style heroic drawl still hearken back to Reagan era. He’s an incorruptible hero – with a lot of firepower to boot.

The goal of Atari’s “Transformers” is to rescue a crew of miniature robots before the Decepticons – led by evil Megatron – can capture them. These minibots each have special powers (including shield capability and rocket launching) that serve as upgrades as you progress through levels.

Associated Press

Battle scenes from “Transformers” change as players switch objects from one form to another.

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