When certain blockbuster popcorn flicks—like those in the Transformers franchise—come around, they're launched as part of an expensive, cash-generating, publicity-building machine. Along with the film, there are accompanying T-shirt and underwear deals, Happy Meal trinkets, perhaps a few straight-to-DVD spinoffs, mascot-adorned bedspreads, and last, and usually least, a video game. As a result of being spread so thin, the quality of these supplements usually takes a hit. And unfortunately for the Wii's Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon – Stealth Force Edition, it has all the blatantly phoned-in characteristics we usually find in many movie-inspired games: uninspired gameplay, repetitive levels, rocky controls, blasé visuals, and paltry challenge.
This game simply exists to hype up the third installment in Michael Bay's noisy reinterpretation of the beloved '80s cartoon. In the game, you drive the Transformers as cars, which enter "stealth mode" upon your command, but all "stealth mode" means here is that guns appear on the sides of your vehicle, allowing you to aimlessly navigate the brown landscape to shoot at enemy cars.
First impressions: The graphics are rough. When we get close-ups of car grills, it looks like something out of Cruisin' USA for the Nintendo 64. As you see cars and semis peel out into the desert (with wheels that don't appear to move, in some sequences), you'll soon realize that the animation also leaves much to be desired. The voice acting is repetitive and annoying, as you're harped to "find more Energon," the floating energy cubes scattered about the course that replenish your health meter. Everything has a nondescript flavor to it, from the environment to the cut scenes.
The challenges usually involve roaming around the small-ish levels and defeating enemies in a time limit. It's nothing particularly difficult or engaging, and the controls are nothing if not wonky. In stealth mode, you'll use the remote's D-pad to change direction, then the control stick to move. It's not very intuitive, and feels like a tacked-on addition to the stealth mode; you have to meander around the battlefield to gather stealth ammo to lob missiles at foes. (It's an insipid, rough-around-the-edges take on vehicular combat games, sort of like Twisted Metal's boring, monotone cousin.) Perhaps if stealth mode actually saw the Transformers, God forbid, transform, things would have been more exciting. But otherwise, it's a rather uneventful brawl of plain ol' computer-controlled enemy cars that, occasionally, run into walls. Repeatedly. Switching between regular mode and stealth mode also feels arbitrary, with regular mode sometimes feeling completely unneeded.
There's really nothing redeeming one can say about this entry in the library of Transformers games, which was already pretty lacking to begin with. Stealth Force Edition will definitely struggle to appeal to gamers, and might even fail to attract Transformers fans. The Decepticons, it seems, have finally won.