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Choose your side in the <i>Transformers</i> DS games and fight on the web

Activision's Transformers games for the Nintendo DS feature an online play mode that incorporates the web.

We dig giant robots.

OK, movie tie-in games tend to suck. It's a sad rule with few exceptions, but most movie games feel phoned in and generic.

Hope springs eternal, though, and the allure of giant transforming robots is keeping me at least a little bit hopeful for the Transformers games. Yesterday we received copies of Transformers for the Nintendo DS. I can't really give it anything beyond my first impressions yet (keep an eye on Gamespot for the inevitable review, though), but it seems like a fun game. The graphics are extremely blocky, thanks to the DS' relatively low power, and it doesn't have the destructible environments promised in the Xbox 360 and PS3 Transformers games, but it's still an entertaining shooter/driver/brawler.

The DS game comes in two flavors: Transformers: Autobots and Transformers: Decepticons. This isn't the first time we've seen two versions of a game come out (Pokemon Diamond and Pearl come to mind), but this is the first time we've seen significant differences between two game versions. The basic gameplay for both versions remain generally the same: you're a Transformer on Earth, and you have to run, drive, shoot, and fight the opposing faction. You can scan over 30 vehicles to decide your vehicle form and combat abilities, from a station wagon to a utility truck. Depending on the version you get, you get a different interface, different missions, and even different characters to play besides your own Transformer (you can play Bumblebee and Optimus Prime only in Transformers: Autobots, while evil robots like Brawl and Blackout are exclusive to Transformers: Decepticons).

Still, these are all pretty superficial differences. The big draw to the two versions is the game's online component, Battle for the Allspark. Both DS Transformers games can use Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to go online and participate in the battle for the mythical Allspark. Every day, you can go online and download a mission, like destroying a certain number of enemy drones, or doing as much property damage as possible. After you do those missions, you can go back online and upload your progress, which is then updated on the Spark Wars Web page. Depending on your version of the game, it adds points to either the Autobot or Decepticon side. At the end of each day, a winner is declared and that side gets a piece of the Allspark. Better yet, your participation gets you online tokens that can be used to unlock new, special forms in the games.

Okay, it's not a perfect system. You can't actually go online and fight other Transformers through Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection; it's only for Spark Wars missions. It's still a fun detail that adds a little bit of immersion to the game. I would have preferred online combat, but this sort of Web-based interaction with stat-tracking and competition between factions is a pretty welcome change. It isn't perfect, but it's pretty creative.