I don't really consider myself a "hardcore" gamer per se. I do however own ten times more stuff than the average video game person does and probably spend more time that is considered healthy playing with it all. What the hell. We all gotta have a hobby. Anyway it's easy to get jaded and burnt out when you spend so much time doing a certain thing, especially when it comes to obscure 8-bit video games. The world tends to become a very scary place when you play too many bad Sega games, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good Transbot actually was.
It's a standard side scrolling shooter, fly in a spaceship, collect powerups, blow stuff up, nothing new here. The game is very pretty and easy to get into. You collect floating question mark icons that set your powerup meter going like a slot machine, whereupon by hitting the II button you can stop it on any one of seven different letters, (A-G,) each that gives you a different powerup, lazers, three way shot, etc. Some of them transform your little ship into a robot, hence the "Transbot" in the title. However these powerups seem to wear out after thirty seconds or so, also if you're unlucky you might hit letter "F," which is your default cheesy shot, which effectively robs you of your powerup. I guess this is the "game," but it's still frustrating.
What makes the game good is that every simplistic aspect of the game is handled in just the right way. The game has the perfect level of difficulty, easy at first with a nice progression. The graphics are superb - so good in fact that back in the day I would have been shitting my pants over this game, no joke. Large, well animated, well defined characters with lots of colors, good explosions, even parallax scrolling in the backgrounds (on an 8-bit machine no less.) This is one of those games that ups the standards so that other games with crappy graphics look that much uglier. Even the sound is pretty good, which is not the Master System's strong point.
The problem with this game is while it gets off to a good start it just doesn't seem to ever go anywhere. The powerups don't last very long, which frequently leaves you pretty defenseless with the cheeseball shot. Also the levels are extremely long, they just go on and on and on...
The end result is a simple time waster that looks very polished. You can tell when someone loves their work by the quality of their craftsmanship, even if what they're making is a small, insignificant thing you can get by the hundreds. Say you're a carpenter and you're making a little footstool, if you love your work then you'll make that footstool the best damn footstool in the world. The artists and programmers that made Transbot really enjoyed their work and the quality of their game reflects it.
Graphics: Fantastic, superb. Excellent sprites, parallax scrolling in the backgrounds. Very well done.
Sound: Much better than the usual ridiculousness that passes for sound in a SMS game - the explosions actually sound somewhat like explosions, the lazers sound like lazers, etc. That's all you can really ask for.
Gameplay: Very smooth, with good difficulty progression, however the lack of any structure to the game limits it to the "time waster" category.