Most people don't realise that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
have been around for nearly 30 years. Starting in comic books, they spread to video games and TV before getting their own films. The latest incarnation of the four anthropomorphic heroes sees them appearing on Nickelodeon as Leo, Donnie, Mikey and Raph. This seemed to be a perfect enough excuse to create another video game, so Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
fought its way into retailers at the end of October. Will this game retain the reputation of the TMNT games of old, or will this be just another shameless TV tie-in?
While travelling across the rooftops of New York City, the four heroes are ambushed by arch-enemy Shredder's Foot Clan. By the end of the first level one of the Turtles' most dangerous foes, the Kraang, has also made an unwanted appearance to assist the Foot Clan. It appears that the two have teamed up to create mischief, but can the Turtles find out what they are planning? More to the point, can they stop it? The plot ambles along at a gentle pace and is possibly one of the better elements of the game. All of the fan-favourite foes make an appearance in the build-up to the final showdown, as well.
In a format that should surprise no-one, the game is a side-scrolling beat 'em up and gives off the impression of being a beginner's beat-em-up. The controls are simple and the camera is fixed so the right joystick is never used. The left joystick, of course, controls the movement of our heroes. X is used for the basic attack and can be pressed numerous times to form combos. B is used for a charge attack, most useful when surrounded by enemies. Y is used for throwing enemies. There are occasional special item pickups, such as smoke bombs or throwing knives; LT or RT are used to trigger these but these pickups are practically useless with little noticeable effect on the enemies. Despite the options available to the player, it is possible to get through entire levels just through mashing X repeatedly. Who needs strategies?
Defeated enemies drop energy shards that are used to level up the four heroes. Each turtle has his own weapon and his own signature move. Mikey appears to be more agile as he somersaults over the screen while Leo's double-katai spin attack looks lethal but, in reality, there is no difference in their ability to defeat enemies; it is just for show. Despite this, players can use the d-pad to swap between characters at will. This is especially useful for the occasions when the game moves ahead slightly too quickly and you are left trapped at the side of the screen. You can fight, but you can't move and are left with little option but to swap to another character to free yourself.
There is only one difficulty level and the game is incredibly easy. There are plentiful health pick ups (snack foods) so that it is impossible to fail a level. This is despite the fact that your AI teammates can be useless. They will do nothing to assist you in a boss fight and will crowd around you so that they are in your way. They will only aid you in a normal street brawl if they are attacked from the front. If they are attacked from behind then they will stand without reacting to the threat that is decreasing their health. They frequently get left behind after failing to navigate around street furniture, leading to the surreal sight of respawning teammates sprinting towards you from the right side of the screen. When coupled with repetitive enemy designs and level designs, players can find themselves getting bored. This is where friends come in.
The game supports four-player, same-screen, drop-in-drop-out, local co-op. Online co-op is not supported. Unfortunately, it is extremely easy to lose track of your character's position when two or more people are playing together in such a small space. However, as a mindless beat 'em up, the game can be enjoyable in small doses despite its faults. The entire campaign can be completed in co-op although this does mean that you will complete the campaign quicker when sharing the workload. When the campaign sits at an extremely short two to three hours, you may not want to make it any shorter than it already is.
As a retail title, albeit a budget title, you may be wondering where your money was spent. Well, the unlockable time-attack mode requires you to complete each level of the game under a set time limit. However, having completed each level once already, you're only likely to add another two hours to your playtime with this mode. After that, there is the unlockable Survival mode, where players have a choice of three arenas in which to face increasingly difficult waves of enemies. When I say "increasingly difficult", I actually mean waves with increasing numbers of enemies. It is entirely possible to get past wave 35 (the wave needed to unlock all survival achievements -- more on these later) on your first attempt. If you're not inspired by these modes, completing the campaign will unlock the Atomic Robo-X
mini-game for players. This is a Defender
-esque game that will keep you entertained for a few minutes but little more after that. At the end of the day, when taking account of the game's relatively small 489 MB size as well, there is little to justify this game being a retail release as opposed to a cheaper download title.
The graphics are supposed to reflect the animation style of the show but are not as refined as they could be on a current generation console. They really wouldn't look out of place on a PlayStation 2. The cutscenes with skippable dialogue are the worst example of this. The sound and animation are completely out of sync; it's almost as if they were expecting players to skip the dialogue rather than waiting for it to play out. Every now and again, one of the character's dialogues will also be played at an increased volume, leading to a static-y quality that can only be likened to the quality created by playing sound out of speakers at too high a volume for which the speakers can cope. Mid-level, the sound quality is more consistent but is instead replaced with annoyingly repetitive voiceovers. There are only so many times that you can be told that the Kraang thought that your attacks were inferior before you mute the game.
The one thing that will redeem the game in the eyes of the TA community are the achievements. The game is a very easy completion. 460G is awarded for completing the three game modes, and doing this will also award you with more than enough energy shards to fully level up the turtles for another 240G. Collectibles are present in the game and these come in two forms: Mutagen Canisters and secrets. These are much easier to find than they are to miss. A loud hum will alert you to a nearby Mutagen Canister, while a nearby secret is greeted with a loud beeping, an icon in the bottom corner of the screen and Donnie informing you that there is a scanning opportunity. These will unlock another 150G upon their location. Finally, other miscellaneous in-game actions will net you the remaining 150G, but if you refrain from the urge of playing the game solely using the X button, these are not hard to complete. Just don't panic when the game temporarily freezes to allow the achievement icon to appear mid-level.
In conclusion, the title is a very simple side-scrolling beat 'em up that should have been an XBLA title. Short game modes, sub-par graphics and sound, and repetitive gameplay do not really justify a budget retail price. The game may be fun with friends but local same-screen co-op has been better implemented elsewhere. While the game can be completed on your own, the useless AI is likely to lead to a fair amount of frustration. The story and references to the TV show, which are likely to please its fans, cannot save this game from being little more than a title known for its easy achievements.
The reviewer played all game modes, including completing the campaign in full and reaching level 35 in Survival mode on her first attempt. All of the button mashing garnered 30 out of 36 achievements. The review copy was provided by Activision.