With a developer of such a pedigree as Platinum Games and their experience with titles like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
and the amazing action title Vanquish
, you would be expecting something special. What better for a hack and slash title than four turtles schooled in the art of the best ninja techniques? With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan
, it looks like the right developer for the right franchise. With established protagonists and a ready built rogues gallery of villains, you'd be forgiven for asking what could possibly go wrong. One short campaign and several hours later, it's less a question of what could go wrong and more a case of how?
Things start off in a rather nostalgic way with bright and colourful graphics and a soundtrack that seems to come from the 16-bit era when the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first burst onto the scene. The first cut-scenes and cel-shaded animation also works well and is reminiscent of titles such as Borderlands
or The Walking Dead
. It's nicely done and nicely acted, not too far from the cartoon or comic series. The story could come straight from one of the original media forms, too, as it was written by one of the writers from the IDW comic book series. Those initial moments could well make TMNT
The storyline has the arch-nemeses Shredder and General Krang teaming up to bring about the world's destruction. Naturally, it is up to our favourite green shelled heroes to save the day. To do so they have to fight past all of their old familiar foes, including Bebop, Rocksteady and Karai, before one final showdown. That's the solo campaign summed up in a (turtle)-shell -- fight through a level and face one of their notorious enemies in a boss battle to end the level and advance the story. Over the nine different levels, players will face the various foes in battle - more than once in some cases - and it is here where things start to go a little wonky.
A fundamental requirement of any good hack and slash title is the combat. I hold the previously mentioned titles as prime examples of this, and yet here it seems to have gone missing. Standard attacks can be either heavy or light, but where previous titles would encourage players to discover and use different combinations of buttons to create some new attack move, it is not apparent here. The expected depth of combat and the special combos are surprisingly absent. Admittedly each turtle can have four individual special attacks and the player can switch arbitrarily between them during the levels. These can be upgraded as players unlock scrolls and charms, or receive battle points during the game. There are plenty of special moves to be gained, too, but switching characters to use one special attack in the heat of combat becomes confusing, given that the target character is controlled by the game's AI before switching and could be anywhere on the screen. To be fair, the AI will mostly be attacking a foe, but it's all a flurry of green arms, legs, and brown shells. Trying to quickly ascertain who is who and where they are is no mean feat.
This means that on some occasions it might not end as well as the player would wish. In a form of down but not out
, the turtles bounce - literally - around in their shells during a short countdown during which they can be revived by their compatriots. Generally this works well enough but occasionally the AI is happy to ignore the player, at which point the character is dropped into a pizza room to recover by guzzling pizza and attempting to return to the fray. If all four turtles are knocked out then the battle is considered over, but all is not lost as the player has a number of Continues
and can re-try the battle. With all of this considered, it is difficult to actually fail most battles. In combination with the simplified combat mechanics, this leaves the whole battle experience feeling a little too simple and a little shallow.
Imaginative level design and creative use of environments would have helped the game, but this too seems over-simplified. Over the course of the different chapters, levels seem to be re-used. Admittedly, one sewer will always look like the next when they were never meant to be beauty spots, but the game designers seem to have taken this one step too far. In one particular level, the player is forced to go through the sewer level while fighting a number of spawned enemies, before dropping down to the next sewer level, and then the next, and then the next. I wasn't aware that Manhattan had a sanitation system with more underground levels than a subterranean multi-level car park, but that's how it felt. It epitomized how uninspiring the level design felt and this was only halfway through the game. Even at this point, the game was becoming too much of a grind.
The city levels are based on open mapped urban streets where the turtles can move around at street level while taking on random enemies, or climb buildings and engage in rooftop brawls. They can even glide - yes turtles can glide - from rooftop to rooftop. These levels provide some variation in tasks, including bomb defusal, bomb removal, and protection missions. Most events are triggered randomly and a progress bar at the top of the screen shows just how close the player is to triggering the final radio call to start the journey to face the level's boss. These levels can be drawn out affairs with continually spawning enemies; again, they just seem unimaginative.
Fortunately, the solo campaign is relatively short. A few levels later I almost had fun for the first time in the title while fighting each of the previously encountered and defeated bosses, another example of questionable level choices. Sadly, the title returned to form on the final level of the game, an enforced ride in an elevator that featured a mini horde mode, fighting wave after wave of increasingly tough enemies in the confines of the lift before facing the final ultimate boss battle. The design for the last level of the game was simply a lift ride and a boss battle. Despite the relative brevity of the singleplayer campaign, it still felt like a grind and just too long.
Alongside single player, there is the multiplayer mode, although not in the couch co-op form that you would have thought would be guaranteed for such title. Instead the game is limited to an online mode that allows players to set up or join lobbies so that they can run through the campaign missions. This is, supposedly, more fun than a solo playthrough although it's hard for me to say. I tried a number of times to get online and found myself being bounced around menus and rooms - lobbies - without actually being able to make it into a game. More frustratingly, when I managed to find a game to join, the connection disappeared; instead of being dropped back to the server list, I was kicked all the way back to the main menu. At this point I had to go through the menu tree and refresh the server list, a pattern that frustratingly repeated itself a number of times.
Despite all that has been said, in all fairness, it is not a bad game - I wish it were, it would make the review process simpler - but it's not. A certain degree of quality control has been exercised and there is a certain degree of polish in the title. The cell-shaded artwork and animation is good including the cut scenes, the story line fits in with standard TMNT
stories, the combat works -technically - well enough, the character switching is smooth, the frame rate remains constant, and there are no crashes or noticeable glitches. The fact that everything works as it should makes the decisions behind level design and combat all the more puzzling.
The achievement list is fairly straightforward for such a game. There are achievements linked to campaign completion, collectibles, and destructible items. Additionally, as you would expect, there are also some achievements linked to combat. Finally, there are achievements linked to online play, including character usage and coordinated actions. All are quite achievable and shouldn't take too long, which will keep the completionists in the community happy as long as you can find a multiplayer match.
This could have been the TMNT
title for which all of the fans have been waiting, but sadly it is another missed opportunity and a dip in form for the usually brilliant Platinum Games. The level design and watered down combat leaving the game feeling more like a button mashing grind than the deep combat intensive hack and slash that it could have been. What remains is a distinctively mediocre title that might appeal to some hardcore turtle fans, but from a gamer's perspective, there's very little to recommend other than some easy achievements. There are certainly better hack and slash titles out there. For a full priced title, that's not much of a return on investment despite the short campaign.
- Simplified hack and slash gameplay
- Artistic cel-shading based on the IDW comics
- Captures the turtles and enemies in their comic book glory
- No couch co-op gameplay
- Uninspired and repetitive levels
- Short solo campaign
- Confusing combat at times
The reviewer spent around eight hours scrambling over rooftops and sneaking through sewers, unlocking 15 out of the possible 50 achievements. The Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of review.