Who here could honestly say they’ve never heard of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? The ‘heroes in a half-shell’ have been a mainstay in pop culture since their inception in the 1980s; spanning comic books, television shows, movies, and especially video games. With PlatinumGames taking the reins for the latest installment, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan, our beloved team of reptiles (that’s right, they aren’t amphibians) return to the fray for yet another beat-em-up on the streets of New York City.
Shredder, Krang and the notorious Foot clan are wreaking havoc in Manhattan, and once again it falls to the Turtles with the help of April O’Neal and Master Splinter to stop their nefarious plans. With every known ally and villain in the fray, can the Turtles prevent Shredder from taking over New York?
The Turtles have evolved a lot over the years, going through various style changes and looks. Mutants in Manhattan adds a cel-shaded look to the 3D modelling of the most recent TV show, giving it a strange blend between comic book aesthetic and three dimensional gameplay. It works in the end, allowing the game to be bright and interesting.
Less can be said about the sound design though – the music is repetitive and grating, and battle sounds become a flurry of slashes and hits when fighting takes place on screen, accompanied by quite jarring camera angles that could have you on the floor in a dizzy spell by the end of a level. Even the menus are droll and uninspiring, with a looped track over and over that by the third time you hear it becomes annoying. And while we’ve grown up and loved the Turtles’ attitudes and humour, everything within this game feels terribly scripted and forced, and almost sounds like they found some unused scripts from the early 1990s to fill in the dialogue.
People have sung praises about PlatinumGames’ past works, and usually they were right to. This time around though, they have left a lot to be desired.
At the core, TMNT could have been a decent beat-em-up. You play as one of four Turtles, with the ability to switch at will between the squad, giving each Turtle a different special skill set. The three remaining Turtles act as support along the way, helping you take down the bad guys. Which sounds simple enough, right?
The first issue that arises is the overcomplicated controls. One trigger allows you to block and also parry (which in game is practically useless when swarmed with enemies). Another allows you to aim shuriken at the enemy or at things to make them blow up. And then ANOTHER trigger allows you to use special attacks. No wait, it allows you to swap Turtles. No sorry, I’m wrong, it does BOTH. Like the game itself, the controls for TMNT are just too frantic and confusing, and I found myself throwing shuriken in the heat of a battle when I was trying to swap to Mike and play with his nunchucks. In the midst of being surrounded by enemies, fighting becomes a chore rather than fun when trying to remember which button blocks and which button gives the rest of the team a different command.
The next problem, and the biggest of the game, is the fact that everything past the first mission is repetitive. April barks orders at you, you and your terrible AI gang head there and beat up a bunch of bad guys to do a thing. Rinse and repeat. Sure, there’s wall climbing and grinding mechanics but these are just stuck there, and after a while it just gets too tedious to be fun. Defuse a bomb? Hold circle. But wait, didn’t I just interact with a PC terminal by holding circle? And open a door with all the Turtles while holding circle?
Needless to say, I didn’t get a chance to play multiplayer – four player split screen co-op is strangely absent from a game that would benefit heavily from it, and the only way to play with your friends is online. At least that way the Turtles would control better as a team.
I really wanted to love this game, and I had hoped that it would give me a sense of nostalgia for my favourite TMNT game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time for the SNES. All Mutants in Manhattan did was make me long for a decent beat-em-up that does more than just phone it in at times. Sadly this game feels more like a bargain bin pickup than one to run out and grab straight away.
The PS4 version of TMNT was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.