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You’d think a good Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game would be a relatively easy thing to make. Those Turtle Boys are certainly perfectly suited to gaming, and Konami laid down the definitive blueprint for a fun, co-op Ninja Turtles brawler in the early ’90s. Despite that, Ninja Turtles games have been mired in the sewers for ages.
But wait, there’s hope! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is developed by Platinum Games, the respected studio behind Viewtiful Joe, Bayonetta and Transformers: Devastation! Does Platinum deliver the game fans have been waiting for, or does the Ninja Turtles gaming curse strike again?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3 & PS4)
Shredder and Krang are up to no good, so once again it’s time for the Turtles to put their Ninjutsu and bad-joke-telling skills to the test. Despite being developed in Japan, TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is 100% the Turtles as you know them. Raphael is a jerk, Donatello is a dweeb, Michelangelo is clinically obsessed with pizza, and Leonardo has yet to find a personality. Mutants in Manhattan breaks absolutely no new ground, but it’s nostalgic, and the game’s cut-scenes are generally fun and stylishly executed.
I’d say you should only buy Mutants in Manhattan when turtles fly, but…
The game’s cell-shaded visual style is nice enough, and a step up over the look of the past few Turtles games, but environments look like they were lifted a PS2 title. Square, cardboard box buildings and and flat, blurry textures abound. Voice acting, delivered by cast of industry vets, is solid, but the game’s music is strictly generic. Mutants in Manhattan only makes a so-so first impression, which is unfortunate, as the game doesn’t really get better once you get to know it.
Mutants in Manhattan is a fairly run-of-the-mill hack ‘n’ slash. Beat up Foot Soldiers, collect power ups, then fight a boss. Exactly what you’d predict. Platinum does add a little pinch of the unexpected with with some light RPG elements, and the ability to alter each Turtle’s loadout of moves and abilities. Some of these abilities are also relatively creative, like Mikey’s cheerleader move that refreshes everybody’s cooldowns. Still, for the most part, this is your pretty standard cheese pizza.
If you’re expecting Mutants in Manhattan to be a well-honed Platinum Games action-fest, well, it sort of delivers. Taking out rank-and-file enemies doesn’t require a lot of skill. Bashing the regular and strong attack buttons will usually do. Occasionally you’ll come across enemies that might require you to use the block button or hit them with shurikens from afar, but that’s as complex as it gets.
Mutant in Manhattan only comes alive and reveals its hidden depths during boss fights. It’s obvious the bosses are where Platinum poured the vast majority of their efforts – they’re big, brash and badass, and require you to keep a close eye on their patterns and master your Ninjutsu skills.
Unlike most other Platinum games, Mutants in Manhattan doesn’t focus heavily on complex button combos. The game’s more strategic. Each Turtle has a unique Ninjutsu ability (Raph can drop into stealth mode, Leo can slow down time, Mikey recharges everybody else’s special moves, and Don can heal and revive), as well as three other abilities you can assign. The trick is, all these abilities can be combined to create unique, sometimes unpredictable effects. Slow down time with Leo, then use a heavy attack with another Turtle to inflict big damage. Sneak up with Raph’s stealth move, then unleash a turbo combo. Carefully managing everybody’s big moves is important – you don’t want to waste Don’s healing or Mikey’s refresh. It can be a bit mind-boggling to juggle while playing single player, but the team management can be quite fun when playing online. It would probably be even more fun with everybody playing on the same couch, but sadly that’s not an option.
Bebop and Rocksteady are through playing around.
So yes, beating up on Bebop, Rocksteady, Shredder and the rest is pretty entertaining, but unfortunately the levels leading up to the bosses are a frustrating slog. Most levels are relatively open, and ask you to run around performing an assortment of mundane tasks. Fight some Foot Soldiers, hack computers, collect some trinkets, you know the drill. At best these tasks are merely dull, at worst they’re maddening. Race to a series of points under very strict time limits while fighting with the game’s unhelpful mapping system and sometimes glitchy controls! Disarm bombs while constantly respawning enemies throw projectiles at you! The tasks are randomly generated and totally unbalanced, so a level that had you tearing your hair out may be a total breeze the next time you try it. Worst, Mutants in Manhattan sticks to an antiquated lives system – if one of the game’s challenging bosses kills you too many times, and you’ll have to replay the whole level leading up to it. Once that happens a couple times, you’ll want to get out of Manhattan and never return.
Don’t believe some of the more alarmist stories about the length of Mutants in Manhattan making the online rounds. The game isn’t huge, but it certainly isn’t two hours long. Six to eight hours would be a better estimate. Like most Platinum games, Mutants in Manhattan also offers multiple difficulty levels to tackle, and grades and high scores to achieve. If you’re into Mutants in Manhattan‘s brand of action, the game gives you plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself.
This is a glitchy game. Running across enemies spinning in place, floating in mid-air or stuck in walls is commonplace, and the your AI controlled teammates are prone to flaking out. More than once I had to restart a level because the AI Turtles decided to all huddle together and hop in place, or disappear altogether. The game holds back on any microtransactions or DLC, but its basic price tag is questionable. $50 feels a bit exorbitant for a game that was clearly made on a drastically tight budget.
Sadly, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is more rude than cool. There are flashes of Platinum’s trademark inventive action here and there, but those moments are buried by slapdash level design and a bargain-basement presentation.
If you’re looking for your typical high-quality Platinum Games brawler, stay far away from Mutants in Manhattan. If, on the other hand, you’re merely looking for a few hours of Ninja Turtles-themed fun, this game isn’t the worst option in the world, particularly if you’re buying for youngsters. Even then, there are better options for kids. Don’t cut this one no slack.
Verdict: Don’t Waste Your Time
This review was based on a digital copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan provided by Activision.