When I was growing up, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage. My life revolved around watching their cartoon, playing with multiple variations of their action figures and also watching the middling movies – which I loved at the time. Turtle Power was something that flowed through my veins so to speak, which is why I became intrigued when I read that Platinum Games would be making a game based upon the Heroes in a Half-Shell.
Unfortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan – Platinum’s Activision and Nickelodeon backed take on the franchise – doesn’t come close to living up to the hopes I had for it, nor does it compare to the great Turtles-based brawlers of yesteryear. It’s sad, really, given that this is a 2016 game and those came out as far back as 1989.
Mutants in Manhattan goes off the rails right from the get-go, by presenting a structure that doesn’t befit a quality game. Missing are the classic left to right beat ’em-up designs, and in their place are somewhat open environments, wherein the Turtles must race from one bland objective to another. Think of things like defusing bombs, killing groups of enemies and hacking terminals and you’ll have a good idea of what to expect.
It honestly feels as if Platinum just threw this thing together without much thought, and it’s possible that a limited budget and a short development window played roles in the final result. Still, that’s no excuse for why this game is so incredibly bland and forgettable. And, I mean it when I say that I honestly feel bad for any mother or father who’s talked into buying this thing for their child because of the upcoming theatrical film.
So, how exactly does Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan play? Well, all of the above culminates in a very straightforward brawler, which is playable for up to four (online-connected) players. Those who prefer to play solo can do just that, while having the ability to cycle through each of the Heroes in a Half Shell at any given time.
Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo exist within a structure that tries to make it seem as if individuality is important, but the truth is that each member of the mutated foursome plays almost identically. Outside of slight variations in their weapons’ reach, the only real difference-maker comes in the form of the Turtles’ interchangeable and upgradeable Ninjitsu powers. Each protagonist has four slots that you can use to slot different special abilities (ie. a sumo slap, a super jump, a healing circle, a team-up combo attack and a summoned set of UFOs) into. The Turtles all have their own base specials, but you’re able to mix and match as you please in order to set things up the way you like and create a bit of individuality that is otherwise lacking in the base gameplay.
Still, there’s little to be excited about even when these powers come into play. The combat is generic, existing of only two different attacks that can be combined for forgettable combos, and the only (limited) wow factor comes in the form of some of the visual effects that accompany your Ninjitsu powers. It’s all an exercise in tedium that gets boring before it even gets going, and quickly becomes a drag to deal with. Thankfully, the game is only about three to four hours long, which ends up being a saving grace.
The campaign, itself, is separated into a list of close to ten missions, all of which culminate in a final boss encounter featuring familiar faces from the franchise and its current Nickelodeon show. Some can be played out of order, but it’s best to not deviate from the norm, because there’s a story that plays out through their opening and closing cutscenes. It’s far from anything award-worthy, though it’s at least evident that effort went into coming up with its “The Turtles save New York from Shredder and his pals once again” schtick.
When you think of villains like Rocksteady, Bebop, Shredder, Slash, Wingnut and Krang, it’s not hard to imagine epic fights against nostalgic asshats. However, what we end up getting at the end of their levels are boss battles that feel like they belong in games made years ago. It’s simple button mashing and power-usage, as you whittle the enemy’s five coloured health bars down with the help of three friends or three computer-controlled Turtles. There’s little variety, no intrigue and nothing memorable to hold onto. Polish is also missing, especially in the final battle against Shredder, which is where I ran into a problem with my attacks not causing any damage for over a minute.
What doesn’t help is that the game’s controls leave a lot to be desired, with simply switching Turtles requiring you to hold one shoulder button then press a direction on the d-pad. It’s counter-intuitive, and it makes us wonder how it even made it through testing. It did, though, and the same control system is also used for selecting Ninjitsu powers. Thankfully, using items (of which you can hold four) is easier, although they’re not as badass as they seem or could have been. Being able to hold onto some health-giving pizza, or energy/power boosting drinks is nice, but the rest are kind of forgettable and happen to be frustrating to use. Hell, just throwing a bomb is an annoyance in and of itself.
The sad thing is that there was potential here. Mutants in Manhattan could have been a good game if it was given enough time, attention and care, but it was rushed out the door and treated like Platinum’s disappointing stepchild. Still, at least it doesn’t look awful thanks to comic-style visuals inspired by the Nickelodeon show, although its annoying and repetitive audio leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t remember these characters being so dumb, or their voices being so awful, but that’s how they’re presented here.
Even if you’re oozing with nostalgia, Platinum Games’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan will come as a major disappointment. It’s a bland, derivative and uninspired game that has little going for it. Save your money, and avoid this Heroes in a Shit-Shell experience.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a very disappointing action game which isn't worth bothering with. Platinum didn't put its best foot forward with this one, and it's evident from the get go.