Like most children of the 90s, I was obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and spent hours imagining that I was them. My action figures were my portal, my imagination was my vehicle of choice, and a lot of time was spent combining the two.
Looking back on those days, I can’t help but think about what my five year-old self would’ve thought about a game like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s the new, free-to-download Arcade Kinect title that Microsoft and Paramount just released onto the Xbox 360’s Marketplace, and its aim is to make people feel like they’re the Turtles themselves. On paper, it’s a nineties kid’s dream; however, the truth of the matter is that it likely should’ve stayed that way.
Now, I know that you can’t really complain about free things, because they come at no cost. I get that, and do agree to a point. However, the most important part of my job here, as a reviewer, is to provide honest feedback. That means critiquing free games and being forthcoming about them, too. They’re still games, after all, and we only have a limited amount of time on this Earth, with free time being at a premium.
Training Lair – which is a rather small game – almost entertained me for less time than it took to download. Sure, I kept with it and put about an hour into it before calling it quits, but I was dreaming of better games most of that time. One of those dreams involved Fruit Ninja Kinect, which is unabashedly mimicked here. That, and bastardized.
If you’ve played Fruit Ninja on any device, then you’ll need little explanation as to how things work here. All you do is swat, hit or slice items that fly into the air, while avoiding evil projectiles and trying not to hit bombs. Yes, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair is so unashamed of its theft that it even includes bombs, Fruit Ninja‘s kryptonite. At least its developers can say that they’re not charging for their stolen ideas.
Now, you’re surely thinking that there’s no way that an exact clone could be released under a different name. And you’re right. However, this game is so similar that it’s uncanny. Sure, it adds weapons, Turtles-themed things to hit and posts that require repeated whacks to chop down, but that’s about it.
Once the game’s been booted up, it displays a basic and ugly menu, where you can choose to see a tutorial (read: a short, Powerpoint-like presentation that shows which items are good to hit and which are bad), look at leaderboards, take goofy photos, or play the actual game. You can pick just about any of them from the start, but will likely jump headfirst into the game like I did. There, you’ll move through five different challenge rooms, four of which feature the superheroes’ iconic weapons. The other is a short warm-up room, where fists are required.
To do incredibly well, you’ll want to hit all of the good items and miss all of the bad ones. This means swinging Donatello’s staff, swiping Leonardo’s swords, throwing Raph’s twin sais, or fooling with Michaelangelo’s nunchucks, all the while ducking to avoid incoming ninja stars. Indicators flash red when stars will emerge from the screen’s corners, while a green hue indicates where a bomb will come from. Get hit by too many stars, or destroy a certain amount of ooze-resembling bombs, and your already brief round will be cut even shorter.
Unsurprisingly, the idea behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair is friendly competition; that’s why it has leaderboards. As such, you’ll want to try to earn the highest scores possible, by hitting consecutive good items and seeing if you can do a flawless run. Don’t expect the latter to come easily, though, because Kinect’s occasionally shoddy movement detection and the game’s periodic need for precision will make perfection difficult. The same is true of full achievement completion, because two of the game’s twelve (or so) task the player with flawlessness. That means going through all five rooms in a row, without missing a single hit, destroying a single bomb, or being hit by a single star. It could also mean eating all of the end of round bonus point pizza — which is accomplished by swiping at boxes as they fly by, then positioning your mouth accordingly — but I’m not quite sure.
Now, if you’re photogenic and don’t mind making an ass out of yourself, there may be a saving grace here; that being the game’s Gallery mode. You see, by achieving modest high scores in each training lounge, you’ll unlock photo backgrounds bearing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themselves. The majority of these feature just a single Turtle, and allow you to photograph yourself wearing a superimposed bandana, while holding the chosen character’s digitized weapons. It’s shit, and the results are laughable, but you may enjoy that type of thing. Plus, each photo can be shared over Facebook, to increase the hilarity and/or embarrassment.
As bland and forgettable as its gameplay is, the worst part of Training Lair may be its presentation. In fact, calling it a hideous advertisement would be an understatement. All this game happens to be is a poorly constructed and hastily put together way to promote not only Michael Bay’s upcoming movie — which, as pop-ups will regularly tell you, releases on the 8th of August — but also Pizza Hut. It serves no other real purpose, and will make your eyes hurt. Thankfully, the sound isn’t as egregious, though there’s nothing positive to say about it either.
If you’re craving close to 300 points’ worth of easy achievements and have an extra Facebook account that you can secretly post its laughable photos to, then you’ll want to download this game and spend an hour or two with it. However, only bother doing so if you can stomach poor production values and gameplay that not only rips off one of Kinect’s best games, but does so while making it worse. If not, then move on and avoid wasting your time with the piece of crud they call Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Training Lair.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 Kinect exclusive, which we downloaded for free.