If there’s one studio that would be able to successfully create a beat-em up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game it would be Platinum Games, right? I mean, this is the same studio that created (in my opinion) the best action video game ever: Bayonetta 2. So, it’s incredibly perplexing that this sort of action mash ’em up prowess doesn’t shine through in an IP made for the same type of gameplay.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, simply put, is not a good game. It brings me no pleasure to say that, but it’s sad to see a game with such a fun premise—from what is usually a premiere studio—frequently stumble throughout the experience. So much so that I would have a hard time recommending it to even the most loyal TMNT fans.
The premise is actually rather cool: Supervillains Shredder and Krang have teamed up to bring the pain to Manhattan. Insert great cel-shaded animations, some genuinely funny jokes, and the whole turtle gang, and you have something reminiscent of the best Saturday morning cartoons. Heck, the best moments in the game are the cutscenes where the gang is hanging out, eating pizza, and just acting like their turtle selves.
But the nostalgic joy unfortunately ends there. For those familiar with Platinum’s games, the combat is similar to their previous outings; you simply chain together long attacks with a click of a few buttons. Instead of focusing on combos, however, TMNT is all about the special abilities exclusive to each turtle and the team attacks. Mikey, for example, cheers his brothers on, boosting their specials in the process, while Leo slows down time. So, while you can still pull off chained combos, it’s not the focus here. Even though it technically works, focusing on pulling off specials in tandem with your brothers instead isn’t the adrenaline rush we’re used to seeing in Platinum titles. It’s serviceable at best.
Where this special system shines, however, is with the multiplayer, which allows you to play with three other friends to complete the campaign. While tackling the story mode alone, you have to switch between turtles to pull off more impressive combos. It’s simple enough, but with friends, you’re able to communicate with each other much easier (for obvious reasons). Completing sweet team attacks with a friend provides one of the few highs in the title. That said, it doesn’t include local co-op, which is pretty disappointing.
The game is composed of nine levels. The first few are dedicated to teaching you how to grind on rails (which you never need, nor use), climb up walls like Spider-Man (incredibly strange), and take out Foot Ninjas. Here is where you’ll also learn how to complete the few dull objectives included in the game, like taking down a group of Shredder’s and Krang’s minions, or removing a dangerous weapon from the enemies’ clutches—a move that you’ll unfortunately become incredibly familiar with. Seriously, there are about five different objectives in total, none of which are any fun.
It’s easy to forgive the early game for tasking you with unimaginative objectives to complete, but it doesn’t get any better. Rolling a “weapon” through the world while different obstacles are thrown your way? How about tackling an enemy hideout manned by only five guys, who’re easily disposed of with sneak attacks? These few uneventful tasks will make up the bulk of the short six-hour campaign, which is only broken up by the boss fights at the end of each mission.
While these boss fights don’t change the pace of the action—you’ll mostly spend your time button-mashing away as the big baddies become overwhelmed by the turtle foursome—it’s great to see some familiar faces crafted in the fantastic cel-shaded art-style. I’d love to see an animated film featuring cel-shaded Armaggon, Bebop, and Shredder. Other than that, the game refuses to change its ways, and even makes the boss fights repetitive, as a whole level is dedicated to facing all these big names one more time.
Though its vibrant art looks great, the setting is also rather dull. You’ll run around the same sewers, same streets, and same rooftops for several missions. TMNT‘s Manhattan is small, and is best described as an empty shell sprinkled with baddies.
Finally, there’s also an upgrade system that allows you to unlock new special abilities, and change the turtles’ move sets. This, surprisingly, was my favorite system in the game. Changing the loadouts allowed me to at least tailor some of the combat to my liking.
If I haven’t made it clear enough, this is not a good game—it’s actually a pretty awful showing by Platinum Games. Maybe kids who don’t mind mindless button-mashing will have a decent enough time with this. That said, if you’re planning on buying a kid a game, you’d be better off going with one of the older TMNT games. Aside from repetitive gameplay, and the unimaginative combat, the worst part is that it’s boring. With such a fun IP, and colorful characters, it’s a true shame. Jumping, kicking, slashing, and doing ninja things is a lot more fun than this. If you bought this, be thankful it’s only six hours long.
Rating: 2 out of 5 cowabunga burritos.
- Cel-shaded art is the highlight.
- Cut-scenes are funny, and add personality to a package that desperately needs it.
- Story feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. Let the nostalgia wash over you!
- Everything is repetitive.
- Combat is watered down.
- Mission structure is dull.
- Objectives are unimaginative.
- Gameplay is boring.
- Oh yeah, did I mention it’s repetitive?
This review was completed using a PS4 copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan provided by Activision. The game hit shelves on May 24, 2016.