While many advances in jorts technology have been made over the years, no amount of ingenuity in the materials sector could have prevented the pair I was wearing from exploding at the seams when I heard that PlatinumGames (the talented devs behind Vanquish, Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and the recent Transformers: Devastation) were developing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. So it is with great pain that I pen this review, as TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is a disappointment on almost every single level. From its woeful, nonsensical story and bland gameplay to its strange controls and technical issues, this is a game that should be cast back into the sewers from whence it came.
Not today Mikey. Not today.
TMNT:MiM follows the tale of the four turtles-cum-ninjas, as they respond to a sudden spike in crime around the city. It turns out Krang and Shredder are up to no good, and they’ve enlisted the help of a bunch of villains from the TMNT universe to distract the turtles from their mysterious plans. This is a decent setup as you’ll get the opportunity to fight against old favourites like Bebop, Rocksteady and Slash, as well as some villains you may have forgotten like Armaggon, Kurai and Wingnut. The only problem is that the narrative is paper-thin, and ultimately fairly boring. It heats up towards the end when you finally learn the plans of the nefarious Shredder and Krang, but by then it was far too late and I had stopped caring. It doesn’t help that the gameplay design is also very bland, where you are simply thrown into a level and instructed to fight some crime until you can fight the boss. You lurch ungracefully from one terrible objective to the next in a city that has about as much life as a Kristen Stewart smile. As I defused yet another bomb, or guided a Krang mine to a portal, or rolled a novelty-sized bag of money to a different portal, I began to wonder two things: Why are PlatinumGames trying to hurt me and where are all the bloody people?! It’s New York for Christ’s sake!
Yes… Space guns
Bebop: Now with 100% more chainsaws
For anyone who is a fan of PlatinumGames’ work, it will be unsurprising that TMNT:MiM is a fast-paced hack and slash game. In the past the developers have proven themselves as the masters of this genre, so it came as quite a surprise when I got my hands on the game and found the basic gameplay to be a bit of an unfocused and ill-conceived mess. You can take control of any of the four turtles at any one time, but inexplicably the ability to switch between them requires holding the L2 button and using a direction on the D-Pad to select them. This requires you to take your thumb off the left thumbstick momentarily (which of course halts your movement) while trying to remember which direction of the D-Pad corresponds to which turtle. In the middle of a fast-paced battle this is hardly ideal. In addition to heavy and light attacks, each turtle has a selection of four special moves on cooldown timers (triggered by holding L2 and pressing one of the face buttons), so potentially you can have 16 different special moves available to you (who said high school math wouldn’t be required in later life). However, given the difficulty in switching to a specific turtle and my inability to memorise which turtle had which skill I ended up giving them all the same skills. Eventually I stopped switching turtles altogether and simply willed the AI to sort themselves out. Of course you can get human beings to control the other turtles, but there’s no offline co-op so you’ll have to brave the Internet to find people to play with.
With flashy combos, multiple enemies, fiddly objectives and environmental hazards aplenty there is simply far too much happening at once, and it is very easy to lose track of where you and your turtle bros are in the fight.
Combat is fairly messy too, and comes off as both imprecise and at times unfair. With flashy combos, multiple enemies, fiddly objectives and environmental hazards aplenty there is simply far too much happening at once, and it is very easy to lose track of where you and your turtle bros are in the fight. As the camera swings wildly around you, projectiles like missiles and lasers will enter from out of screen and knock you around, which is utterly unavoidable and absolutely infuriating (especially if you’re doing something like defusing a bomb). Some of Krang’s little flying UFO cronies shoot lasers which stun you or make you bounce around uncontrollably or slow you down to a crawl, and to have those bastards on your back with everything else going on makes it an overly chaotic shit fight. As the screen gets busy, the frame rate will dip too, increasing the difficulty exponentially. The only real solution when the situation gets too hot is to hold the dodge button, which rolls you around in your shell and nullifies all damage, but you can’t hold it forever (or you’ll get dizzy) and you’re effectively thrown around like a pinball at this point so God only knows where you’ll end up. There’s also a terrible lock-on system (which is unintuitively mapped to the L3 button and cannot be changed) that glues itself to an enemy but can’t be switched between targets, and you’d be insane to use it in most instances. If this wasn’t enough you’ll often find sections of the HUD disappearing randomly, such that you can’t tell when your supers are charged or what state your turtles’ health is in or how much further through a god-awful level you have to grind to get to the boss.
Whether you’re simply sticking to one turtle or awkwardly swapping, it’s important that at least one stays alive at any one time. A knocked-out turtle will eventually respawn (once they’ve eaten enough pizza in the sewers in a weird minigame) as long as one remains conscious on the battlefield. This means that in the harder boss fights the gameplay often devolves into you making sure your turtle stays alive by keeping your distance and watching the AI go in and get slaughtered. Once you’re the Last Turtle Standing you then run around until your chelonian mates decide to come back and give it another crack. It makes the boss fights a bit of a slog, and keeps you disengaged from the action.
Do battle with a Street Shark
What is happening here?
The turtles themselves actually don’t look too shabby either, eschewing the campy style of the Saturday morning cartoon turtles for a more edgy look, but managing to avoid appearing like the hideous monstrosities of the Michael Bay films
One positive that the game has going for it is in the visual department, with the graphics bearing a certain similarity to the cel-shaded stylings of Transformers: Devastation. The textures are plain and clean and the colours are bright and bold, much like the original cartoon but with a modern-day twist. The turtles themselves actually don’t look too shabby either, eschewing the campy style of the Saturday morning cartoon turtles for a more edgy look, but managing to avoid appearing like the hideous monstrosities of the Michael Bay films. Looking at their noses will always be a little unsettling but I’m not sure any 3D model of a ninja turtle will ever be able to avoid that. Some of the cheesy banter between the turtles and villains also feels pretty authentic at times, but often the voice actors struggle to inject enough unique personality into the characters. What is most certainly not appreciated is the constant repetition of lines during combat when a turtle goes down, which started to grind on my ears to the point that I wished the turtle responsible would simply die and never come back. Michelangelo’s “It only hurts when I breathe. And Move. And Blink” is funny the first time you hear it, but after the 896th time he says it you’ve got a case for justifiable homicide.
You’d think PlatinumGames getting behind another iconic 90s franchise would be a sure homerun, but unfortunately even a pair of rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia spliced with beer goggles couldn’t make this game palatable. With bland and repetitive gameplay that is further marred by bad controls, technical issues and an uninteresting story, this is definitely not Platinum’s finest hour.
Reviewed on PS4