Back when I was a kid, I was a huge fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I absolutely loved the original animated series that aired in the late 80s and early 90s, I owned a crapload of the action figures tied into the cartoon series, I watched the live action trilogy of movies released around that time period (not the more recent films, though), and I played a couple of older video games based off the Turtles as well (I especially enjoyed this one 2D brawler arcade game). Eventually, the TMNT franchise lost its appeal as I got older and I moved on to bigger and better things. But now, after being given the opportunity to try out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, I decided to give it a go and see if the game could capture some of the nostalgia of the old school cartoon, even though I figured it would have elements of the newer cartoons (which I never watched). Plus, this game was developed by Platinum Games, and they know what they’re doing when it comes to making fast-paced, action packed titles. As it turns out, Mutants in Manhattan is a fast-paced, action packed game, but it also falls short compared to Platinum’s previous efforts.
Krang and Shredder are up to their old tricks again and send out wave after wave of Foot ninjas, stone men, little brains riding flying saucers, and their own mutants like Bebop, Rocksteady, Wingnut, and others to cause havoc in Manhattan. Naturally, the Turtles take it upon themselves to stop their enemies’ nefarious plot and head out to slice, stab, smack, and bash them to pieces. That’s pretty much all there is to the straightforward story, which is actually a common quality in Platinum Games’….um, games. But while Platinum’s previous games like Vanquish and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance make up for their relatively straightforward stories with highly engaging combat with great controls, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan doesn’t have nearly the same level of high quality gameplay to fall back on. The combat is of a button mashing nature with all Turtles using light and heavy attacks when not using their special abilities or performing their “shell-spin” dodge/block move. The combos for their light and heavy attacks are very basic, but they work. The special abilities (ninjutsu) the Turtles use include all kinds of wacky attacks like joint combo strikes, rolling shell strikes, temporary invincibility, throwing out pizza to heal teammates, throwing sticks of dynamite, and much more. As fun as this all may sound, it’s honestly not all that engaging.
Getting a hang of the strangely complex controller layout took me longer than it normally takes me with most games. Switching between Turtles is done by holding down the L2 button and pressing one of the directional buttons, while using the Turtles’ ninjutsu is done by holding down the L2 button and pressing one of the face buttons. Then comes the process of accessing different commands to give out to the other Turtles and using items. Both these things are done by using the directional buttons, and you press the touchpad to switch between the command and item menus. Not only is this an unnaturally large number of functions to assign to the directional buttons, but most of the different commands available for directing your AI partners are totally unnecessary and serve mostly to clutter up the menu. I was able to get through the game simply by sticking with the “go all out” and “follow me” commands and avoided the other ones, and that’s because most of the other commands either functioned the same or served no real purpose.
The aforementioned dodge/block move the Turtles use is also rather finicky. Holding down the dodge/block button has the Turtles spin around making them invincible, but they can stay in that state only for so long before they get dizzy and become vulnerable to enemy attacks. Dodging right before an enemy hits you will have the Turtles spin around behind them, letting you attack them from behind or even grab onto them and pummel them mercilessly. Holding the dodge/block button and then releasing it right before an enemy hits you has the Turtles parry enemy attacks. These moves only worked half the time for me since the timing required to pull them off is not very generous at all, and while it is easier to time the dodging/parrying against a lone enemy, most of the time you’ll be fighting multiple enemies that are cluttering up the screen along with all four Turtles, so there’s normally not much opportunity to effectively perform a perfect dodge/parry in most battles due to their chaotic nature. On the plus side, even when the screen is full of countless enemies, the game never slows down and retains a constant framerate. And aside from the dodging, the Turtles react precisely to your button inputs, another quality common in games developed by Platinum.
When playing alone, you can switch between all four Turtles on the fly whenever you wish, unless one or more of them are incapacitated. When the AI controls your allies, it actually functions rather well, for the most part. Your AI partners consistently support you when you need it, and they’ll pretty much always revive the Turtle you’re controlling should you become incapacitated. Still, they do tend to let themselves get pummeled a lot by enemies and hazards. Probably the game’s biggest flaw is its repetition. Platinum’s games have a tendency to have repetitious qualities to them since you normally play through a number of linear levels just fighting bad guy after bad guy, but like I said before, their games are normally more engaging since they include extra fun combat and a wide variety of different enemies and bosses. However, Mutants in Manhattan has you battling the exact same enemies throughout all nine missions (though the eighth mission does let you fight enemies while piloting mechs, which was quite fun), and the objectives are pretty much all the same in every mission: protect important objects from enemies, disarm bombs while enemies mercilessly pummel you, and track down enemies to their hideout and destroy them. That’s basically it. Oh, and these objectives are always timed for some reason. Should you fail one of these missions by letting the timer run out, then another repetitive mission will be thrown your way for you to complete before you can reach the boss.
Every level has a boss at the end, and while they prove to be the more exciting encounters in the game, they also pretty much play out the same way and aren’t all that varied. You use all four Turtles to bash on the bosses and do what you can to avoid their long reaching and highly damaging attacks (with again the only exception being the boss in the eighth mission). All the levels have specified manholes that let you visit the Turtles’ Lair where Master Splinter will let you buy/exchange items, namely health restoring pizza and weapons like turrets and bombs. Strangely, when you visit the Lair, only the Turtle you’re currently controlling goes in while the other three wait outside, and they can actually be attacked by enemies while you’re chilling in the Lair. And since pretty much all the levels have areas where enemies constantly respawn without end, visiting the Lair could prove dangerous if your allies are low on health, so many times you’ll be forced to wait until you can find an access point to the Lair that isn’t surrounded by enemies. In the end, I can’t recommend this game for anyone who isn’t a die-hard TMNT fan, and even then I’d say you’d be better off waiting for a price drop or probably just renting the game for a weekend. I imagine it would be more fun when playing alongside other people, but it would likely still be a repetitive experience with little lasting appeal.
Developer: Platinum Games
Platforms: PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: 24th May 2016