Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
As someone who grew up absolutely loving TMNT, I had high hopes for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan. After all, PlatinumGames had knocked it out of the park with the nostalgia-inducing Transformers: Devastation. Perhaps the game was rushed, or the development team just never quite got a handle on the material, but unfortunately this TMNT game is far too repetitive with some aggravating mechanics to top the experience off.
The real problem here is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is serviceable at best – and that is our top-end scenario. I had some hope early on as I played the game. I really enjoyed the visuals and the music, even though these are not ‘my’ TMNTs. I played the snot out of the arcade games, was the only one of my friends to beat the challenging NES title and owned plenty of the comics and even watched some of the classic cartoons when I was younger.
By contrast, my oldest watches the newest cartoon by Nickelodeon and it has never really caught my interest. This game does a nice job of capturing the current show’s visual style, but everything else sputters very quickly. The tutorial teaches the basics, and initially I thought that maybe the somewhat finicky controls would lend themselves to a nuanced gameplay that developed over time. Sadly it becomes a matter of simply having iffy controls, because the combat itself never really evolves.
This is likely in part due to the fact that it is such a short game, but even that does not provide a fully serviceable excuse. Tranformers was a short game, but the different characters and the ability to shift between robot and automobile modes provides a solid amount of variety despite the framework being the same from one character to another. The different kinds of guns and upgrade attacks allowed for you to customize your robots to your style of play and they began to feel different from one another. The turtles to their credit have different weapons with some different visual effects and slight variance in style, but they never really progress in any meaningful way over the span of their brief adventure.
The thing is, as brief as the overall gameplay is, somehow it still manages to feel repetitive to the point of becoming dull. Some of the boss battles do a nice job of mixing things up, but the majority of your time is spent plowing through levels that are poorly designed and filled with completely forgettable fodder. Most of the levels are quite forgettable, with poorly designed rooftop scenes and something that looks like an open world but in fact is just a hollow shell with little of interest to invest in. Even going back and increasing the level of difficulty does little, because enemies aren’t really any more intelligent – they just become damage soaking sponges that turn the already remedial combat into a test of patience to slog through. Considering that the Ninja Turtles ooze personality and humor, it is frustrating to see their game so devoid of any real character.
It does not help that the action is made even more murky by the partner AI that oftentimes is anything but intelligent. Some of this could have been mitigated by a great co-op experience, and you can play online – but I fail to see how this game shipped without a local co-op mode. Sitting down with a buddy and beating the tar out of a bunch of enemy ninjas could have helped to make the experience more enjoyable, but unfortunately that is a missed opportunity here.
The boss battles help to alleviate the repetition and there are some secret ones that can be unlocked if you meet particular criteria that serve as the primary reason to replay levels. Admittedly, some of these were pretty cool and gave me a nice sense of satisfaction when they occurred, but at the end of the day Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is little more than a visually stylized button masher with little of the heart that has made the Turtles so enduring over the years. I love most of the titles that PlatinumGames produces, but TMNT is a rare miss for the developer.Score: 4/10