Oh, how I wanted to love Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan from Platinum Games. I was a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a kid; watching every show, buying every action figure in sight, and of course watching the movies (“go ninja, go ninja go”…. oh the memories). I am also a big fan of Platinum Games’ previous works like the Bayonetta series, Wonderful 101, Vanquish, and Madworld. However, the name Platinum Games has been starting to lose some of its luster lately, with releases like The Legend of Korra, Star Fox: Zero, and now with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan.
Before we dive into the negatives, let’s start with what the game does right. The first thing you will notice when you start up the game is the unique art style. Working with IDW Comics, the game mixes a unique blend of cartoon and comic book design. The look really pops off the screen, appearing new, yet ultimately familiar (unlike the recent Michael Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies). Speaking of the comics, the game was penned by Tom Waltz, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic author, so it holds up well. It won’t blow you away with its revelations, but it definitely has the fun, Saturday morning cartoon vibe going for it, full of action and the expected turtles humor.
One thing that has always made Platinum Games so special to me, outside of the outlandish settings and atmosphere, is the combat. If you find yourself playing their games Bayonetta 2 or Vanquish, you’ll wish that every game was as fast, frantic, and smooth as what those games provide. Mutants in Manhattan does share some of the similarities, but tries to make that same mold fit into a 4-player beat-em-up. The results are somewhat mixed.
In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan you play as the four titular turtles at one time, as they eat pizza, rattle off one liners, and beat up baddies. Each turtle is given four powers with their own unique cool-down meter. For example, Leonardo can slow down time, Donatello can heal, Raphael can turn on stealth mode, and Michelangelo can cheerlead to refresh each of the turtle’s cool-down meters. You can switch between turtles at will by holding down the left trigger and pressing the corresponding direction on the d-pad. The challenge of the game comes from switching between turtles at a frantic pace, trying to use the proper ability at the right time.
They do try to fit in the fast-paced block/roll/attack system of the Bayonetta games, but it gets lost in the plethora of special effects going off at one time. If you are able to separate from the other turtles and battle one enemy on your own, you can take advantage of the dodging system. Depending on when you press the right trigger, you will either block the attack, stun the enemy, or evade and attack from behind. This will allow you to hop onto the enemy’s back and punch him in the head. As mentioned above, it does work. However, if all turtles are attacking the same enemy at the same time, it can become somewhat confusing.
Of course a decent combat system would be nothing without the right enemies to fight. While the standard foot soldiers, Krang, and other enemies are somewhat bland, the boss battles are definitely the highlights of the game. The art style really makes each boss unique, and every boss fight is broken down into seven phases, where you must whittle down their health meter seven times. After each health meter is depleted the boss fight will take on new characteristics, really keeping you on your toes.
One more thing I feel is worth a mention about my experience with the boss fights, is that something really interesting happened while playing online. Another boss randomly hopped into our skirmish with Armaggon. While I am not entirely sure what caused it to happen, since it didn’t happen on a second play through, it was a cool touch that caught me off guard. I really wish the rest of the game was filled with these little surprises.
So, now you may be asking yourself, “Ok. This game has a great art style, good combat, and awesome boss fights. What’s not like?” Outside of all the positives previously mentioned, the rest of the game definitely leaves something to be desired. It feels like they tried to take a 2-hour old school beat-em-up and stretch it out to a 6+ hour game. Most of the time spent before boss fights, outside of a few levels, just felt like unneeded padding.
Once you boot up the game your turtles will be dashing around the city beating up the foot, gracefully running up walls, and even gliding across roof tops using their turtle parachutes. While this may seem like a good time, this is only the first stage. Over time you will become somewhat bored by the repetition. The worst part is that the first stage is only 1 of 2 free-roaming stages in the entire game. The rest of the game is spent in the sewers and on the rooftops, being funneled down long hallways.
As far as the objectives go, they are randomly chosen at each play through, which does take away some of the tedium. You’ll be given events like defeating a number of the enemies in a certain time frame, defusing bombs, or saving pizza trucks. As you complete these missions, a bar will fill at the top of the screen, and once the bar is full, you will take on that stage’s boss. Simply rinse and repeat for most of the game’s stages.
There are a few missions that stand out. As mentioned above, the first open-world stage is definitely a highlight, as well as the last two levels of the game. In the mission before the end, it actually takes on brand new fight mechanics. I don’t want to ruin it for those that want to experience it for themselves, but what I will say is that I wish they would have included this kind of variety for the rest of the game. It would have greatly helped reduce the slog through the remaining stages.
In the final phase of the game, leading up to your battle with Shredder, you take an elevator and fight enemies all the way to the top. This made me smile, as it brought to mind the fun I had playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time in the arcade or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist on my Sega Genesis. It also made me realize that this game would have worked much better as a 2 hour $20 download, instead of the full price game you see today. It’s filled with some great ideas, but just like pizza, this game proves that you can always have too much of a good thing.