I would have bet my house on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan being rather good. With the power of PlatinumGames behind the heroes in a halfshell, Activision bankrolling them and the huge draw that the green ninjas bring, chances are that the latest video game covering their fighting antics would be a bit of a hit.
And then I remembered that not only are the Turtles appearing across the world in video game form, but around the same time they are hitting the big screens once more with a movie. A video game AND a movie dropping within weeks of one another? What the hell could go wrong? Unfortunately, like most movie/gaming tie-ins, the answer to that simple little question is ‘quite a lot’. But let me explain.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan puts you in the shoes of everyone’s favourite walking, talking, ninja skilled turtles once more, as they do battle over and under the city of Manhattan. An open-ish world brawler much in the same vein as Platinum’s previous Transformers title, anyone with a hint of Turtles enthusiasm will know what to expect. If you don’t though, then you will find yourself taking control of Donatello, Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo as they jump and smash their way past the hordes of the Foot Clan soldiers, before searching out and taking down some of their usual foes. You’ll find boss fights against the likes of Bebop and Rocksteady, Armaggon, General Krang and of course the unmistakable Shredder, as the boys in green navigate their way from objective to objective and fight to fight. With April and Master Splinter egging them on from the sidelines, all the ingredients are in place to make a Turtle fan’s dream come true.
All the usual weapons that you would associate with the Turtles are in place but it matters little which of the team you choose. With all four guys in action at all times, and the option to hot switch between them at will, you’ll struggle to find any real rapport with any of the guys, no matter how hard you try and love Mikey or want to punch Leo in the face. With fast button mashing fighting taking hold, you’ll also struggle to distinguish between each of the unique weapons that the team brings, leaving you to just drop on into a fight and hit the X and A buttons as fast as you can. It matters little whether Don is smashing his way through things with his Bo, or Raph is dealing out the damage with his Sai – and that’s something which is hugely disappointing.
Team combos are however nice, and with a decent level of cool-down timer for each special move that you wish to use, ensure that they can’t be abused too much. There are however plenty of opportunities to customise your Turtle load-out – either prior to, or during your missions – and multiple playthroughs of each segment will allow you to earn the Turtles enough XP points and magical charms to at least stop repetition raising its ugly head too much. Upgrading and utilising the special Ninjutsu moves is key to keeping the interest flowing and with the option of picking four from nearly 30 fighting techniques, you should find yourself happy enough with the customisable battle opportunities that are in place. You’ll most definitely need to make the most of the upgraded skills should you wish to run through anything higher than the normal difficulty level with ease, otherwise you’ll find yourself partaking in a strange pizza eating mini-game as you attempt to respawn back into the action.
At least the different skills shouldn’t allow things to get too tedious because in the overall grand scheme of things, hopping into a mission, beating down some goons over and over again before matching up against the level boss is really all there is to Mutants in Manhattan. Many will find this crossing the repetitive line once too often, but on a personal level I don’t mind it and have enjoyed going through the same stages multiple times with different combos installed; if only so I can try and better my score, my time and my overall rank for each segment. Not that any of those things really matter in the long run.
I say enjoy but never have I got a huge rush from my time with one of my favourite childhood franchises. In fact, much of the time it’s been a ‘wow, how the hell didn’t they pick up on that?’, amid the spontaneous laughing at how bad some of the gameplay mechanics actually are. You’ll find your Turtles and the badly calculated AI struggling to do even the simplest of jobs for the vast majority of the time, will find them hovering in the air at every opportunity and basically doing what the damn hell they want throughout. With lag when the heat of the battle gets too hot and a hugely disappointing framerate slowly pushing the gameplay along, has it all been a bit of a rush job in order to get a complete and utter tie-in with the movie? I’ll leave it up to you to decide but very rarely do Platinum deliver such a shoddy experience.
Now, once you’ve had your blast across the nine single player levels that are in place, taken down that damn Bebop yet again and faced off against Armaggon, Krang and ultimately Shredder, then there are three things you can do with your Turtles purchase. You could trade in the game for something infinitely better (personally I’d go with Platinum’s other recent cartoon effort in Transformers Devastation), you could run back through everything over and over again on either the easy, normal, hard or stupidly hard difficulty levels, or you could grab a couple of friends and play through proceedings once again in multiplayer.
The latter option sounds absolutely immense and with four Turtles in place, and four like minded friends looking for a good mindless evening bash, should really be the ultimate experience. Except for one major issue – it doesn’t work. Like ever.
I’ve lost track of the amount of times I’ve attempted to join a quick match, host a public game or invite a friend into a private party with the express intention of taking Mikey, Don and the team on another journey through the sewers and across the rooftops of Manhattan. You see, the multiplayer is broken and there is next to no chance of you ever managing to match up with any friend or stranger. It’s a huge shame too because as I’ve previously alluded too, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan could, for all its slackness, be a bloody brilliant multiplayer game. But unless Activision and PlatinumGames get their fingers out and fix it pronto, we’ll never actually find that out and will be left forever more with an average-at-best single player game.
Whilst I have to admit to enjoying my time with the Turtles in Manhattan, and being overjoyed to finally see the Turtles coming complete with some proper 3D cel shaded visuals, I can in no way even attempt to cover over the obvious issues. The fighting may be fast and hard, but it really is nothing more than a slightly laggy, button masher at best, with only the biggest Turtle fans being able to see past all the dodgy gameplay mechanics and massive multiplayer problems to find a relatively good time within. If you’re hoping that Mutants in Manhattan will be the best Turtles game there has ever been, you’ll be sorely wrong.
Luckily I didn’t place that bet and I still have my house. My childhood memories have taken a bit of a battering though.