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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Disappointment in Manhattan

"It'll be much easier to just screen cap what I liked than to talk about it in paragraph form."
There was really good music playing during this screen.
There was really good music playing during this screen.

I was excited for this one. When a game is coming out that I know I’m going to be writing about I like to go into it as blind as possible. Living in a world of information emptiness, is a quiet, blissfully simplistic, experience. The last few weeks in that space the only thing I knew about this game was that I was going to be reviewing it and it was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game! And that was all I needed.

I grew up on the Turtles, you see. That doesn’t really cover it. I am defined by my life’s interaction with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Look at my personal description for this website: “I write and eat pizza. This is zen.” Eating pizza and striving for enlightenment is the essential lesson of the TMNT cartoon from the late 80’s. I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this sentence, but Michaelangelo is my personal role model and has been for most of my life.

Whoa, dudes. This is pretty gnarly stuff. I need a moment.

You can't tell, but Mikey is dancing. It was delightful.
You can’t tell, but Mikey is dancing. It was delightful.

So, alright, that’s, like, my history with the Turtles, ya know? It’s, like, a super important touchstone for me and so I volunteered to review it. I was like, “Cowabunga, dude.” It was an obligation to say that. I paused on that opening window letting the kicky, seventies-style music pour over me. The game told me I need to do the tutorial, so I did the tutorial and thought about how this might be very interesting.

Now’s as good of a time to get into the things with this game as it’s going to get, because this game is not good.

The controls are a gigantic mess. This game was trying to do something that I’m not quite sure what to call it. There were a lot of factors that they tried to make work together. This was a game that mixed in brawling and stealth, like the Arkham series, but they also wanted to let you play as all four turtles and get as much turtle action out of it as possible. So you get a standard quick attack, and a strong attack. You get a dodge. You get a jump. You get a glide. You can climb walls like a spider for reasons that elude me. You get the ability to put on “T-Glass” which is basically detective vision from Arkham. Then you have the ninjutsu menu. Then you have the item use menu. Then you have the turtle switching menu. And to top it all off you have the turtle command menu, which has four sub menus.

Are you keeping track? That’s a bunch of standard game play options that make varying degrees of sense, plus seven damn menus that you’re supposed to be keeping track of, and it’s asking you to be stealthy, but has no stealth options for the turtles aside from coming up behind the bad guys. That’s it. You can’t even tip toe. Good luck at that stealthiness, dudes.

Stealthiness doesn’t matter because the fighting is frenetic in all the worst ways. When April O’Neil comes over your intercom and tells you that bad guys are going to a place, all you can do is race there and watch as the chaos happens to and around you. It’s not a fun type chaos. It’s a gives-you-a-headache-and-revel-in-your-suffering kind of chaos. You might be able to do one or two of your special moves, but they don’t target, they don’t do anything unless someone is right in front of you. And since when the hell do the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have Naruto style Jutsu!

But then again, the fighting isn’t really really much of a problem, because the AI of your Turtle brothers is keyed waaaaay into the useful side. They’re so useful that it’s actually possible to sit back completely and not even touch a button and let them do the work of beating the level for you. The main thing you have to do is get them to the proper place for them to do the fighting. And that’s a pain in the ass because the game gives you the approximation of an open world, and no map to navigate it.

Character design was quite well done.
Character design was quite well done.

And let’s talk about this approximate open world level design, shall we? The game puts you on rails, and gives you a nav point to follow (if you can find the damn thing) and you can get to the nav point any way you choose. Take as many turns as you want, go left, go right, go up, go down…. Everywhere you go it’s the exact same place you were before. The halls are identical. The buildings are indistinguishable. You are running and running and running, through chaos and nonsense and you’ve never moved at all.

This problem is especially bad in the sewer. There is a point while running through the sewer that April O’Neal actually says, “This sure is taking awhile, are you close to the end yet?” or something like that. And I was thinking the exact same thing. When that happened I thought to myself “Is this game screwing with me?”

And that is possible. Go back to the Turtles’ publication history and you find it was originally a parody of all things gritty and 80’s about comics, specifically Daredevil at the time. The Hand = the Foot. Stick = Splinter. You get it? I thought, maybe, possibly, this game was a send up of all things game. That by making repetitive, painfully boring levels, busy unfollowable action, and an AI that basically plays the game for you, Activision and the Turtles were playing me, and any other gamer who misses the Ninja Turtles enough to get this game, for fools. You can use your shell, your turtle’s shell, as a frickin’ glider. That is hilarious if you think about it.

I laughed hysterically getting this bomb away from the bad guys.
I laughed hysterically getting this bomb away from the bad guys.

But even if that was true, it still doesn’t make for a good game. I do want to say that everything Michaelangelo said was still emblematic of my personal faith, and the turtles’ humor was generally on point, but that’s about it. Don’t waste your time or money on this game.

  • Good music on the opening screen.
  • Cut-Scenes were funny.
  • Moments of gameplay absurdity that made me laugh
  • The controls are too complicated.
  • The action is impossible to follow.
  • The AI doesn't actually need you there to beat the game.
  • The levels are repetitive and boring.

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I'm a writer. I write things. And I eat pizza. This is zen.

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