As a licensed property the TMNT brand has seen its shares of ups and downs. While the Ninja Turtles franchise has received fun classic games during the 80s and 90s, in recent years its game adaptations have taken one misstep after another and have not been able to replicate its glory days.
TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is the latest game to try its hand on the franchise and is the fabled game developer; Platinum Games’ take on the Ninja Turtles. Is this game able to get TMNT out of the sewers or does it take its place with its recent predecessors in the gaming gutter?
Platinum’s TMNT game takes inspiration from the past turtle canon to present a unique world that is a blend of elements from the classic cartoon shows and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
The plot of Mutants in Manhattan does not follow any particular story arc from the comics or the TV shows.
It is a brand new narrative that combines some of the biggest baddies in TMNT franchise and provides turtles with a conflict that starts off as a simple crime spree in Manhattan and escalates to world threatening levels.
The game’s story never takes itself too seriously and understands its role as a nostalgia trip and a device to drive the game from one battle to the next one.
TMNT Mutants in Manhattan is a 3D action brawler with hack and slash elements, which plays right into Platinum Games’ forte of developing deep melee based action.
The basic gameplay revolves around chaining light and heavy attacks while dodging, blocking and parrying enemy attacks. Players can supplement these actions by using various in-game items, power ups and special moves to increase their combo damage.
While TMNT’s combo system is not as deep as those in Platinum’s past AAA character-action games like Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising, the game makes up for it by including synchronous action based combo play with four turtles.
Entirety of the game is built around co-op play between the 4 turtles. When playing solo, players can switch to any of the four turtles on the fly, while the multiplayer mode allows for up to 4 online players to play through levels together; each controlling one turtle.
Though the basic gameplay remains the same regardless of which turtle is chosen, each turtle has his own separate health, unique characteristics and signature moves; which can be changed and upgraded as the player levels up.
Raphael is a tank character. His attacks are slow and powerful but lack range and he can utilize his special moves to perform a power attack or use stealth to temporarily become invisible to the enemy.
Michelangelo is fast and over the top. He can reset every turtle’s cool down on their specials or bring down disco lights that compel enemies to dance for a time, giving opportunity for free hits.
Donatello has the most range with his bo staff attacks and starts off with special moves that make him adept at instantly healing his teammates.
Leonardo is a well-rounded character with medium range and medium damage and can activate ‘Turtle Time’ which can temporarily slow down time allowing for huge amounts of damage in short period of time. It also acts as a great set up to other turtle’s combos.
The real depth of this game’s action gameplay is about setting up combos by chaining different abilities with other turtles. This can be done by either swapping through various turtles in single player or by communicating well with teammates in online multiplayer.
The multiplayer co-op play is fun and requires good coordination and team work. Each player is separately responsible for execution of their turtle’s moves and any miscommunication can lead to dropped combos which can prove deadly in latter levels.
The lack of offline multiplayer mode is a huge let down and is a big misstep by Platinum Games, especially given the fact that the game plays at 30 fps and is available on current gen systems.
On the other hand, during the single player story mode, player is able to communicate with A.I. partners to tell them to wait, follow, protect or go all out aggressive on enemies.
The computer A.I. is quite competent at controlling the partnering turtles and holds up quite well to cohesive attacks, avoiding environmental obstacles as well as protecting player during tasks like disarming bombs and hacking terminals.
Levels are relatively small open world environments which allow for a lot of mobility and ninja-like traversal options. Turtles are able to run around the streets, climb up buildings, bounce on awnings, grind/slide on wires and rails, launch off poles and even glide long jumps via parachute.
Some stages like the Subway are more linear with sequential events, while others like Residential district are more open and home to random events with objectives like defeating all enemies, deactivating bombs and clearing out hideouts.
Players can find the location of these missions by using the T-Glass, which acts like Detective-vision from the Batman Arkham games.
Once enough of these missions have been completed, location for stage boss is revealed and the turtles can go and partake in a boss battle. Most boss battles are a 4 on 1 romp with an iconic turtle villain where turtles have whittle down their enormous health bars while avoiding their powerful attacks.
Players can also find collectable orbs that give players Battle Points (BP) which can be used to buy items, upgrade each turtle’s different Ninjutsu abilities and equip charms which can be equipped to grant various perks.
The environments in TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan look like they are ripped right out of TMNT comic books.
Platinum has once again shown its prowess in the use of cell shading as the game features a perfect blend of art styles from both original and contemporary cartoons and comics, as each character and stage features a clean design and is filled with vibrant colours.
However this great design choice is spoiled by lack of details in the environments, which is especially evident in earlier stages where enemies are sparsely populated and the levels end up feeling desolate and empty.
While the later stages in game do offer denser levels and more environmental effects, small visual issues like pixelated and jaggy shadows mar the game’s otherwise great visual style.
The game also looks good in motion. Whether it is running and battling like a ninja or break dancing during their downtime, the turtles are very expressive and faithfully animated.
The game also features lots of faithful visual interpretations iconic turtle characters. Enemies like Foot ninjas, Mousers, Dimension-X solders populate levels and bosses like Bebop, Rocksteady, Krang and the Shredder show up to punctuate the end of each level with a bang.
Master Splinter and April O’Neal are the only two allies that show up and provide supporting roles in the game.
While Splinter is sparingly used, April is heavily featured as an audio guide over the coms. Although her role is similar to Navi, her voice over and dialogue are versatile enough that her presence never gets annoying over the course of the game.
What does get annoying is the sound of alert sirens that blare at the start of each mission and boss encounter.
On the other hand, the game gracefully handles the voice work for the turtles. The banter between the brothers and enemies is full of puns and campy sarcasm but is not overdone to the point of exhaustion.
All four turtles are given their due as each verbal interchange is laced with Mikey’s fun loving goofiness, Raph’s angst ridden sass, Donnie’s nerdy explanations and Leo’s directness.
TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan also features an upbeat soundtrack that mirrors the tone and beats from the classic TMNT cartoon series without copying it outright.
The game’s 9 stages of story campaign can last from 4-8 hours depending on player skill and difficulty level chosen.
Each stage ends with results of battle showing completion time, bonus for finding secret boss, total battle points, score rank achieved as well as performance of each turtle. This not only provides overview of player performance but also incentivizes repeated play to improve level scores and rankings on worldwide leaderboards.
Furthermore TMNT levels contain scores of hidden collectables including 99 charms, 50 emblems, 50 IDW TMNT comic covers and battle-point orbs to unlock and upgrade dozens of Ninjutsu abilities available in the loadout menu.
So is there enough value in this game for its asking price of $50 on current gen consoles and $40 on PC and last gen systems?
TMNT Mutants in Manhattan is definitely not just a cash grab but it is also not a AAA product and is more or less on par with Platinum Games’ last licence based game; Transformers Devastation.
However, from its campy tone and vibrant visuals to the turtles’ brotherly banter and fast paced action, TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan captures the essence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise to a T.
While the players looking for a pick-up-and-play coop action brawler set in TMNT universe would have a blast playing though Mutants in Manhattan, anyone looking for a deep single player character-action game would be disappointed with what it has to offer.
As a simple beat ‘em up title and in terms of its portrayal of the TMNT brand, TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is a decent successor to the classic side scrolling brawler Turtles in Time, however the absence of offline multiplayer and lack of visual and gameplay depth make it difficult to recommend at its $50 price tag.