Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Review (Xbox One)
Platinum Games and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: a company and a property that should be a match made in heaven. Platinum has made a name for itself with fast paced, high adrenaline action games and Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo perfectly fit that mold being a fearsome fighting team and all. Why then, as I sit through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan, does this marriage made in heaven bore the hell out of me?
Mutants in Manhattan employs a simple premise: send the four turtles into an area crawling with Foot Clan cronies, set a few objectives to complete on the path to the big bad of the level, fight the boss, and move on to the next one. Throughout the mission the turtles are aided via comms by April O’Neil, who also acts as my reference for what to do next. Unfortunately she spends more time talking than she does not talking and she quickly becomes annoying, which is a shame because I always liked April while watching TMNT as a kid.
The bad guys are standard TMNT villains like Bebop and Rocksteady, Slash, Krang, and Shredder, and they all look really bad-ass in Platinum Games’ vision, but getting to these boss fights is unfortunately not very interesting. The objectives in each level are seamlessly integrated into the levels, like the stealth section in the Sewer level or the bomb defusion on the skyscraper, but they pass quickly and are soon forgotten. In fact that can be said for the entire game. Each mission takes about 30-45 minutes and there are nine missions total, meaning the whole game can be completed in as little as four and a half hours. That’s nothing new for a Platinum game, but I was hoping for a little more time with the Turtles before I watched the credits roll.
The sewer stealth section brings me to my biggest peeve about the game: I failed that stealth section the first time I played it not because I did anything wrong, but because one of the turtles I wasn’t controlling ran up to a Foot Clan soldier that was staring right at him, getting us all caught and summoning extra enemies for us to fight. If I fail a mission because of some dumb move on my part I’m willing to accept it and move on, but I shouldn’t be penalized because an AI companion didn’t consider the rules before rushing headfirst into battle. That just leads to frustration, and this game doesn’t need any more of that.
I wouldn’t mind the shorter lifespan of the game if the action was inherently interesting, but unfortunately Mutants in Manhattan lets me down there as well. The game is a button masher’s paradise, turning every fracas into a test on how many times I can press the light and heavy attack buttons in succession until the hordes are defeated. Each turtle has a few special moves that I can customize before a stage begins, and I can throw shurikens by holding one bumper and clumsily aiming at an enemy before hitting the other bumper, but the core of combat rests in mashing those attack buttons to death.
The game hides a few secrets and Easter eggs throughout the adventure, some of them putting a big smile on my face. April at one point references “a cajun accent” during the Sewer level, a throwback to the '80s cartoon version of series villain Leatherhead, although the nostalgic joy is soon replaced with annoyance that Leatherhead is then nowhere to be found. Other subtle nods to TMNT games past, like a downed turtle saying “Shell Shocked!”, aren’t as disappointing and are equally appreciated.
One of the biggest secrets teased in the game is the idea of “secret” bosses, extra challenges that can be taken on after completing a level for the first time. When I hear “secret boss” I think of a villain that didn’t appear in the story originally, but instead these “secret” fights are just two bosses teaming up on my squad of turtles at the normal boss fight spot, one boss joining the enemy whose normally in that spot. Maybe I’m expecting too much from the game, but I found that to be a real letdown.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is fun in small doses. Unfortunately the game turns from enjoyment to tedium far too quickly, becoming a mashfest that doesn’t really challenge me other than “throw as many enemies on screen as possible.” The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a rich video game history spanning years, but this feels like more like the games I played on my Super Nintendo than a grand TMNT adventure for a modern console that I was hoping for. As a Turtles fans I’m mildly satisfied seeing the characters in a new light, but playing the game just doesn’t cut it for me. Maybe next time guys; go eat some pizza.
This review was completed using a downloadable code for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan provided by the publisher for Xbox One.