Turtles, turtles everywhere. By 1990, you could find the four reptile ninjas not only in comics but on TV, t-shirts, toy store shelves and in theatres. Like the majority of the available products, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan was based on the popular cartoon and sees you battle across five levels to rescue captured reporter April O’Neil.
All four of the fighters are available for play. Controls are straightforward – you use the directional pad to move and the other buttons for jumping and attacking. Each turtle handles and looks the same except for the weapon that he carries. When standing upright, attacking will cause you to take a swipe with it. If you’d rather throw a shuriken at your advancing foe, then you can crouch, while if you press the same button when jumping you’ll kick any airborne assailants. You’ll find that all three strategies come in handy as you progress through the game.
You choose a character before each of the stages, which are split into several parts. Should you lose a life, you will restart from the beginning of the most recent section with another turtle. To help you out as you play, life-replenishing pizza is sometimes left behind by defeated foes.
Refilling your energy meter (if completed successfully) and providing a change of pace are the hidden mini games scattered throughout. In one, you have ten chances to guess a number, the game marking each of your entries as “bigger” or “smaller” than necessary. In another, you must remove shuriken until there is just one left, and the final one sees you shooting at moving targets.
The game features large sprites and a variety of visually unique things to fight. The developers picked some from the big book of generic video game enemies (bats, spitting fire), but you might recognise others from the TV show, such as the Foot Soldiers and Mousers. Each of them attacks in a different way, which helps to keep things interesting.
Your surroundings are detailed and varied. The first level sees you in the streets and sewers, but each stage takes you to a different location, such as a river and a busy street full of moving trucks, the roofs of which you're to jump across. At the end of each, you go up against a boss character who's tougher to beat than the regular enemies and recognisable to anyone who’s seen the TV series. They include Shredder, Krang and scientist-turned-giant-fly Baxter Stockman.
Between levels, you'll watch brief scenes drawn in the style of the cartoon show. They don’t offer much more than an update on where April’s captors have taken her, but they still work well. The game also includes a number of small but effective visual touches, such as the air bubbles that rise up from your character when underwater or the way that Raphael and Michelangelo spin their weapons when walking.
The audio is equally impressive, with a variety of adventure-evoking tracks playing throughout including the show's theme song. It also features a range of sound effects that enhance the experience, including the thumping of a bouncing boulder, a little splash when you land in water and a small electrical explosion that accompanies the destruction of a Foot Solider.
The game seems to have a slow pace as your turtle casually strolls along, but the controls are responsive, and once enemies start attacking from both sides you will need quick reflexes to avoid their capturing you. Each level offers something unique, beginning with the opening stage, which requires you to quickly jump out of the way of motorcycle-riding Foot Soldiers that hope to mow you down. Crushing presses feature in the second level, while floating logs in the fourth can keep you away from what appear to be ill-tempered mutated sea bass. Things steadily get tougher as you progress, and you’ll pick up more damage from the later levels. Bosses also get tougher: you can defeat the first two – Bebop and Rocksteady – by simply hopping over their attack and then countering, but the others require a bit more thought.
Fall of the Foot Clan lets you pick which level you're to start from, which is handy if you want to get to know a specific stage better or have a quick go on a favourite. As an incentive to play through from the start, completing the game following a level skip does not give you the full ending.
The adventure remains fun from start to finish thanks to the variety between levels. The final one is the highlight, which sees you battling through the Technodrome against the usual foes as well as drones, missiles and lasers. Getting struck by the latter results in a good visual and sound effect, and the stage has some cracking music throughout.
While you may not beat Fall of the Foot Clan straight away, with four turtles at your disposal and only five stages, completing it will not be too troublesome once you’re familiar with the levels. If you do run into difficulties, you can replenish your energy bar once per playthrough using the Konami code. A harder mode would add to the replayability, but sadly one is not included. You can always add challenge yourself, however, by attempting to complete it using one turtle alone or by trying to get a new high score.
This is a well-presented title with great music, sound effects and visuals that combine to capture the look of the show well. Gameplay is what matters, though, and this features varied levels and an assortment of different enemies that should provide a fun time even if you are not a fan of the Ninja Turtles (or this particular incarnation). The lack of adjustable difficulty is unfortunate, but otherwise Fall of the Foot Clan is an enjoyable gaming experience.