Game Review

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Gaz Plant

Shell shocked

It’s arguably difficult to consider Nickelodeon’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV reboot as anything other than a rousing success. Blending together elements from the classic 1987 series with a more modern approach, the show has been a hit with fans both new and old, treading that awkward line between paying homage to the past and blazing a new trail. The show has been such a success that almost every merchandising avenue has turned to gold, yet so far the same cannot be said for the games.

While fans of the original cartoon will have fond memories of the NES and SNES era adaptations, Nickelodeon’s chosen publisher, Activision, has so far failed to live up to expectations; the first of three titles, Out of the Shadows, proved to be a failure both critically and with fans. While Out of the Shadows opted for a more ‘mature’ take on the world of TMNT, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for 3DS takes inspiration solely from the show, and is all the better for it. Unfortunately, the gameplay itself ultimately stops this from being a classic entry.

Billed as an interim story between seasons one and two, the game follows the Turtles tracking down Shredder and the Kraang and foiling a plan to set off a mutagen bomb in New York. Written by the team from the show, the entire game feels like an episode, even going so far as opening with the show’s intro. Inter-stage sequences have all the hallmarks of the show, with brilliant comedy and instantly memorable lines coming across at all times. Characters from throughout the first season make appearances, with fan favourites Shredder and Splinter appearing alongside new mutants Dogpound and Fishface (and even an inclusion for the mutant-hybrid, Justin!).

Voices for this large roster of characters are provided by the voice talent from the show, with the likes of Greg Cipes, Nolan North and Rob Paulsen on typically good form. However, despite the majority of the cast returning, there is one notable exception in the form of Jason Biggs as Leo, something that is painfully obvious alongside the rest of the team.

It’s a shame then that these narrative sequences don’t look as sharp as they could. While they are fully animated, they are animated using in-game models, which don’t fully utilise the power of the 3DS. While it would be a stretch to believe the show’s CGI could be generated by the 3DS, the rough edges on the characters and the lack of lip sync are a disappointment, especially when compared to games like Kid Icarus: Uprising. Given how good the show’s intro sequence looks on the 3DS, it’s a shame some small segments could not have been animated for the game rather than using an engine that clearly wasn’t designed for this purpose.

Once you’re in the game, things are somewhat mixed. Set-up as an arcade brawler, TMNT feels very much like a game from the early ‘90s. Each turtle can be controlled individually, with selections made via the d-pad or touch screen, the latter featuring some superb cartoon artwork, and while they each have their own individual strengths — Raph being better in close combat for example — there’s very little difference between the brothers.

And that’s because the gameplay essentially boils down to running in, hammering the attack button, and leaving. Set across 16 stages, TMNT throws wave after wave of Kraang, Foot Soliders and M.O.U.S.E.R.S. at you, with the simple mandate of destroy them all before they defeat you. It harkens back to a much simpler time, and feels very much like a game born from an arcade cabinet, even going so far as to present you with arcade leaderboards at the end of the stage.

The problem is that the combat has been simplified a little too far. The basic attack button is really all you need, with combos resulting in more points, yet no tangible difference in ability. These points allow for upgrades to be applied to each turtle, but these are merely greater combo sequences or damage improvements. There’s also a throw option available, which allows you to throw enemies at the screen in a nod to Turtles in Time, and a chargeable special attack that affects an area of enemies. But neither of these effect anything but the enemy you’re attacking, with thrown enemies in particular bouncing off anyone else.

Ultimately, a general lack of finesse and skill required to beat the levels is what really holds this game back. Enemies are thrown at you in waves, yet can be easily dispatched by repeated attacks, while the lack of a block or counter button means confronting enemies is a case of attack or be attacked. Much like any arcade game, this chaotic approach is fun for a time, but as the stages pile up it quickly becomes apparent that there are no new ideas coming in, and stage 14 is very much the same as stage 1.

What this means is that you dive into a level, dispatch a screen full of remarkably incompetent Kraang, move on and repeat. Boss battles break up the monotony, but they are rarely more than a case of dodging three of four attacks and then attacking them; all this results in an experience that quickly feels familiar, and once you’ve completed the 3 hour campaign, you’ll certainly feel like you’ve had enough of it.

There’s also a very obvious lack of multiplayer in the 3DS version, and when playing alone your brothers will often just stand around and not help clear the screen. On the rare occasion they do help, it can be something of a mixed blessing, with enemies with shields often trapped in corners making them invulnerable to attack, something which can only be solved by switching turtle and releasing the enemy.

The game also tasks you with hunting down mutagen canisters, which can be found on the streets or, when prompted, found by using the T-Scanner. The scanner is controlled using the gyro in the 3DS; it's simply a case of pointing it at a lock and pressing ‘open’, but it’s a nice addition nonetheless.

But while the gameplay quickly becomes repetitive, there’s still a lot to love about this game for fans of the show. While it’s clear that the gameplay is targeted at a young audience — though even they are likely to get bored of it before the finale three hours later — the styling of the game to be based on the show means that fans will spend those three hours picking up brilliant little franchise nods.

Alongside the narrative sequences that already feel like a part of the show, in-game dialogue between the Turtles is sure to bring a laugh, with Mikey in particular coming up with his usual hilarious nonsense. While a lot of these lines become repetitive after a while, attacking a Kraang only to hear it reply “right in the Kraang” is always funny, as is Mikey yelling “cowabu--- I mean, booyakasha!” or Leo’s cry of “turtle power!”, a subtle nod to the series’ legacy.

The stages themselves are also full of love for the show, with every level being based on an actual set from an episode. Be it exploring the Dojo, riding on top of the Shellraiser, or assaulting Shredder’s Lair, everything is detailed and styled exactly like the show; one stage in particular has you running around New York’s streets, and eagle-eyed fans will undoubtedly spot locations from previous episodes.

The power-ups also pay reference to the show, with ninja smoke bombs (which are as fun as Mikey would have you believe) and throwing stars making appearances, while health items include pizza and bowls of worms and algae, a nice nod to the first episode.

And all this is presented in a style that feels at home alongside the show. While the plot doesn’t sync in with the on-going TV arc, feeling more like a lost episode, the game has the style of the show, and while the graphics aren’t as good as they could be, it feels like it was cast from the same mould. The audio work however is something that constantly disappoints, with random spikes in sound level and quality often muffling dialogue during cutscenes.

Conclusion

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for 3DS isn’t a definitive TMNT experience, but it is one that handles the source material with care. While the gameplay is often shallow and quickly repetitive, the attention to detail and the inclusion of the TV voice cast make this feel true to the show; yet a lack of multiplayer does hinder the overall experience. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an incredibly hard sell to anyone who isn’t heavily invested in the show already, but there’s probably just enough content in here to keep fans entertained for a few hours.

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User Comments (37)

Knux

#1

Knux said:

I wonder if the Wii version is better or worse than this one?

Tasuki

#2

Tasuki said:

Is it that hard to capture the magic of the Konami TMNT Arcade games? I guess it is otherwise these games wouldn't be so bad.

suburban_sensei

#3

suburban_sensei said:

Excluding Turtles in Time, I can't really think of a great Turtles game, sadly. I am a big fan of the old show, Turtles in Time, and the movies, but can't really get into the new show, maybe I should give it another shot. This is a pretty typical score, I remember the last TMNT game I played was that Smash Bros. clone on the Wii, it was so "blah."

Chris720

#4

Chris720 said:

Wait... When did this game happen? I've heard nothing about this until I saw this review.

Kaze_Memaryu

#5

Kaze_Memaryu said:

Hm... sad. I like the show, and yet I couldn't expect a really good game - I generally can't remember to have ever played a Nickelodeon game that was well-made in terms of gameplay.
But I'm a bit confused: even though you said 05/10, the review itself sounded more like a 06/10.

shinokami

#6

shinokami said:

its funny how no one has tried to go out from the SNES's shadow. Do people realize what TMNT means? Teenage Mutant NINJA Turtles. So much you could do and no one has even bothered to

JQuest

#8

JQuest said:

@suburban_sensei the first TMNT arcade game was pretty great Tournament Fighters was decent for what it was, but I agree Turtles in Time was top notch and still my favorite TMNT game. Concerning the series, you should really give the new one another shot. I was like you. I wasn't sure Nickelodeon was going to do them justice when they bought the franchise, especially when I found out it was CGI, but man I was blown away! It's right up there with original cartoon. I'd almost say it's better. As the article says, it treads that awkward line between paying homage to the past and blazing a new trail. It does a pretty darn good job at it.

MAB

#9

MAB said:

Yep, that 3rd party support is really looking good on 3DS ;)

NbaJunkie

#10

NbaJunkie said:

meant more for small kids.Bought as an xmas gift. My 5 year old going on 6 will love it. There arent many games accessible to him on the 3ds. So this fits the bill..

BulbasaurusRex

#11

BulbasaurusRex said:

@Knux I've rented the Wii version, and it's exactly like this review states with the addition of multiplayer: Good writing and voice acting, decent but very shallow gameplay, lousy sound (the really weak sound effects for hitting enemies really takes away from the immersion), terrible AI for both allies and enemies, and a general lack of polish all-around.

I do have to agree that the cartoon itself is brilliantly done in the way it attracts both old and new fans. It cracked me up this morning when the Turtles tried (and failed miserably) to make breakfast a la Darkwing Duck. No, Raph, you can't make OJ by stabbing a pair of oranges with your sais.

Dpullam

#13

Dpullam said:

I remember watching an episode of this show a while back and I thought it was pretty funny not to mention original. It's too bad this game isn't quite up to the show's standards. Oh well.

JQuest

#14

JQuest said:

@BulbasaurusRex haha. Is it me, or did Mikey's zits totally gross you out. It was almost disturbing to look at. Lol. I thoroughly enjoyed the call back to Rahzar

JQuest

#15

JQuest said:

@BulbasaurusRex I never got to play Hyperstone. I may have to track that down someday, and yeah how could I forget TMNT 3. That one was pretty good.

brandonbwii

#16

brandonbwii said:

@shinokami
Dangerous territory my friend. When it comes right down to it, the various animations are about fighting, not grace. Not to kids at least. I'd love for more character special techniques though.

The score is a bit higher than I expected. I thought it'd be in 3/10 range. This review actually encourages me to give this a rent.

ferthepoet

#17

ferthepoet said:

it's a shame the 3 NES classics would likely never be released in VC due to licensing issues

TwilightV

#18

TwilightV said:

This series is really fun. I hope they improve upon this game with the next one, maybe even get a different publisher if necessary.

FluttershyGuy

#20

FluttershyGuy said:

It sounds like this is "better" than most TMNT games, but it's been sad seeing the franchise fall so far games-wise since the Turtles in Time pinnacle over 20 years ago.

Strange thing is, all these years and generations after we saw many franchises born (in the NES/SNES days), many have such a hard time recapturing their old magic. Some of those franchises are in limbo, or simply dead! I wonder if it's us, with rose-tinted glasses, or some developers forgot how to make magical games that stick with us?

Ironically, it seems that short of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, Konami has fallen as far as the TMNT games have in the 21 years since SNES Turtles in Time. Konami has almost disappeared altogether.

ogo79

#21

ogo79 said:

still trying? i admire the persistence, but tmnt were over after the snes genesis and arcade versions.

MAB

#22

MAB said:

@ogo79 Activision would've been better off making it FPS, add on multiplayer, give the turtles guns, kill streaks then top it all off with DLC... A 3DS smash hit right there ;)

WaveBoy

#23

WaveBoy said:

@Tasuki
Seems like the last decent TMNT title to pave the way was this little stinker on the GBA that nobody bothered to play. It may have received pretty decent reviews but i find the visuals and soundtrack to be pretty lacking. doesn't seem to capture the magic of Konami TMNT beat em' ups.

Mommar

#24

Mommar said:

@CountWavula
You know, I actually bought that game based on the positive reviews and they were sadly wrong. It must have been wishful delusion on the reviewers part because the game was just slow and boring and unmemorable.

8bitforever

#25

8bitforever said:

I think everyone is forgetting that the old arcade games didn't have complex combos either. You had one button to attack and one to jump. So both games have a similar control scheme but yet the new is criticized in every review for not being as good as the original. I love the old arcade games but when did any brawler have complex combos. This game is better than I expected and very fun. I like being able to switch between turtles on the fly. It is worth checking out. Don't let nostalgia blur the truth.

Wildfire

#26

Wildfire said:

TMNT long time fan here! This review made me the impression that it can be fun for a fan of the series so I think I'll get it anyway. My only doubt is if I'll buy it for 3DS or Wii. Also reviews bashed Double Dragon Neon and I ended up loving it!

Tender_Cutlet

#27

Tender_Cutlet said:

Hyperstone Heist was a great game - one of the best on the Genesis and 2nd only to SOR2 in it's library of brawlers IMO. It was also the first TMNT console port to use the "shell shocked!" quote when losing a life if i'm not mistaken - found here in the title of this review.

technotreegrass

#30

technotreegrass said:

I'm glad the game sounds like it's playable and not hindered by lousy controls. I don't mind sacrificing complexity so long as little kids, the target audience for this game, can play it and have a decent experience.

At this rate, I ask for a Virtual Console release of Turtles in Time, and not that crappy HD remake on Xbox Live Arcade, because it seems like that's the only masterpiece Turtles game we're going to get.

Dpishere

#31

Dpishere said:

@technotreegrass Agreed about Turtles in Time, had many good times playing that game at the arcade. Especially when two random strangers decide to jump in to help me and my bro out!

ricklongo

#32

ricklongo said:

The nostalgic in me would want nothing less than a new TMNT game to do justice to the old NES/SNES/Arcade entries. The realist in me knows better than to really expect that, sadly.

GazPlant

#34

GazPlant said:

@Wildfire I loved it, but it was just far too simplistic for a mainstream audience. If you're a big fan, I'd definitely recommend it, for the script if nothing else!

Wildfire

#35

Wildfire said:

@Tender_Cutlet That's indeed one of my artworks. Thanks!Really glad you liked it! ;)

@GazPlant Yup!That's exactly what I thought when reading the review and I'm totally going to get it now! Thanks! ^_^

TySoN_F

#36

TySoN_F said:

I liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games for the Gamecube that were based around the 2003 series. The sequels had cool unlocks, bonuses, and even featured clips from the show.

Haven't gotten the chance to check the new TMNT show (I would probably love it though). But this game seems cool enough for me to pick up when the price lowers!

odd69

#37

odd69 said:

has anyone seen those tmnt re-issues action figures? they took the 80's toys and brought them back( they look SO exact even has the brown weapons and all), I bought all four turtles lol it was pure nostalgic, i played with these toys in the late 80's and i watched the show from the 80's. Lets not forget the movies lol.So i got those suckers hanging on my wall

anyway they are only out for a little bit you should grab em if you grew up with the turtles. back when 'cowabunga' was their favorite term

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