Konami's upcoming sequel to last year's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action game is scheduled for release later this month, and we recently got our hands on an almost-finished PlayStation 2 version of the game. We won't be reviewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus for a couple of weeks yet, so to satiate your cravings for all things turtle-shaped, we've played through the first few chapters of the game to give you some idea of how the game is looking.
The good news this time around, in case you missed it in our previous coverage of the game, is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus will support simultaneous play for up to four players which, let's face it, is the way that any video game starring Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael should be played. This is particularly true of Battle Nexus, because even if you play the game with less than four controllers, you'll find that all of the turtles' specialist skills are required at one time or another as you progress. When less than four of you are playing, one or two of you will get to choose multiple turtles at the start of the game that you can subsequently switch between at the touch of a button. Intriguingly, it's not just the turtles under your own control that will share a single health bar, but it's all four of them, so there's nothing to be gained by swapping out a character that's close to death or, crucially, by watching your comrades get beaten up while you wander around collecting power-ups and suchlike. You'll need to work as a team to overcome many of the obstacles and enemies in Battle Nexus, and it'll help to make the occasionally awkward camera angles more bearable, too.
The turtles' basic combat skills in the game don't feel significantly different for the most part, but you'll definitely notice that some of them have a harder time against certain enemies than others. You'll also notice that their special moves, which are activated by holding down the strong attack button for a few seconds, are very different. Raphael, for example, is able to surround himself with a ring of fire momentarily, while Donatello can spend a second or two underneath an impenetrable force field. Michelangelo and Leonardo both have projectile attacks, although their range is so limited that they're really only useful against some of the slowest moving enemies. The attacks that the turtles perform when in midair are also quite varied, and they include vertical dives, flying kicks, and Michelangelo's signature move that sees him using his nunchakus as helicopter blades and hovering across the screen with his feet kicking. All of the turtles appear to have their own uses in non-combat situations as well, with abilities such as using computer terminals to deactivate security systems, hitting switches to make new platforms appear, and attacking pillars until they fall over and create a bridge to a new area. For the most part, you'll find that your progress through levels is linear, but we've noticed a couple of instances where there's more than one way for the turtles to proceed.
When you're not engaged in combat with the evil forces of Shredder, you'll invariably find yourself jumping between platforms and negotiating traps. You can expect moving platforms, crumbling platforms, tilting platforms--all of the platform game staples essentially. You'll find that none of the platform action is too taxing when you play the game solo, but that certain areas become trickier with every additional player onscreen. There have been plenty of occasions when we've fallen, of course, but these have almost always been because we've not noticed that our controls have been temporarily reversed by an enemy attack--which can happen enough to drive you nuts, particularly if there are a lot of those bats flying around that are difficult to target. Thankfully, Battle Nexus doesn't feature lives as such, and so any time you or one of your colleagues jump off of a cliff you'll merely make a dent in your shared energy bar, which is replenished any time you find a slice of pizza or glass of coke.
In addition to the regular levels, we've encountered two "driving" levels thus far, one set in an underground cavern somewhere near New York and the other on the icy Planet Zero. Your objective on these rail shooter-style levels is to collect silver and gold coins that are scattered everywhere while swerving left and right and jumping to avoid hazardous drops and obstacles. We invariably ended up playing these levels as if they were competitive, but the unlockable prizes awarded at the end of each one are actually based on the total number of coins collected by the whole team.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 is currently scheduled for release on the PC and all current-generation consoles on October 19. Expect a full review of the game at that time.