A game that may have worked on paper, yet fails in execution.
Just about any recent game that's based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise quite frankly sucks. Gamers have already learned this lesson the hard way, yet the developers themselves never gotten the message unfortunately. One after the other, a game based on the heroes of the half-shell don't seem to cut it right. In order to combat this, nostalgia is the way to go, just by playing the games that were such a hit back on the 90s. Who could ever forget Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II on the NES or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV - Turtles In Time on the SNES? Unfortunately, the developers never took a page from the past and tried to come up with something new here, a Prince Of Persia wannabe that's directly aimed at the kid audience. Yet it is not entirely surprising to discover that fact, considering another fact that it was developed by Ubisoft Montreal, who were the ones responsible for the recent Prince Of Persia games. So why is it that this game fails to honor TMNT in a good way? The answer is very simple. Bad cameras, an annoying control scheme, and dull, pointless fighting.
This newest installment follows the heroes in a half shell in a story that stays faithful to the movie. A family that was once united is now broken. All four turtles have gone their separate ways, struggling in their own way. Eventually, through patience and perseverance, they eventually unite and become a team in order to take on a new threat that looms over New York City. The events that unfold tell the same exact tale that you'll witness in the movie, just done through individual viewpoints. Each of the turtles, along with their master, Splinter, explain the story in their own words, all revealed through flashback narration. As you progress in each stage, more dialogue from the heroes is offered to provide more insight into these characters. Granted, players should not be diving into the game with the mindset that it will be a satisfying, thought-provoking tale. It is not. Instead, you'll get a story that does the movie justice, but won't keep you glued to your television sets for a long while. The dialogue and voice acting is fine for what it is, the lines delivered accurately, the words used well to set the tone, even the lines provide a chuckle or two. But in the end, the story is the least of its problems.
Yet not all is bleak within the world of TMNT. There are actually some enjoyable moments, especially one in the form of platforming. In fact, you'll spend most of your time in the game jumping, double jumping, wall-to-wall jumping, and monkey bar jumping from one place to the next, all done with relative ease. In some stages, you'll take one turtle and set out from point A to point B, using their specific skills to make it through the areas. Environments such as jungles, mountains, and the rooftops of New York City will be your playgrounds and it is not hard to get lost in the environment at all. In some areas, players may be required to try something extra. For instance, using one of Raphel's sais, you can climb up on buildings, like a person climbing on a mountain. If you're having difficulty reaching another platform, jump into the air with Michaelango and use your nunchuaks as helicopter blades to float you over. Of course, there are some instances where you may require the assistance of another turtle to carry you over to the next platform as well. If you are familiar with the platforming action, that's because it is highly reminiscent of the recent Prince Of Persia games. The difference, however, lies from the difficulty. Since this is a game that's aimed at the kid audience, difficulty has been dropped significantly. Most, if not all levels, take about ten or fifteen minutes to complete without any further frustration. All told, the platforming is perhaps the best part of the game, relying on quick-time movements, along with quick thinking, to navigate through the stages with relative ease.
Unfortunately, even if the difficulty of the platforming aspect has been dumbed down a bit, that doesn't mean that it is all sunshine and rainbows. One of the biggest problems a few platofmers has faced in the past is the issues that stem from the fixed camera and it shows here. Some of the shots the developer decided to use makes it sometimes impossible to tell how far you need to go to make a successful jump happen without dying. Even if you make the right judgment and press the jump button more than once, the game will come to think that you overstepped it. Therefore, gamers may have to rely on trial-and-error tactics to get the job done. And then there are the controls that don't help much either. If you press the jump button more than once, the game will come to think that you overstepped your boundaries and fall to your doom, even if you move into the right direction and that's not often the game either. Although you can never lose any lives in this game, the game restarts you back to the last checkpoint that you saved in, that's frustrating, especially when you've gotten quite far and didn't make it to the next checkpoint and have to start way back for a bit. For a kid's game, these issues should never even exist, although typical audiences that enjoy their platformers should expect these types of problems to occur for a platformer.
As the gamer gets deeper into the game, you'll come across battles. Battles that are both pointless and dull. In each level, you'll sporadically come across a generic group of thugs and ninjas that you must dispatch before moving on. Each turtle has only one specific combo to use by pressing the attack button, an earthquake move that causes the opponent to lose their balance temporarily, and even team moves between the turtles to destroy your foes in one hit. Unfortunately, the biggest problem in the combat also comes from the artificial intelligence. There is literally no life from your foes, except to try and smack you in your direction. The best way to deal with these foes is to constantly mash away at the attack button while moving in their direction, use the occasional tag-team move, and you're pretty much go to good. There is no excitement from the action and it becomes nothing but a repetitive chore to go through. Combat was a lot more fun in a TMNT game years ago, but to see it reduced down to this is quite frightening. Of course, keep in mind that this is a kid's game and since the game play has been scaled drastically, it shouldn't come as no surprise as to how easy combat can be, yet difficult at the same time. Camera once again plays a major role in hurting the combat scheme, as it is frustrating to not see who is attacking you every now and then, forcing you to wonder why you got hit if you never saw it coming in the first place. You'd think that Ubisoft Montreal would have taken their sweet time to polish up the combat a bit more. But how fun can it be if you only possess one combo to use against your foes and just mash away without much trouble, even if the enemy is able to get a few cheap shots at you every now and then? Not a fun experience.
That said, even if you manage to complete the single-player campaign, you'll unlock challenge maps, which are actually a lot more fun to do than anything else in the game. Going with what you learned, you are required to use both your platforming and fighting skills to the max, ranking in the best time possible. Your reward, depending on the time, are golden turtle coins, which can be used to unlock extras, such as a few movies that offer a sneak peek of the move itself to artwork. Nothing exactly new, but it does give you something to go after. You can also earn more golden turtle coins in the single player campaign, depending on how well you do in each and every level, such as fighting off the bad guys without being hit. Since the game is made for all available systems, including the Wii, this is a stand-alone challenge worth pursuing. However, the XBox 360 earns more challenge as you have to also earn achievements, all of them not too remarkably difficult. Most of them deal with just completing one level after the next in succession and others have you do a turtle's specific special move without a hitch. And once you've beaten the game, got all the best times, and unlocked everything in the game, you've pretty much accomplished everything you wanted to do in TMNT, ultimately making it a short time for all to experience.
Graphically, the game resembles the look and feel of the movie itself. All turtles animate pretty well and the level structure isn't actually bad for a change, some are elaborate and set up properly for each of the individual turtle. The frame rate tends to slow down, especially when there is so much going on the screen, the XB360 unfortunately possessing the worst case. Even with those two issues alone, it is still a pleasurable sight to see for the eyes. Musically and sound wise, you really won't find much here either, as the actors deliver their lines fine and help tell the story as you progress through the adventure. The music, however, is completely forgettable and adds nothing new or exciting to the atmosphere. In other words, do not come to expect a soundtrack that would feel pleasing to the ears, because you're simply out of luck on that one.
TMNT is, simply put, an atrocious platformer that should never have existed. While the platforming elements did the job just fine, the abysmal fighting engine, poor camera scheme, bad controls, and lack of energy and excitement does nothing for the legacy of the TMNT except to tarnish it. This is better off considered as a rental and not as a purchase and only for those who wish to gain more achievements to add up to their gamer points on XBox Live. It only takes about a couple of days to storm through the adventure with relative ease and after you complete everything the game offers to you, you won't find much here. If anything, stick with the TMNT games that did work, such as the aforementioned TMNT II or the upcoming remake of Turtles In Time on XBox Live Arcade, which will be made available this week as of this writing. It is safe to say that this is a god-awful excuse of a game that should have neither been created nor published for the eyes to see. Unfortunately, some developers and their bosses only care about millions and sadly, this game does the trick. Avoid it like the plague.