Recommended only to diehard Turtles fans or those with a serious achievement point addiction.
The game’s story (and that term is used loosely) has the turtles telling stories of their exploits to Splinter, the rat-like head of the Ninja Turtle clan. So each of the game’s sixteen levels functions as a flashback, ostensibly telling a part of the greater plot. Without any exposition from the film, however, almost none of the story sequences make any sense. Levels are typically far-removed from one another, going from a forest or cavernous environment to a gritty, stylized view of a metropolis without much explanation. So if you’re looking for a true companion to the film or the extended mythos of the Ninja Turtles, you won’t find it in TMNT.
What will you will find, though, is some decent (if a little half-baked) platforming sequences mixed with drab combat. Thankfully, emphasis is placed on the former. The game’s opening levels give you control of one specific turtle, although the ability to change to any turtle becomes available soon after. Not that it really matters; aside from a few very specific instances (like walls that can only be scaled with Raphael’s sai blades), the turtles handle identically. Each of their weapons seem to do the same amount of damage, and each can perform your basic platforming maneuvers such as double-jumping and hopping back and forth between walls to scale them. Most of these controls work great, although a huge oversight was to limit in-air control of your jumps, which can make sections with lots of fast-moving boobytraps more frustrating than they probably should be.
Levels typically take place on city rooftops, and they’re fairly organically designed, naturally guiding you from one piece of wild footwork to the next. You’ll be jumping across balloons from a street parade, running across walls and swinging around on poles, all within the span of five minutes. There’s not a whole lot of challenge to these sections – they definitely look more dangerous than they play – but the fluidity of them lends these portions of TMNT a palpable level of enjoyment. There are even a few tag-team style moves that lend an extra layer of intricacy to the game; switching turtles in the middle of jump, for example, will cause the turtle being switched out to vault the new one forward for more leverage that’ll cross the biggest chasm.
Unfortunately, the camera likes to step in and ruin the fun. Instead of giving you control over the viewing angle with the right stick, TMNT uses an automated camera that often gives you a shot of the action that’s far too tight. The camera will begin panning to show you which direction to go next, which keeps things moving along, but oftentimes seeing what’s up ahead isn’t a possibility. As you might expect, this can lead to some pretty cheap deaths that are mildly annoying to older players but could be angering for younger ones. Some occasionally weird angles also make it difficult to gauge jumps, which further detracts from the fun.
The camera does a better job during the fight sequences. Not that it matters, though, since TMNT’s snooze-inducing combat is of little worth to your enjoyment of the game. Using any of the four turtles, you take a run at the dozens of enemies the game throws at you and tap on the ‘B’ button and watch as your enemies go down in two or three hits. That’s it. There’s no combo system or anything of the sort – you’ll be watching the same five or six strung together animations for each turtle over and over again. There’s a block button, sure, but you’ll almost never have to use it, save for maybe one of the few flat boss encounters in the game. The bosses are in some ways even easier than the regular battles, since you won’t even need to look out for attacks from different locations – just run and mash in one direction, and you’re OK.
Unfortunately, you won’t exactly get to glide through the boring combat on account of attractive visuals, either. Clearly designed for older hardware, TMNT on the 360 is overwhelmingly bland. Artistically, it matches the banal style of its film inspiration. The lighting and shading on the environments make each piece of scenery pop out slightly, making the levels feel pieced together, as though they don’t quite mesh like they should. And despite the visual plainness, the frame rate has a tendency to chop up, seemingly at random. It’s not a total throwaway – the 360 version benefits from high-definition clarity and a few extra flourishes of environmental detail. This definitely isn’t a way to show off your console’s power.
The audio is serviceable and blends in dutifully with the action, seemingly with no desire to stand out. The little music the game has is completely forgettable, but the game’s sound effects and voice acting, while not spectacular, get the job done. The only truly unfortunate part of the audio is that many of the Turtles’ one-liners – which weren’t funny in the first place – get repeated constantly as you go through the game, and they wear out their welcome almost instantly.
In all, TMNT mixes serviceable acrobatics with flat combat and a non-sensical story. This one’s recommended only to diehard Turtles fans or those with a serious achievement point addiction.