Developer: Red Fly Studio | Publisher: Activision | Played On: Xbox 360 | Price: $14.99 | ESRB: Teen [Violence]
When referencing the greatest beat ‘em ups of all time, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game inevitably shows up on the list. Whether it’s the excellent Arcade Game or Turtles in Time, chances are Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael make the cut.—so it makes sense people get excited when a new TMNT-themed brawler is announced. Based on the Nickelodeon animated series, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the newest game to feature the heroes—and while die hard Turtle fanatics will love the adherence to the source material, sloppy controls, glitches, and many minor nuisances keep the game from being as memorable an experience as the earlier games.
Rather than choosing just one turtle to kick ass with, you swap between all four on the fly. Each of the turtles handle differently: Donatello, for example, can use his intelligence to hack into computers easier than his brothers; Raphael likes to get up close to his opposition and pummel them to a pulp with his mighty punches; Leonardo can boost his teammates through his leadership expertise; and Michelangelo is the fastest of the group. Though combat handles largely the same between characters, I like how each turtle is unique, and having them swappable comprised a balanced team.
Battling bad guys is what the Ninja Turtles do, and Out of the Shadows features a surprisingly deep combat system. The game plays very similar to the Batman: Arkham series of brawlers: you automatically target enemies close to you and frequently jump between baddies as you kick, punch, and throw bodies all across the screen. Yet, even though it worked for Batman it doesn’t flow the same for the turtles. Mastering simple combos are easy enough, but throw in blocking, countering, rolling, jumping, evading, team attacks, selecting and using weapons—and having to flick the right analog stick and hold down multiple triggers at the same time to do all this—and the gameplay gets damn near impossible to keep straight. It’s nice to have a variety of attacks and special moves at your disposal but with so much to remember combat comes off as a cumbersome mess of inputs. Add to that the ability to learn even more intricate and unique special moves when you level up… and the problems swell.
Making matters worse are the controls; even if you remember exactly how to pull off a Turtle Power KO, doing so is a different story. There is a slight delay between hitting the button and your turtle doing the move, so you end up hitting the button again only to have your character perform the first and second attacks back-to-back. This becomes troublesome: by the time you start your second attack you need to block the enemy’s incoming blow, but CAN’T because you’re locked into the unwanted move. Making matters even worse, sometimes your attacks won’t even register at all, so you can expect at times to be just sitting there doing nothing and screaming at your TV.
It’s easy to suspect the turtles’ greatest threat in the game is Shredder but you’d be mistaken. The worst foe standing in your way is the camera. Far too often the camera decides to swing behind a pole or some other object on the battlefield and obstruct your view. The camera automatically moves to accommodate where you move to and that’s the issue: though you can manually shift the camera with the right analog stick, having to constantly adjust the camera while trying to manage the clunky controls is an awful combination.
Surprisingly all of these aforementioned low points are manageable, but there’s one last aspect about TMNT: OOTS that’s completely out of your control: glitches. There are dozens of bugs within this game. On several levels I clipped through an entire wall. One time I actually fell through the floor. My personal favorite glitch was during a boss battle, when everything on the screen turned white with just black outlines indicating where enemies were on the screen. At first I thought it was some crazy weapon used by Baxter Stockman, but it turns out the game just freaked out on me. While playing the challenge mode, which is essentially a survival mode that has you facing waves of enemies in succession, I could only complete three of the requisite six waves because after the third the game simply kicked me back to the title screen!
Glitches seem to happen more often when playing multiplayer, but that doesn’t mean the solo player is off the hook.
Speaking of multiplayer, playing offline split-screen co-op is actually pretty cool. Each player gets half the screen and they’re free to roam around the entire level independently of one another. I really enjoyed being able to freely explore while the rest of the gang pressed on. Given how atrocious the AI is during solo play—I can’t even count the number of times the computer controlled Turtles simply looked at the enemies instead of fought them—I appreciated multiplayer so much more. The game also supports online co-op, and hopping online is simple, but unfortunately playing the game after connecting to everyone is a pain. Serious lag issues hinder the experience and the aforementioned bugs begin to pile up when online.
Amidst all the chaos there are some good points. Perhaps the greatest achievement the game nails is capturing the essence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each turtle acts like you’d imagine them to act: Donnie is the tech guy that knows all about computers, Leo is the leader and is always thinking justly, Raph speaks more with his fists than his mouth, and Mike blabbers on about eating pizza and wondering what his life would be like if he had Don’s voice. Throughout the game the turtles banter amongst one another and, for the most part, it’s funny.
The main story mode only has four chapters, each taking about an hour to complete, but there are other avenues to keep you busy. An arcade mode is available from the beginning and plays just like the side scrolling arcade game of yore while retaining Out of the Shadows visual style and gameplay. The previously mentioned challenge stages can suck up your time—assuming they work for you—and Master Splinter’s training room can help you hone your skills.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows has all the trimmings of a fantastic brawler, but none of it works as it should. For every highlight the game showcases there are multiple failures: shoddy controls, a complicated combat system, and far too many glitches. The greatest accomplishment the game has to offer is accurately portraying the turtles and little else. TMNT: OOTS is a broken but playable mess that only absolutely dedicated TMNT fans will be able to endure.
+ The banter between the Turtles is well done
- A mountain of glitches
- Overly complicated combat and poor controls
4.5 / 10