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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan

Score: 50%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: PlatinumGames
Media: Download/1
Players: 1; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Action/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan comes to us from PlatinumGames, the esteemed Japanese studio responsible for modern action classics like Bayonetta and Vanquish. They also happen to be the development house behind the Legend of Korra, a woefully bad action game that regrettably has much more in common with the object of this review. The heroes in a half shell are often fondly remembered when it comes to video games; while this can be almost exclusively attributed to titles such as The Manhattan Project and Turtles in Time, the arcade magic of those games has proven elusive. Had Platinum given this property the care and attention they gave Transformers and Metal Gear, this could have been a match made in heaven. Sadly, Mutants in Manhattan has almost nothing going for it, and is worth neither your time nor your money.

Perhaps the only thing Mutants in Manhattan gets right is the art design. Character design is absolutely on point, and hearkens back to the original comic books. The Turtles themselves look like the characters of a really high quality graphic novel. Unfortunately, none of this style carries over to the level design, which is as rote and boring as it could possibly get. You get a cookie cutter city populated with buildings that are almost identical to each other. Id praise the animation work if I could make sense of it; regardless of which Turtle youre controlling, combat almost always devolves into a nonsensical explosion of special effects and character models.

Mutants in Manhattan doesn't feature a catchy soundtrack like those of Turtles games past. In fact, the music is blandness personified. But thankfully, it generally stays out of the way throughout the entire experience. Sound effects are decent, but unremarkable. Given the impact-free nature of the combat, I suppose that was inevitable from the start. Voice acting is clearly the strong point of the sound design; characters' personalities are allowed to shine over the mindless dreck that occupies the screen most of the time. Since the Turtles themselves have very specific personalities, this was probably an easy thing to accomplish. But given the number of things that went wrong with this game, small victories are to be celebrated.


Gameplay:

Context is often an afterthought in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, and so it is with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan. All you need to know is that the usual rogues gallery is up to no good, and Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo must take to the streets (and of course, below) to deliver a beatdown to the likes of Shredder, Krang, Bebop, Rocksteady, and others.

Mutants in Manhattan fancies itself a quasi open-world action beat-em-up. I suppose it earns that classification, but not without the inclusion of several enormous asterisks. First off; the open world is sterile and nearly completely devoid of life. All that exists in the play space is the Turtles, their enemies, some collectibles, and some of the most boring level design in years. Over the course of the short Campaign, you'll trek through empty New York streets featuring buildings that range from almost-identical to completely identical. You'll fight a ton of thick-skinned clones (which is actually acceptable, given the license) while completing objectives that range from inane to boring. And then once you've progressed enough, it's time to fight a boss. Bosses are the high point of the experience, but that's not saying much.

You can play Mutants in Manhattan on your own or with up to three others. All I can say is that misery loves company.


Difficulty:

Had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan possessed a combat system as nuanced as Platinum's better titles, it might have provided a decent challenge. Indeed, the game's tutorial leaves a very positive first impression by introducing a handful of mechanics designed to spice up the two-button combat system. Alas, they're all completely unnecessary. Button-mashing is the most viable and effective strategy for the grand majority of the game. After all, you likely won't have a clue what's actually going on at the core of each brawl, and you certainly won't be able to leverage the game's more unique mechanics in these situations.

Boss fights are much more difficult than the standard enemy encounters, and they generally represent a welcome change of pace to the usual mindlessness. Noticing attack patterns and tells are hugely important, but even if you fall in battle, your allies will almost always be there to pick you up and get you back into the fight. So ultimately, any substantive challenges must be self-imposed, because the game doesn't really bother with that.


Game Mechanics:

PlatinumGames has a reputation of building action games that are simple, but deep. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan aspires to stand alongside the titles that earned that reputation, but fails rather spectacularly. What makes this instance so particularly painful is the fact that the makings of a good combat system are there, in plain sight. Light and heavy attacks? Check. An evasion mechanic? Check. Special abilities that can be upgraded? It's all here. But nobody can be expected to leverage each nuance on demand when all the necessary visual and tactile cues are buried underneath a heap of nonsense. It's the equivalent of trying to execute a complex strategy in the middle of one of those cartoon brawls that swallow the involved parties in a giant cloud of debris. You simply can't. And as a result, each combat encounter is a dull affair, something to get past. For an action game, that's just plain unacceptable.

You can technically approach each situation with a different strategy in mind, but as I said, the only practically viable one is "mash buttons to win." But if you're absolutely determined to play the game the way it's meant to be played, don't say I didn't warn you. Stealth takedowns are an option for solitary individuals, but the stealth is so weak it might as well not even be called that. And all it really nets you in the end is a one-hit kill, meaning one less enemy to waste five seconds of your time. Currency and experience earned in battle can be given to Splinter in exchange for new and more powerful Ninjutsu attacks, as well as consumables - the only noteworthy one being pizza. Ninjutsu attacks are Turtle-specific and operate on a cooldown system. They often add an infusion of flair to the confusing mayhem, but ultimately, they feel like means to multiple ends. In an action game, the player shouldn't feel the desire to end the action as quickly as possible.

I suppose for every Bayonetta, we need a Legend of Korra. If that's what it takes to even out the scales, I suppose it's worth it. Who am I kidding? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is not fun, and you should not play it.

Editor's note: Activision provided us with a code for review of this game.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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