Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (XB)

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare (XB)
Developer: Konami
Distributor: Konami
Genre: Action
Release Date: 11/01/05

If you are like me, you remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as being a group of pizza eating, wise cracking, “cowabunga, dude!” saying, campy super heroes that graced our televisions back in the late 80s. They became so popular that they produced three feature films, a dozen or so video games, and garnered a legion of fans. And then they up and disappeared.

A few years ago a new TMNT showed up on our televisions. Only this one was much different than what most of us remember from our childhood. These turtles are more serious, darker, and much closer to the original Mirage comic books that spawned them in the first place. They even get away with a very mild form of cursing by using “shell” instead of “hell”. It caught on fairly well with audiences, and it was only a matter of time before we started seeing new TMNT video games.

Three new ones, in fact. The latest, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare, just recently hit the shelves. But with all the other games out there vying for your attention, and your hard earned dollars, is this one really worth it?


1. STORY

The game starts off with a fairly well animated cut scene showing a race of dinosaur looking aliens called Triceratons invading the earth from outer space. Their goal is to find a particular teleportation device that will aid them in their conquest of the Earth and other planets. Until then, they spend their time rampaging around the planet, sending down hundreds of shuttles and thousands of troops. With Earth’s armies mostly helpless against this onslaught, it seems certain that the Earth will be taken over.

However, in New York City, the four Ninja Turtles decide that they have to fight back. Sure, they probably can’t save the world, but they can at least try to protect their city. And thus you set out on a number of short missions to defeat the Triceratons and hopefully save the world.

The story basically follows the plotline set down in the new animated show, so fans of the series will probably enjoy it. That being said, it’s pretty cookie cutter, and a lot of the little story snippets you receive will be your standard “Earth is being invaded!” plot devices. It’s effective enough in giving you a reason for your actions, but it’s certainly not going to wow anyone, and after the first few missions, the plot seems to become less important.

Story Score: 3/10


2. GRAPHICS

The graphics attempt to look like the television series, and for the most part do a pretty decent job. The cel-shading looks good and gives the game a unique appearance. However, the character models themselves aren’t very well detailed and don’t move very fluidly. There also seems to be a lot of jagged edges on both the character models and the backgrounds.

Textures are decent, however, very repetitive. Buildings, objects, and enemies will all start to look the same after a while with very little variety. And as with the main characters, the enemies don’t move very fluidly either.

The cut scenes look like they are straight from the cartoons, for the most part, except that they are incredible washed out and not nearly as bright and vibrant as they should be. It’s almost like they have a light grey film sitting on top of them. At first I wondered if it was just the first scene, but the same strange effect was in every other scene in the game as well. So while the in game graphics are fairly crisp, if a bit date, the cut scenes don’t look nearly as good as they should have.

Overall the graphics aren’t anything that will make you stand up and take notice, and most will probably find them a bit date. They aren’t quite PlayStation or N64 level quality, but they certainly aren’t anywhere near what the Xbox is capable of producing. It may be cel-shading, but a little more care and effort could have been taken.

Graphics Score: 3/10


3. SOUND

The sounds in the game fair a little bit better than the graphics, although they suffer from the same repetition issues. Basic sound effects include laser blasts, weapon impacts, and the various noises that the turtles make in combat. However, there is a true lack of variety here, and the same noises will be heard over and over again throughout every level. By the time you’ve gotten through the first few levels of the game you’ll probably have heard every sound there is.

The music is a little less repetitive, but not by much. There are a few pieces that will recycle several times depending on what area you are in, but fortunately you won’t have to sit and listen to these for very long as most stages are fairly short and straight forward. It’s not that the tunes are poor… just that there isn’t enough variety, and none of them are catchy enough to make you want to listen to them away from the game.

The voiceovers during the cut scenes are all very well done, and basically mimic the quality found in the television show. As far as I can tell, the voice cast is the same one used for the show, and they all do a good job with their characters. The dialogue isn’t anything that will blow you away, but the actors seem to be having fun with it, and they make it worth watching through the cut scenes at least once.

In the end the game’s sound is a bit of a mixed bag, with far too much repetition and most of the sounds being merely serviceable. However, the voice acting does help out a little bit, even if it is only present during the cut scenes between levels.

Sound Score: 4/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

TMNT3 is basically a colorful hack and slash game, not dissimilar from the old Turtle’s games from the arcades. However, instead of playing from a side scrolling view, you get a three-quarter overhead view.

The controls are pretty straight forward, with one button for a heavy attack, one for a light, another for jump, and another to throw a shuriken. There are a few other minor controls that allow you to target an enemy and lock on, as well as switch targets, but there really aren’t a lot of reasons to use this. You can also use the direction pad to give some basic commands to your turtle allies, including assisting you and regrouping.

As mentioned, the basic gameplay involves running around and beating up your enemies. And then doing it again. And again. And again. For that matter, the entire game can be summed up in one sentence. Run around and smash the attack button. Done.

No really… that’s pretty much it. Sure, there are some basic combo attacks that can be performed with your allies, but they aren’t very impressive or very useful for that matter. Enemies tend to just run or shoot at you, and dispatching them with a few quick strikes is about all it will take to keep moving. To say that there is a lack of depth here is an understatement. However, you do have a little gauge under your life bar that will fill as you fight, and once it is full you will be able to unleash a powerful full screen attack or a nearly unblockable close range attack.

While fighting, you will be able to collect crystal. These crystals are used to purchase new combos and upgrades. Unfortunately, most of these combos aren’t any better than your normal attacks, and only add a little visual flair to the game. The one thing you can unlock which will make a difference is the Ultimate Turtle Mode that will grant your turtle enhanced attack power, combos, and speed. It’ll let you plow through enemies at a much faster rate, and is pretty much the only useful power/combo that you can pick up.

Assuming you have some friends around, you can actually hook up four controllers and play together. But if not, you will be given the option of picking which turtle you want to control, while the remainder will be controlled by the computer’s AI. While not as good as human assistance, the computer controlled turtles do a sufficient job of running around and beating up the bad guys. For that matter, if you really wanted to, you could probably hang back and let them do all the work for you. That’s not to say that the AI is perfect though. Your friends will occasionally get stuck in the geometry, and at other times an enemy will be shooting at you and they will just stand there. Still, the AI is better than a number of other games I’ve played.

Occasionally the gameplay will change up a little bit, but not enough to break up the monotony. There are a few puzzles, some basic platforming, and a little driving, but none of it lasts very long, and you’ll be back to smashing buttons in no time. The puzzles are almost insanely easy, and the driving bits are pretty basic. The platforming sections are annoying at best, and down right awful at worse, but fortunately these don’t show up very often.

When you get down to it, TMNT3 is just another beat-’em-up with overly repetitive gameplay that just isn’t all that enjoyable. There is a serious lack of combat options, and they few that do exist are pretty pointless with the exception of Ultimate Turtle Mode. What you end up with is a pretty boring and repetitive action experience that has been done much better in any number of other games, including earlier turtle games.

Control and Gameplay Score: 3/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

There are a few different modes that are unlocked after you have completed the main Story mode, including Free Battle and Challenge Mode. Free Battle is basically the story mode without actual story where you can fight harder enemies and gain more powerups. I’m not sure why you’d want to play this after beating Story mode, but the option is there.

Challenge mode is more of the same, although you don’t get the help of the other turtles. This is broken up into a Time Attack mode where you need to defeat a certain number of enemies within a set time, and Score Attack, where you try to beat your high score by defeating more enemies within a set time.

Lastly, you can unlock the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Turtles In Time game, which is almost worth going for. Almost.

Yes, there are a few options here that will encourage you to come back to the game, but other than the unlockable Turtles In Time game, the gameplay is more of the same, and I doubt most will want to keep playing the other modes once completing the main storyline.

Replayability Score: 3/10


6. BALANCE

Even with three difficulty levels this game comes in two flavors: super easy, and damned hard.

Both the Easy and Normal settings are pretty simple to beat, with only bosses offering any real challenge. You should be able to just hack and slash your way through each mission with minimal effort, with only the annoying platforming sections giving you any real trouble. From start to finish you should probably be able to blast through the game in a matter of hours.

However, in Hard mode you will find that things are much different, but not because the enemies themselves are any hard. Basically the games version of Hard means continually sending in wave after wave of enemies until you are beaten. This includes cheesing you to death with multiple long range shooters firing away while you are tied up with the melee enemies. It’s always fun when they can shoot you, but you can’t even hit them with a shuriken because there are too many other critters in the way.

Add to that the fact that once you die, regardless of how many other turtles are on the screen, you will have to start the level over again, and you’ve got a recipe for annoyance. Heck, that’s annoying even in the easy modes when you occasionally find yourself getting squashed.

Overall, there’s almost little to no balance here. The game either isn’t a challenge, or it is more of one than is probably considered acceptable.

Balance Score: 1/10


7. ORIGINALITY

We’ve got a multiple Ninja turtle games going all the way back to the NES days, most of which contained the standard beat-’em-up formula. To add to that, there are an insane number of hack and slash, beat-’em-ups, and other action titles that are far better than this game could ever hope to be.

TMNT3 is basically devoid of originality. The fighting is similar to any number of other games, and the power and combo system doesn’t contain enough unique elements to set the game apart from its contemporaries. If you are looking for something unique, then look elsewhere.

Originality Score: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

I honestly did not find this game to be addictive at all. After the first stage or two with a real lack of anything unique and incredible levels of repetitiveness, I all ready found myself getting bored with it. By the time I had completed the game, I knew that there was nothing here that made me want to play it again.

I went into this game hoping for an experience similar to the old TMNT arcade games, which despite their repetitiveness were fun and enjoyable. However, this game is just more of the same with no new elements to make it stand out.

Addictiveness Score: 1/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Despite the game being rather poor overall, I can see where it would have some appeal. TMNT is fairly popular right now, especially with younger audiences, so it’s a safe bet that parents will be thinking about picking this up for their kids. And even though I dislike the game, kids might enjoy it just for the chance to play as their favorite turtle character and feel like they are participating in an episode of the television series.

However, once you get beyond the younger audience, there isn’t much appeal here for other gamers. Some may rent this for nostalgia value, but these aren’t the same turtles that most of us grew up with (unless you read the comics first). And the repetitive gameplay is enough to turn off most fans regardless of how they feel about the Ninja Turtles.

Appeal Factor Score: 4/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

There really isn’t much here that I can add to what has all ready been said. TMNT3 is basically just another game milking the TMNT cash cow. In their attempts to get the game out on the street and make some money, the developers have rendered the game devoid of any real quality and produced just another button masher to toss on the heap of countless others.

With the number of hopefully quality games coming out in the next few weeks, this one will more than likely get lost in the shuffle, and that’s just fine by me. I’ve played worse games, but there is nothing here that I haven’t seen done better elsewhere, and there is really no lasting appeal for even the most die hard Ninja Turtle fans. Do yourself a favor and avoid this one.

Miscellaneous Score: 1/10


THE SCORES

Story: 3
Graphics: 3
Sound: 4
Gameplay/Control: 3
Replayability: 3
Balance: 1
Originality: 1
Addictiveness: 1
Appeal Factor: 4
Miscellaneous: 1
Overall: 24
Final Score: 2.5 (Dreadful)