Inside Pulse 12

Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nintendo 3DS)

TMNTBoxTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Genre: Heroes in a Half Baked Game
Developer: magic pockets
Publisher: Activision
Release Date: 10/22/2013

There are a few things that every child of the 80s can use to identify with each other such as Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Transformers or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are other cartoons, movies, games and etc that people can identify with of course, but few that bridged multiple forms of media like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I watched the cartoons, movies, and spent untold amount of money on the arcade game.

I guess it was gone for a while? I stopped paying attention after the third movie; something about mutated turtles traveling through time finally broke my enjoyment of the series, something that not even Vanilla Ice’s Ninja Rap was able to do. Apparently they were gone, back again, then gone, then back, then gone again. I’m not entirely sure of how the rights were transferred, only that I’m surprised that it’s been passed around so much. You’d think teenage turtles that eat pizza and do violence would be more popular.

Nickelodeon owns the property now and as part of their reboot of the franchise they’ve partnered with Activision to release a video game along side of the new cartoon. When starting the game, a remix of the classic TMNT theme song greets you. The song still informs you three times that they are in fact Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, they are also heroes in a half-shell, also, Turtle Power. It also pretty much tells you a brief summary of the turtles and their motives. Still catchy, still works, though I think the new version sucks compared to the classic version but I’m now old and am entitled to such feelings so get off of my lawn.

The story plays out through various levels using fully voice acted cut scenes. These are very well done and though I haven’t checked IMDB to confirm, some of them sound a lot like the Turtles I remember from more than two decades ago. Each sounds perfect to their character and the whole game plays out like an episode of a cartoon that is interrupted by video game levels. While it is not a great story, it fits well with the game and is interesting enough to be curious about what happens next.

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Graphically the game is decent enough. The backgrounds look good and the enemies have enough variety to their appearances, but there are some aesthetic and technical issues. In the game you play as all four Turtles at once. The major visual difference between the Turtles is the colored masks they wear and their signature weapons. On the small screen when a lot of action is happening at once it is easy to lose track of a specific turtle. There’s occasional slowdown, though for me it happened more in specific areas than when there where a lot happening on the screen. The 3D effect provides a great sense of depth, though the damage numbers appear directly in the foreground even if the enemy is in the background which can make it difficult to focus properly.

The game essentially is an arcade style brawler, not entirely unlike the one I invested a lot of quarters in. Of course this means that the majority of the game is spent walking across the screen hitting the attack button over and over again. The game has taught me that being a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is about as monotonous as a data entry job. You walk, attack, and enemies die. The enemies never really pose much of a threat, at best becoming an annoyance when they dodge attacks or start an attack animation during which they are invulnerable. I don’t mind the blocking/dodging per se, only it never does much except make it take longer to hack the enemies to death and that it seems strange that as ninjas the Turtles can’t do similar dodges. The attacks in which enemies are invulnerable make the enemy glow red and take long enough to build up that it is easy to just move out of the way before they ever complete the attack. So it is mostly just hack, hack, hack, and slash, slash, slash, with little to ever add any tactics or variety to the game.

There’s a jump button that helps move the Turtle out of the way of an incoming attack, and a special ability button which activates an area of attack for each Turtle. There’s also a button to grab and throw enemies, but this at times feels like the most annoying aspect of the game. Enemies that are weakened will have a X flash above their heads, but actually grabbing them with that button seems off. I can hit an enemy with an attack and then hit X with it flashing above their head and the Turtle will just sort of stand there. Position of the enemy is important as well, you can’t grab an enemy that is on the ground unless they start to sit up. Enemies can be flung directly at the screen, which is cool the first time and then annoying if you want to see anything that is happening on screen

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There are a number of upgrades that can be made when canisters are found within the different levels which increase the combo, damage or resistance of the different Turtles that can be purchased with energy earned in the levels from defeating enemies. The upgrades never feel like they affect the game though, you might kill enemies a little faster but that’s about it.

There are four Turtles on the screen at once and you can switch control between any of them, though that seems like a pointless endeavor. The non-player Turtles sort of mill around like empty marionettes, and enemies not engaged with the character you are controlling only sometimes attack these Turtles. When they do it is with apathy, as though they’re embarrassed to be fighting against a Turtle that isn’t the player character. These other Turtles will wander around the screen mostly stealing the power ups you want, falling behind and then popping back on screen magically so they can’t be left behind. They all control and are functionally similar to each other so there’s little reason to play as any one Turtle over another aside from personal preference.

The multiple Turtles and brawling arcade style of game, regardless of how clunky it is, seems really suited to multiplayer co-op action. So it is surprising that there is no co-op, local or Nintendo online. There are leaderboards for points for the individual levels, but again, no local o online sharing. It’s strange to see a game with so many concessions to the idea of multiple people playing it and then not have any options for that to happen.

Lengthwise it’s about three hours long, which isn’t overly long or short for a beat-em-up game. There are a number of different collectables within each level, which are needed to unlock further modes like Time Attack, Survival and Mini-Game in addition to necessary to unlocking character upgrades. The number of collectables needed for the additional modes is kind of high, but it does encourage fully exploring each level and replaying them

While well produced, the beat-em-up game mechanics are clunky and there’s very little variation to how you attack enemies outside of the couple of boss battles in the game. It’s odd though, some of these same complaints could be leveled to the TMNT games I grew up playing and enjoyed despite repetition or frustration, like the infamous underwater level in the NES game for example. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or if I just have a higher expectation out of my products now, but if you are a thirty year old gamer who love the Ninja Turtles then this game might not be enjoyable for you. However, a younger fan that’s willing to look past some clunky flaws because they get to beat up the Foot Clan with their favorite Turtle? They might enjoy this.

Just as a side final note, April is a teenager in the reboot instead of an adult reporter and Donatello has a massive crush on her. Even though Donatello is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and therefore her own age, there’s just something creepy about that to me. Maybe it’s because he’s a mutated turtle and likely spreading e.coli by his very touch, or because I’ve been a fan so long that to me they’re the Mid-Life Crisis Kung Fu Reptiles, but Donatello creeping on a young April doesn’t work for me.

Short Attention Span Summary:
Good voice acting and story fits with the cartoon except the game itself is kind of mediocre. Then again the same can be said about the TMNT games I liked as a kid, so adjust your expectations accordingly.