It’s been a tough couple of decades for any fans of the turtles in a half shell. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have seen their share of brawlers on the past couple of console generations, but they all lacked a certain something. Don’t get us wrong, fans were more than happy to receive something (anything, really) that allowed them to take control of the four brothers who live in New York City’s sewers. But limited animation, stories that didn’t suit the fan-loved characters, somewhat forced mechanics, and a slew of other problems kept the siblings from reaching their true potential. Now Platinum is taking a stab at the intense ninja action, and they might just be on to something.
Before I actually got the chance to jump into the streets of NYC, we were treated to some information surrounding the mechanics of Mutants in Manhattan. Watching the director, Eiro Shirahama, jump about on the screen was intriguing, as it shed some light on the heroes that players will be taking control of.
The Ninja Turtles are all about making people laugh as they kick butt to defend their home. Pizza loving, music thumping, skateboarding, ninja brothers that love nothing more than to have a good time and save people. While there is the imminent danger of death at the hands of enemies and other mutants, you can’t help but smile as Mikey does one of his silly dances, or Raphael grows frustrated with not being able to crack some skulls.
Mutants in Manhattan perfectly captures the essence of everyone’s favorite pizza lovers, allowing the fun to begin the moment they speak. Of course, simply nailing the four classic characters won’t guarantee a good game. Fans have been fooled before with amazing renditions and humorous writing. Being a scorned fan of the Ninja Turtles myself, I was honestly a little apprehensive at being excited once again.
Brawlers are great games, but you can’t simply just re-skin any protagonists and call it Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (well, you can, but that isn’t very nice). Having Mikey’s, Donatello’s, Raphael’s, and Leonardo’s personalities perfectly represented is cool and all, but if you don’t feel like an anthropomorphic turtle kicking ass through the streets of New York, then something is seriously wrong. As I grabbed the controller and loaded the game, I was immediately shown that Platinum was 10 steps ahead of me.
If playing alone, the player has control over all four ninja turtles, but if playing with others (up to three others for a total of four players) each player will choose their favorite brother and rely on communication to make things work. Each one of the turtles moves much like the others, but holding down the L2 on the DualShock 4 brought each one’s unique special moves. Drop Kicks, spin attacks, team combos, and even an ultimate special that could turn the tide of battle was available.
The unique elements of combat available to each one made team-play absolutely necessary. Combos played a big part in keeping enemies off-balance, but they were mostly to set up an opportunity for another to come in and finish things off. While one player can certainly stand out in a team as the star, the challenge was intense enough that everyone still needed support at all times.
This became doubly true when the demo’s boss, Bebop, showed his ugly face. The purple maned, gigantic warthog is no slouch. Wielding a sack of explosives, a huge chainsaw, incredible speed, and overwhelming physical power, the Ninja Turtles had to face off against him in a relatively small vault. He just couldn’t be faced one-on-one with his seven health bars. Taking turns diving in for some cheap shots and backing out right before he swung one of his meaty arms turned the encounter into a well-choreographed dance that included myself and my teammates.
Lending itself to the balance of teamwork were those ultimate specials we mentioned before. While they aren’t expressly called “ultimate” in the game, putting them to use sure made them feel that way. Two great examples were Leonardo’s Turtle Time ability and Michelangelo’s Pom Pom Dance. The slowing of time switched enemies into an almost molasses-like state as they slowly continued their onslaught, allowing the turtles to deal a ton of damage while it lasted. Mikey’s special, however, did nothing to adversaries, but that didn’t make it any less useful (in fact it may be the most useful of them all). Once the Pom Poms are out, everyone’s special abilities are recharged allowing for back-to-back beatdowns against powerful foes.
In order to make things a bit more manageable outside of special abilities, a useful mechanic was introduced: items. As I played through the demo, completing actions earned me Battle Points (BP). Looking around, I was able to locate a manhole cover I could enter which brought me to Master Splinter’s shop. For sale were mines, turrets, healing items, and more that could provide an edge in combat.
These were key against the boss we went up against, but were also quite useful in the game’s regular level, which was pretty impressive itself. Each level will consist of a large, open area that players can explore as they look for useful items and complete random events. The events were made random to enhance replayability. Nobody wants to constantly repeat a level (no matter how fun it is) if they are forced to do the same thing time and time again. So the “life” thrown into the city is a good touch.
Moving about is as fun as you’d expect from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well. You can run, double jump, glide, climb, and grind on wires and railings. The fast pace of movement mixed with the blistering speed of combos helps to keep you in the action as you move about, ensuring that there’s never a dull moment.
TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is shaping up to be not only a great licensed game, but a great Platinum Games game. It has just the right balance of intense combos, stylish visuals, and lovable humor that fans of the series as well as the studio will appreciate. The only question that remains is how many pizzas can the gang eat before the game’s May 24 release date?