No matter how you slice it, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan isn’t a fulfilling adventure. For as cool as the turtles and the bosses look, and despite hitting a pretty nice balance between classic cartoon nostalgia and entertaining new fans, the most important part of this ninja’s arsenal – the combat itself – is too chaotic to enjoy, even over its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it length.
Mutants in Manhattan’s story is as by-the-comic-book as can be: Shredder and Krang are attempting to take over the world and have dispatched and/or brainwashed rival mutants like Bebop, Rocksteady, Wingnut, and Slash. Whether you’ve checked out of the TMNT universe since the early 90s cartoon or are an avid watcher of the modern Nickelodeon version, it’s pretty easy to jump into Mutants in Manhattan’s world. The constants are nice: Donatello is the archetypical tech wizard, Leonardo leads, Michelangelo worships pizza over all else (except maybe nunchucks), and Raphael is pretty salty. While the turtles themselves are as entertaining as ever, April and Splinter are reduced to a static face on comms popups and inventory manager, respectively. I know the turtles are the stars of the show, but they could’ve used a better supporting cast.
Each of the nine bosses hides out in a familiar TMNT locales like New York streets, rooftops, and sewers. To Mutants in Manhattan’s credit, most stages conclude quickly; you’ll breeze through quick, randomized assignments like killing enemies, disarming bombs, and infiltrating hideouts in three to five minutes each, and then progress to a boss who doesn’t take much longer to ninja to death. I enjoyed the street-based levels the most, as they offer the most openness but aren’t so big that I’d regularly get lost. The rooftops do offer a sense of wonder as the turtles glide from roof to roof and clamber up the sides of buildings, but objectives can be too spread out, and that leads to too much time wasted simply running between them (or falling to your death). Ironically, the turtles’ home-turf sewers are the crappiest environments to traverse; they’re full of dead ends, currents that send the heroes in a half-shell away from objectives, and way too many drains to hop down.
You’ll visit many locales more than once, which amplified my anger.
Completing all nine stages in Mutants in Manhattan runs around four hours total, but during that short time it beats the odds by still managing to become repetitive on multiple fronts. You’ll visit many locales more than once, which amplified my anger toward the sewers and rooftops. Since the objectives all trade on variations of destroying or disarming a certain number of targets, it all blends together into repetitive and flavorless mayhem. The only thing that slightly tempts me to return to stages is to discover alternate boss battles, like how Rockstead joined the fray second time I attempted Bebop’s stage, or Slash fighting alongside Wingnut when you run into the turtles’ winged foe again. Even though they still often err on the side of insanity, the longer boss battles do include a modicum of strategy to avoid more pronounced attacks like gunfire patterns and invulnerable spinning attacks. On top of that, the inclusion of arcade-reminiscent multi-colored life bars makes the battle seem even more epic as you chip away through seven levels of life. But as much as those boss battles are relative high points the first time around and even better on a rematch, I’m not looking forward to slogging through another round of the samey objectives beforehand.
The bigger reason that I tired of Mutants in Manhattan’s routine so quickly is the chaotic combat. If it were possible to go it alone, I could see the dodging mechanic and proper use of cooldown powers adding nuance to the brawls. But since there are always three AI or online partners controlling whatever turtles you’re not playing as and aggressively jumping into the fray, it’s just an unreadable mess of weapons, super-powered attacks, and pizza. When it mech-based combat is briefly added in the penultimate level, it was a breath of fresh air that came too late.
This system homogenizes the Turtles’ fighting styles.
What’s disappointing about how the green team fights is that so many facets of the combat are shared between all four of them. Each turtle has a group of four cooldown powers and can map four one-use items like health-restoring pizza, deployable turrets, and bombs, but items and powers all come from the same pool and can be assigned to whichever turtle you choose. This system homogenizes their fighting styles and takes some of the personality out of the heroes in a half shell (though it does remove the stigma of playing with Raphael and his short-range sais). It does make quick-swapping between them in single-player a lot less jarring, but that’s small consolation. Online-only four-player co-op doesn’t add any excitement, either; even though you’re stuck with the mutant you pick at the outset, the aforementioned insanity doesn’t really lend itself to meaningful strategizing. Plus there’s no couch co-op, so don’t expect to relive old arcade brawler memories. The combat could also stand to be smoother; the framerate has difficulty staying at 30FPS, far below the benchmark of 60 you’d expect for Platinum’s fast-paced action fare.
Outside of the aforementioned boss fight twists, the other incentives to make return trips to Manhattan aren’t quite as alluring. Using XP earned in battle, you can level up the powers to reduce cooldown time or increase effectiveness, and there are plenty of passive skills you’ll earn for earning high ranks in missions (like increased item effectiveness or sapping health from enemies with hits). But I found my ranks were effectively almost randomized, since they rely on the performance of your AI or online partners, and thus were barely even worth doing.
Even with a super-short running time, the repetitiveness that pervades Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan makes this fight a slog. I’ve heard all the jokes the team has to tell and have marveled enough at the rogues gallery of bosses – both of which I could’ve done by watching this game on YouTube rather than playing it – so I’m not planning another trip to Manhattan.
155 total views, 1 views today