Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Xbox One Review
Publisher: Activision Developer: PlatinumGames Genre: Action Players: 1-4
Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360
Transformers: Devastation was a game that showed that developer PlatinumGames had a real respect for the licence, and many lived in hope that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan would be treated with the same respect by the famed action game developer.
Penned by comic writer Tom Waltz, Mutants in Manhattan doesn’t have too much story, although if you expect a narrative with lots of depth, then you obviously don’t have any prior knowledge of the Heroes in a Half Shell. There’s a likeable sense of humour, with camaraderie also shown between the four turtles, and there’s just enough motivation for all that hacking and slashing as well.
Firstly, you might be wondering if the game features cooperative play, and I’m happy to say that it does. On the less positive side though, it’s online cooperative only, which means that there’s no local multiplayer options. This will obviously come as a major disappointment for those who prefer playing with others in the same room, although with support for up to four players, at least the online side of things has been well covered.
The lack of a local co-op option was apparently because the developers wanted to assure that the game was kept at a consistent 60fps. This is odd, however, as the finished game is actually locked at 30fps. Those used to the silky smooth 60fps action of previous Platinum titles will be disappointed in this. The game isn’t quite as responsive as some of their other titles and there’s occasional slow down, although with its bright, cel-shaded visuals and turtle designs based on Mateus Santolouco’s art from the comics, it’s still very eye-catching, and the over the top action is still fun to watch.
Taking place across nine levels, Mutants in Manhattan is mostly comprised of hacking and slashing your way through, with random objectives such as protection missions and fetch quests popping up. In single player, you can choose the turtle you want to take control of at the beginning of a level, and you can also switch between characters during the game itself. The three turtles that aren’t under your control are AI controlled, and they do a decent enough job in inflicting damage as well as reviving you when you take too many hits, although, largely, the most reliable teammates are other players, and online is definitely the recommended way in which to play the game.
The combat itself is fast and fun, and there’s some depth and combos to be found. If you are expecting Bayonetta levels of depth here though, then you are going to be very disappointed, as this is a game that doesn’t rely on strategy as such, and button mashing will get you a long way. Upping the difficulty, however, does result in a slightly superior experience that is less about button mashing and more about skill, but on whatever difficulty you are playing, the combat can actually be a confusing jumble at times that you can’t help but rely on button mashing. There’s often so much going on with so many participants on screen that you are forced to play the game in this manner, although, when you are actually able to see what’s going on, skill and strategy do come in the form of dodging and parrying attacks.
The turtles also have special Ninjutsu moves, which do damage to enemies or help you out in various ways. Each turtle can have four of these equipped at once, and each time you use one of these moves, there’s a cooldown period in which you have to wait for it to recharge before you are able to use it again. Ninjutsu moves can be switched between on the loadout screen before beginning each level. Each turtle has one Ninjutsu move that is unique to them, which includes Leonardo slowing down time, Raphael becoming invisible to enemies, Donatello restoring health to the entire team by lobbing slices of pizza at them, and Michelangelo restoring all his brothers Ninjutsu moves using, amusingly, a pair of motivational pom poms. If you use Michelangelo’s Ninjutsu at the correct time, this means that you don’t have to wait for the other turtle’s moves to be fully charged, which is chiefly when important Ninjutsu moves are locked in the cooldown period. There are also plenty of other moves that all four turtles are able to make use of, with some needing to be unlocked first with Battle Points that you earn in the game, and others being able to be upgraded. Ninjutsu moves are certainly the cause of plenty of confusing chaos in the combat, which young fans may enjoy, although older players may be overwhelmed by all the mayhem. During all the bedlam, April O’Neil is on hand for support, informing you if one of the turtles has been knocked out or offering words of encouragement. The turtles also spout dialogue throughout the fighting, and a bit more time could have been spent recording more dialogue as what they all say gets very repetitive very fast.
The chaotic nature of the game also drips into the items you are able to find, including bombs, rocket launchers and turrets, which assist you during the combat. Other pick-ups include pizza, which restores health, and there’s various other stat-boosting pick-ups. Unlike the Ninjutsu moves, these items can only be used once, but they are very capable of turning the tide of battle in your favour. Items are awarded to you during levels, but they can also be purchased and switched between back at the Turtle’s lair as well.
The boss fights are a highlight, and you’ll be going up against iconic villains from the Turtles universe. Like the rest of the game, these big battles are often chaotic, and some of them can be a bit of a struggle, particularly on the tougher difficulty levels. All the villains that you might expect are here, which means that the game will appeal to younger fans as well as others, like me, who might have been familiar with the universe when it first became popular in the late 1980’s.
The nine levels are sadly rather repetitive in nature, and not just because one corridor looks like the last one at times. There isn’t much variation to hacking your way through enemies either, and the levels are also repetitive because you return to areas, such as the sewers and the rooftops, which look similar to earlier levels that share the same theme. With only nine levels, this is definitely a misjudgement, and possibly a sign of a game that was made on a shoestring budget.
The rather small number of levels, and the fact that each one of them only lasts for around a maximum of 30 to 45 minutes, is merciful; in this way, the game doesn’t outstay its welcome too much. The story can be completed in as little as four hours; however, the fact that publisher Activision decided to charge £40 for the game was another misjudgement, as many may not be happy paying such a price for a 4-6 hour game. There are collectable comic covers to find, and even secret bosses on every level, and if you want to be fully upgraded, own all the Ninjutsu moves, and unlock all the emblems, then all of these things do help extend the longevity of the game, but some of them do depend on if you can tolerate playing the game again. Me? I’d be happy enough to.
Being a huge fan of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles when I was growing up and knowing the talents of PlatinumGames as a developer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a game that I was looking forward to playing, although it has ended up as a bit of a disappointment. True, there’s chaotic enjoyment to be found for the few hours that the game lasts, but there’s too many flaws that hold the game back from true greatness. Better to wait for this one to come down in price, or rent.