With all of the excitement surrounding this title, you’d think that it was going to be the next great TMNT game. Unfortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan fails to live up to the hype, with several smaller issues compounding into an experience that is far from perfect. This is not to say that the game isn’t fun to play, but there are a few notable concerns that keep Mutants in Manhattan from achieving the same level of excellence as its predecessors. With that said, let’s get into the nitty gritty of this Mutants in Manhattan review.
Plot and Characterization
The plot is far from bad, but there are certain elements that just don’t work very well. Mutants in Manhattan is based upon the IDW universe, so you should expect the art style and the story to fall in line with that iteration of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the game actually failed to recreate the universe from the new IDW comics; Mikey stands out as literally the only comic relief, and every other turtle feels bland in comparison. One could even say that Michelangelo is a bit too goofy, while his brothers fail to really fit into their shells.
Anyone who has experience with the new IDW TMNT comics might even feel a bit confused when they pick up a controller to play Mutants in Manhattan. It’s not that they did a terrible job of recreating the characters and giving the fans a plot that made some kind of sense within the context of this universe, but there are a few elements that simply don’t come across as they should. I’m not sure if this is due to the voice acting or the writing, but somewhere along the way they screwed up.
To be honest, it feels like some head honcho stepped in and said “Mikey needs to be funnier,” forcing the developer to change certain aspects of the game so that they would be more familiar to a crowd of Ninja Turtles fans that are nostalgic for the original animated series. I’m not saying that this is definitely what happened, but Mutants in Manhattan feels like something that was interrupted and altered in some way. Even if I’m wrong about that, the fact is that the characterization of the turtles is a tad off kilter. To be fair, I felt like the characterization of the enemies was quite impressive, and I really enjoyed their appearances in the game.
This is an area of the Mutants in Manhattan review where I expect a lot of fans will cry foul if I don’t immediately mention one of the biggest gripes about the game: the lack of local or couch multiplayer. A lot of TMNT fans long for the days of Konami’s classic TMNT Arcade games, titles that they could enjoy with their friends either at an arcade or in the comfort of their home. Unfortunately, this title only has online multiplayer options, which means that you’ll have to be satisfied with a much more separated and segmented multiplayer experience. This has proven to be something of a mood killer for quite a few fans, and it’s not difficult to see why when you play the game alone.
As you may have suspected, the single player campaign puts you in control of just one turtle, and you can switch out to other turtles whenever you see fit. Although the ability to switch out is nice, it isn’t quite as easy as it should probably be. Another problem with this approach to the game is that the AI turtles aren’t very smart, even if they do tend to get the job done eventually. You’ll notice this from the moment you start the game up, as your three brothers all run in unison toward one enemy, even when there are several enemies around that need to be defeated.
Get used to hearing “(your chosen turtle) is on the scene alone!” a lot from April, because your brothers will be attracted to any and all enemies as you essentially drag them toward your intended target. There are four different approaches to fighting that you can instruct the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to take, but none of them are very effective. If you tell them to go all out, they will attack anything in sight; if you tell them to follow you, they will do so – but they will also attack anything in sight, with the same “let’s all gang up on this one enemy” approach as before. Are you beginning to see the problem here?
These different approaches to fighting don’t really make enough of a difference for the player to have any incentive to actually use the feature. Ultimately, you’re likely to be the one turtle who takes out all of the baddies that the other turtles aren’t paying attention to. I suppose this is for the best when you consider that you’re trying to earn battle points for various reasons, but we’ll get into that later.
The last thing I want to touch on with gameplay is the fact that there aren’t really any combos or moves that aren’t also special attacks, and you really want to save those for your boss battles. When you aren’t using those special moves, battle comes down to the pressing of just a few buttons, and it really feels like you’re mashing those buttons on the arcade game. When it comes to this particular aspect of Mutants in Manhattan, I’m sure a lot of people will be disappointed about the functionality of the game, but I think it actually works to rekindle some of the memories we have of playing those TMNT arcade titles back in the day.
Special Moves, Special Items and Upgrades
Believe it or not, these are actually very important for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan. If you don’t upgrade your special attacks and use your battle points to unlock even more attacks, the game can prove almost impossibly difficult. You really need to utilize this special attack system in order to be effective in the game. It’s a lot like playing an RPG – you will want to learn the right spells and know when to use them in order to effectively beat each boss.
Heck, some moves are better used outside of boss battles, but that uses up a space that could have had a powerful attack, so you have to be careful about how you approach this system. To be honest, this is the main area where strategy plays a significant role in the game. I’ll give you an example:
There is a special move that allows you to ward off bombs from enemies, and there are foot soldiers who will do nothing but throw bombs at you. This becomes especially troublesome when you are trying to collect information from a data point or diffuse an even bigger bomb, because any interruption from bombs will cause the timer to reset. Using this move will give you a better chance of getting the task done easily, but that move is also fairly ineffective in boss fights, so you probably won’t use it for that. The wise decision would be to have a designated turtle who uses this move and to make sure that you switch out to a turtle with more powerful moves when you enter into a boss fight.
In addition to the special attack system in the game, there are also a lot of items you can use to help you in your fight. There is a bit of strategy involved with this as well, as you only have four slots for items. You can expect to find health items such as energy drinks and pizza slices, but there are also weapons such as heat seaking missiles and mines that you can use to deal a little extra damage to your enemies. If you have these weapons, they might be better used outside of boss battles, but they can still be effective during boss battles as well. Although you can purchase them from Master Splinter, the cost is slightly prohibitive and you’d be better off simply finding them in the wild.
Finally, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will pick up charms as they make their way through the game. These charms provide certain boosts, and you can equip one to each turtle in order to improve their stats. As you can tell, this is no ordinary fighting game and the strategies involved with playing it are far from average. That being said, I did have fun with this aspect of Mutants in Manhattan, and I believe it makes the title a much more enjoyable experience overall. Some may say that the RPG flavor doesn’t belong in a beat ’em up action game, but I think it works fairly well.
When it comes right down to it, although I have to admit that Mutants in Manhattan wasn’t as good as I had hoped it would be, it was still a very enjoyable experience. If I had to compare it to other titles, I’d say it’s probably the best game we’ve seen in the TMNT universe since Konami stopped producing titles for the franchise. Unfortunately, a few issues kept it from becoming as great as it could have been, so it wouldn’t be fair to say that it’s absolutely flawless.
If you love the IDW turtles and you don’t mind seeing a slightly different take on them, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan could be a lot of fun. Just keep in mind that the game is fairly difficult and the strategy comes not from the combinations you will learn, but from the special movies you will unlock and how you will use them. Some fans will get a kick out of this approach to the Ninja Turtles, while others will be very unhappy. Keep that in mind before making an immediate purchase and you should be fine. With all of that said, I will finish off this Mutants in Manhattan review by giving it a score of…
Have you played the game yet? If so, what did you think? If not, did this Mutants in Manhattan review convince you to pick up the game? Feel free to share your opinions in the comments or on facebook/twitter.