Na-na-na-na Ninja... Ninja Failure!
As a fan of the TMNT for 25 years, I've stuck with the property through a lot, through its ups and downs, from the original cartoon to the super obscure anime OVAs to Next Mutation and beyond. As I've weathered through the worst times of the series, I've been able to tolerate some pretty ridiculous stuff just because the TMNT name's been attached to it.
Like many, I was worried about Peter Laird's 2009 sale of the Turtles to Nickelodeon. Not only was the entire property in the hands of someone who had no experience with it, but I hadn't found any Nick-made programming to be of interest to me in about a decade. Then again, as an adult, maybe I didn't need it to. Whatever the case, it turned out that the superlative acting and snappy dialogue has made it very much worth watching.
When I first found out that there was going to be a game based directly on the series (which was a given, actually), the first thing that I noticed was the peculiar assortment of platforms: Xbox 360, Wii (and not Wii U?), and Nintendo 3DS. When every kiddie licensed game these days is coming out on all six current systems plus sometimes Steam plus PS4 and Xbox One, this seems a bit underwhelming, and also along with Out of the Shadows' delay, seems like Activision is continuing Konami and Ubisoft's trend of shafting Sony systems when it comes to this series. But you know, whatever, it could show up on one system and still be good, right?
Sadly, the second detail I learned about the game pretty much nailed the coffin shut. Magic Pockets is the developer behind the game, and of the handful of their releases I've experienced, this thing had a snowball's chance in hell of even being remotely playable. Still, as such a big fan, I was still holding out hope that this would be Magic Pockets' sole solitary decent game.
To give the game its credit, it is a tiny bit better than I had expected. However, this is not saying much, as it is still complete garbage. Pretty much the only thing I liked about it was the clever writing, but even that is marred by terrible sound quality, like the actors, as talented as they are, delivered their lines on a Dollar Store microphone. The quips aren't recycled quite as much as I'd feared, either, and while you may hear the same line once or twice per level from a Turtle, you probably won't hear it several times in a row, or at least that's been my experience. Suffice it to say, that's not true with the enemies. I heard a Kraang say the same thing three times, one after another. I hope you like Nolan North, because you're going to be hearing him more than in the Deadpool game.
Graphics in TMNT are severely ugly. It looks like it was developed with the limitations of the release's least powerful platform, and then they decided to not even optimize the visuals for more stronger hardware. You can still tell who each of the characters are supposed to be, but they look like they have super low polygon counts, and only the fact that 99% of the time the camera is zoomed out far enough for it to not be too much of an issue is it tolerable. However, the camera is most often TOO far from the action, making the fights muddled and hard to track. If Konami could keep all four Turtles on-screen at once without reducing the screen draw so much, why can't you, Magic Pockets? At many points it's like trying to play Bomberman on a Game Boy that's a block away.
The four Turtles on-screen at once is another way the game is bogged down to the point of being a mess. They serve pretty much no purpose other than quick swapping between Turtles - something done much better in the Lego games without having every playable character in your view at all times. They're supposed to help you fight, but they're pretty much useless. The AI for the non-player-controlled Turtles is... well the adjective I was planning to use is "retarded" but that would come as a huge disservice to our Down Syndrome brothers and sisters who are at least capable of cognitive thought. To be perfectly honest I don't think there's a word to describe how utterly useless these shelled bastards are. There have been times when I've been surrounded, hammered on by 4 enemies at once (more on their godawful AI in a bit), and the other three guys are just standing there, watching me get murdered. I've lost lives in more situations like this than I have in ones where I actually had any sort of a legitimate reason.
Plowing through the foes with lackluster AI companions, however, wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that the enemy AI is quite obviously mirroring someone with DID. There are only two switches, it seems, to determine the aggressiveness of the enemies: Way too much, or way too little. There are times when there's a Foot Ninja standing right in front of the Three Motionless Stooges, not doing a damn thing. Other times, I'm fighting off even just one, and their attacks all seem to have massive priority over mine. This is especially infuriating against mobs, specifically since they never, ever gang up on anyone other than the player character. There's also instances in which a button appears above the enemy's head (Y in the 360 version) to throw them, but more times than not, the button will pop up and I've gone to throw them, only to take a katana to the face. Bosses similarly show back-and-forth difficulty; the first boss, the Kraang Tank, was laughably easy, going down in literal SECONDS. Then one level later, Fishface wrecked the hell out of me, causing me to lose two lives against him, although that was partially due to my numbskull teammates and Xever's ridiculous hitbox.
Further frustrating the player is the lack of a cohesive combat system. Everything is just so bloody clunky and awkward that it seems like those in charge of that portion of the game had never seen a single martial arts move performed in their lives. All basic attacks, for example, are extremely short-range, including Donatello's bo. That's right, the dude who is known for his weapon's reach has less range than a standard elbow strike for most moves. The throw mechanics are actually the most innovative in this game, but considering its competition, it's still pretty shallow in comparison to other games; players can throw the enemy in any random direction, into other enemies, into garbage receptacles (seemingly drug over from the developer's Catwoman game), and like the much-loved move from Turtles in Time - at the screen. Horrifyingly, they managed to even screw THIS up. Like Ubisoft's TMNT Arcade Attack game a few years back, it seems this "throwing-at-the-screen" is the ONLY thing that the developers cribbed from lists of what people like about the old Turtles games, and implemented it as haphazardly as possible. While admittedly, enemies thrown at the screen became pixelated as they reached the apex of their journey out of the play-field, they were only there for a brief second. Enemies flung toward the player in this game splat on the screen and slide down a bit, displaying their embarrassingly low polygon count and just overall disgusting appearance (the Kraangs in the androids' bellies look painted on instead of being an alien being nestled in there). Since the foe is situated there on the screen for several seconds, this also serves as a hindrance to players, by blocking the action, often at vital points.
This TMNT game is just a straight up disaster. Unlike Out of the Shadows, it doesn't even seem like anybody actually cared about the project, let alone cared about getting it done the right way. It very narrowly falls short of Arcade Attack and that Russian Genesis bootleg I also got this week, as my most hated TMNT game of all time. With two games down out of three on Activision's much-championed license acquiring, and the first two not sitting well with players, it doesn't look like we'll get a decent Turtles game in a while. Hopefully we'll at least get a fighting game with obscure playable characters (as is the norm) out of this, or at least outside of the license a Lego Turtles game. Almost anything's better than this vomit-on-a-disc.