The beat em' up suffers another critical blow.
If I hadn't already lost complete faith in the beat' em up genre by now, then this recent venture may have completely killed my interest for it altogether. If not, then it's definitely in a critical state. TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan co-released by Platinum Games and Activision continues the problems that have run rampant in the beat' em up, with a game that is totally a step backwards for what was once a very proud and ambitious genre. Ironically though, it was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise that, at least to some of us, was the clear beginning of this genre's decline beginning with Turtles in Time back in the early 90's. I do realize that game is considered a classic by many, but when compared to earlier titles of its type it was indeed a step back; had that not have been a Turtles game no one would remember it, and I'm sure no one is going to remember this title at least not in a good way despite the license. I am terribly disappointed by this game because I did come into it with very high hopes, especially since Platinum was directly behind Transformers: Devastation which focused on the beat' em up aspect and was quite an amazing game. If you played that, don't come into this expecting anything of the sort. Mutants in Manhattan's only real strength lies in the fan service.
Mutants in Manhattan is clearly based on the IDW comic in regards to its artwork and even character mannerisms. Pre-intelligent Slash is about as dimwitted and slow one would expect, and Karai seems duty bound to complete her mission and is every bit as aggressive; with the Shredder among many other bosses feeling like the ultimate threat. Other than its characters though I see little that reminds me of the comic I had been reading over the last 4 years. Therefore, that claim on complete source material loyalty can be dismissed.
The story begins with a Shredder and Krang Alliance being put to work, and the Turtles spring into battle responding to a bank robbery committed by the Foot Clan. As things move forward the four brothers along with April piece together something big is in the works. Right away the problems begin with this game being so barebones. The player will choose one Turtle while the other three are AI controlled. The truth is, it really doesn't matter which Turtle is chosen because there isn't much of a difference between them besides range of attack and Michelangelo feels a bit faster than the rest. In addition, the player can swap out between them at any point as long as the Turtles are conscious, in which they can be knocked out in battle and the player will have a few seconds to revive them simply by helping the brother off the ground and vice versa. The combat is very repetitive and gets very boring really quickly. The Turtles only have two strings to work with and a projectile move. There are also four special attacks that can be used, but they really don't add much. The game is a button masher you can dodge around in once in awhile, along with a somewhat difficult parry to pull off. I really didn't need to master that move, because the game is so easy to run through until the very cheap boss encounters.
The combat is too chaotic and feels directionless. It's possible all three Turtles will find the fight and you're wandering around looking for something. Numerous times the gang would be delivering punishment, and before I got there they left little for me to do. Plus the small amount of objectives such as carrying or riding an object from point A to B, or defusing bombs are simply boring and feel tacked on. I would say they break up the pacing, but the pacing is so annoying in this game that it needs to be broken up. The boss battles are ultra cheap brawl-fest with the enemies delivering very powerful moves that can swat the whole gang away from them. The boss battles are too long, too chaotic, and feel like they also lack direction. After the first stage I lost about 50% interest, by the fourth when I had to scale buildings, I wanted this thing to end already and that's the sad part. This game is about 5-6 hours and it felt a lot longer than that.
The controls are pretty spot on and accessing the other abilities along with swapping out functions properly. I like the visuals which follows the comic quite well. The character designs are amazing and there are so many I enjoyed just looking at. Rocksteady and Bebop look awesome along with Shredder. The stage designs unfortunately felt bland and quite lifeless. I was literally being put to sleep and had to play this game in small doses. Plus the soundtrack is terribly non existent. It's completely lacking that energetic punch for a game of this type.
Many people have already bashed this game for the lack of local co-op, but honestly, I can't imagine this game being much better even with it. I played through it once solo simply to get the feel of it and finish it, but I didn't last long during an online replay at all. The game simply isn't fun to me despite the skill upgrades that can be obtained leveling up.
In closing, I can only see serious Ninja Turtles fans enjoying this at all. Those who have played a lot of brawlers of this type and demands a lot from them should stay away. I'm pretty sure this game would have been panned a lot harder if not for the name. I highly suggest Transformers: Devastation to those whom missed it if you want a good enough story that can trigger those nostalgic buttons, along with some very solid brawler game play, and better developed boss battles.
Highs: Delivers on some fan service, nice character designs
Lows: Very boring fighting mechanics, annoyingly cheap boss battles, not enough depth all around