Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan (PS4)


Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (8.17 GB)
Release Date: May 24, 2016
Publisher: Activision
Developer: PlatinumGames
Original MSRP: $49.99
ESRB Rating: T
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is also available on PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Rarely do I allow my expectations for anything dictate my excitement, or lack thereof. But it was very difficult to keep things in check for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan. “It’s freakin’ PlatinumGames, man: responsible for everything that is action-packed goodness ever in the history of video games.”

It was too good to be true. I am, after all, a huge Transformers and Ninja Turtles fan. Thus, to have Platinum develop action games based on those two franchises (back to back no less), was a dream come true. So, yeah… expectations were naturally high, since they did such a great job with Transformers: Devastation, and given Ninja Turtles naturally lend themselves to combat action, it was almost impossible to screw this up.

They screwed it up.

Surprise! Mutants in Manhattan is an action brawler like many games that have come before it. There is a leveling system, an upgrade system, and a grading system per stage. Introducing the turtles into this formula should have been an easy recipe for success.

Alas, the game is plagued with issues that feel so foreign to Platinum fans that one would think they were not involved at all. And that thinking wouldn’t be far from the truth. After all, the team that developed this title was the same one responsible for the terrible Legend of Korra. It all made sense the moment I started playing it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™: Mutants in Manhattan_20160524205657

The action was all there and I found myself wanting to execute flashy combos and unleash devastating attacks on the Foot Clan. After all, the tutorial said that I could block and dodge attacks and counter with some crazy moves. Then again, the tutorial had one or two enemies attacking me in a controlled environment.

Little did I realize that in the full game I would be surrounded by enemies, making visually recognizing cues nearly impossible. That’s not to say that this is a difficult game. Quite the contrary, it is quite simple.

… go from one random encounter to another …
The problem is that the enjoyment achieved in Platinum titles isn’t about how quickly you can dispatch an enemy, it’s about how amazingly you can do it. Hours into the campaign I was mashing buttons with no concern for combos. The same moves that dispatched bad guys in the early stages worked in the latter stages, for the most part, and executing team combos with the other turtles was messy and seldom worked.

Thus Mutants in Manhattan felt more like the old turtles arcade games.

“Well, but that’s not so bad then, right?” you might ask.

No, it’s really not that terrible, that is, unless you were expecting the Platinum experience and got a button masher instead. Based on early previews I expected an open world with access to a full city, yet the stages felt uninspired. As it turns out, the city is just a grid map, without an actual map to guide you, where you go from one random encounter to another.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles™: Mutants in Manhattan_20160524201010

Because the partner AI is so aggressive, I would sometimes find most of the enemies gone before I arrived. I had to change my AI commands to tell the brothers to defend me instead of “going all out”, otherwise, I was just running around the area, dispatching of a few Foot soldiers and waiting for April’s next command. I remember how naïve I felt at that moment, thinking that it would get better over time.

It didn’t.

The boss fights did make for some moments of strategy and precision, but said strategy was more about switching between turtles in order to execute special moves, rather than actually pacing attacks and defense. Basically, I was exhausting each turtle’s ability and health, and moving on to the next one. Rinse and repeat.

… gritty and hand-drawn …
There is a system of leveling, and while it does provide you with unique ways of dispatching the mobs, I rarely found myself using these techniques on the fodder, instead saving them for the tougher enemies and bosses. Sounds appropriate, but again, that made for the day-to-day rush a system of button punching.

Not fun.

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Okay, here we go, an area where I can say something nice. I have loved the turtles since the original comic era of the 80s. I didn’t grow up with the 80s cartoon, but I enjoyed it all the same. I read the black and white comics, and I love how Mutants in Manhattan emulates that style. The turtles themselves look gritty and hand-drawn, as do the environments, evoking the look of a comic come to life.

… told in comic-styled panels …
This is also true of Platinum’s interpretation of classic enemies like Bebop and Rocksteady. Animation also reigns supreme here. Despite the button-mashy nature of this title, the character animations are executed well and make for a visually pleasing experience.

Story sequences are told in comic-styled panels which move the forgettable story along. I honestly don’t remember what I was fighting for. Shredder sucks and we have to defeat him. But we looked bloody well good doing it.

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Ugh! Music moves games like these. It boosts your adrenaline and makes you tap your feet as you play them. It did wonders in Transformers: Devastation. Hell, they hired Vince DiCola to compose some of the tunes for that title. Trivia: he composed the music for the 1986 Transformers movie.

The opportunity was here for some great tunes to guide the action. The old TMNT arcade games had some seriously-rockin’ music. Alas, this was uninspired and lacking, making even the most exciting battles an excuse to take advantage of that Spotify “custom soundtrack” option. Yes! They had “Turtle Power.”

… I wanted to love this …
A redeeming element to gameplay, if there was one is that online co-op was fun, even though at the time I played, I was only able to play with one other player. If anything, it allowed someone else to take control of the other brothers, allowing you to see the action better since the AI wasn’t all piling on one poor Foot soldier.

While I understand the reason why this game couldn’t be offline co-op in four-player mode, I truly wish that there had been local co-op for two players. It would have made the arcade-y feel a lot more natural and drawn less attention to the repetitive gameplay.

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I wanted to love this, badly. I wanted to sing praises for this game and call it the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game ever made. I wanted to tell you that executing combos was an accumulation of all of the experience Platinum had achieved over the years.

I wanted to end the review with a “Cowabunga!” or a resounding “Turtle Power!” I wanted the excerpt above to read, “Grab some pizza and get ready to take on the Foot Clan in style.”

Instead, I sit here defeated, recommending that you save your money for another game.


* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.



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