T-U-R-T-L-E Power, T-U-R-T-L-E Power, T-U-R-T-L-E Power, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… Ah, nostalgia. For anyone who even vaguely remembers this 1990s Partners in Kryme song, the new downloadable arcade game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (OOTS), certainly brings back memories. Within the first five minutes of gameplay you realise that the developers have not only borrowed the soundtrack from the old movie but also perfectly replicated each of the turtles, their personalities and voices.
First impressions suggest that Red Fly Studio and Activision have been faithful to the comic books and TV shows; the turtles look the part and they certainly sound like they ought. As you wander round the levels they share banter and a few jokes about how much they like pizza or how best to dispatch enemies. It all seems very positive… Play on for a while, however, and the appeal starts to wane a little.
Set in New York, Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael have to take on the Foot Clan and a horde of robots with lots of teeth! You see, everyone’s favourite roving red-headed reporter April O’Neal has been kidnapped and it’s up to the four pizza-loving reptiles to do their thing and get her back safely. As you reach various checkpoints, the story is advanced by way of cartoon cel cutscenes, providing a comic book effect complete with dialogue and trademark humour.
OOTS is a third-person beat-em-up where you can play alone or with up to three friends via drop-in/drop-out co-op. The main campaign allows for up to four players online, or two if played locally. And when that’s done and dusted, the Challenge and Arcade modes should offer a bit more playability.
Playing solo, you can switch between the turtles by clicking the D-pad – each direction representing a different character. We all have our favourites, right? Raphael has always been my preference and I found myself steering him most of the time, powering up his abilities constantly to the detriment of his brothers. The fact that each of the turtles has a very distinct personality is a nice touch too and echoes the TV show. Michelangelo is the joker and Raphael a little more gung ho, for example. It is actually worthwhile switching between them too as they all have noticeably different weapons and special moves.
Navigating each level relies a little more on luck than judgement as the signposting is often inadequate. Mind, it is worth exploring a little, so you can collect pizza, energy drinks and concept art. Nevertheless, it is irritating. Even from the first stage, it can be tricky to know which direction to head in. Perched atop a building, you can see the bad guys you’ve got to defeat on the ground below – all you have to do is get to them. There I was jumping about, trying to leap over walls, or frantically pressing the A button in a futile attempt to open a door – but it was all in vain. It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of a glowing ledge way over in the distance that denoted the correct path that I was finally able to kick some butt.
Despite a modicum of help from my half-shelled compadres, this initial fight sequence seemed a bit of a slog and I found myself thoroughly outnumbered by hoods. An occasional kick, with a sword-swiping follow up, then a counter and a few flips thrown in for good measure was the order of the day – over and over again. Early on in the game, it’s all very uninspiring.
Starting with some very basic moves, which see your chosen turtle jump, roll and run or kick and punch his way out of trouble, things seem pretty simple. The linear level designs and formulaic “kill a bunch of enemies and move onto next area to kill some more” gameplay is almost enough to get you reaching for the power off button. Give it a little time though, level up those abilities through the skill tree and things get a lot more interesting. With new moves unlocked, more powerful combos and team attacks, OOTS becomes an enjoyable experience – almost a guilty pleasure. It’s quite satisfying defeating an enemy by slamming your shell in his face or smashing him into the ground, and then there are the team moves that are unique to each turtle and provide some devastating finishing moves.
There are some basic puzzles along the way in the form of computer terminals that need hacking against a strict time limit. Some of these may prove a little tricky, but get stuck and you can simply quit out of the mini game and attempt it over and over until you get it right. Like the campaign itself, it’s really not that taxing.
A few major gripes dampen the experience a little. All too frequently you’ll find yourself getting caught on scenery or being abandoned during a fight as your colleagues hang back minding their own business. The camera is quirky too, often difficult to control and sometimes downright daft, getting stuck at a certain angle and making movement tricky.
Still, if you can look past its many flaws, OOTS is fun when things get going. But with a price of £9.99 on XBLA, it’s a hefty sum for a fairly meagre package. You’re probably better off letting April try to save herself!
This game was reviewed on Xbox 360.