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Review: TMNT: Out of the Shadows

tmnt out of the shadows screenshot 02

It’s the rules of the universe that everybody who was a kid in the ’80s and ’90s has their favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Mine’s Raphael because obviously Raphael is so totally awesomely super sensationalistic, but I know some people like to pretend that Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo are cooler, probably because those are their only options after I’ve already dibsed Raphael on the character selection screen. It’s like a radical cosmic zen one-with-the-Turtles thing, and I think Splinter would approve.

I’m not sure Splinter would approve of this game, however. It lacks discipline.

Developer: Red Fly Studio
Publisher: Activision
Platforms: 360 / PC / PS3
Website: N/A

On cheese grease-congealed paper, TMNT: Out of the Shadows is a 3D co-op brawler supporting up to four players that has the half-shelled heroes saving New York from the evil machinations of Shredder and the Foot Clan. Again. After almost 30 years of the same argument, you’d think these guys could work something out.

tmnt out of the shadows screenshot 01

“Gary, dude! How’s the wife and kids?”

The game uses a combat system that feels like Batman: Arkham Asylum‘s awkward, basement-dwelling adolescent bro. Which makes a funny kind of sense in context, maybe, but fails in execution. The combos are there, the counters are there, the special finishers and team-ups are there, but laggy and imprecise controls and the world’s worst in-game camera undermine the whole thing. It’s easier to just mash buttons, but this also renders the game’s unexpectedly complex and potentially interesting RPG-like character skill system mostly irrelevant. That’s rather a shame too, because a bit of fine-tuning to the combat could consequently have made a tremendous improvement to the entire game, but instead it’s just a monotonous series of PRESS X RAPIDLY TO CONTINUE. Cry cowabunga and let slip the turtles of war. And I do mean “slip”.

The lack of attention to what should be obvious details is a prevailing theme throughout. The campaign doesn’t save progress properly, so if everybody dies you have to start the whole chapter over. If there’s some way to play the extra Arcade and Challenge modes online, I don’t know how to do that and the game isn’t dropping any useful hints. Combo prompts only show on the host player’s screen in a multiplayer session. Interactive objects in the environment – often used to trigger sequencing – glow yellow… sometimes. There’s also no objective marker, and more than once we ended up slogging all over a level looking for the way forward.

I got a lot of stealth kills, from the front, in the middle of engagements with multiple alerted enemies. I mean, ninjas can hide in plain sight and everything, but even in a game featuring talking subaquatic reptiles that do karate and eat pizza and fight crime, that’s pushing my suspension of disbelief a bit too far.

tmnt out of the shadows screenshot 03

That and the long-term sustainability of a business plan to manufacture hundreds and thousands of robots that break almost instantly.

There’s a decent Turtles game hiding in the shadows of this one, but it never quite comes out. Wait, no, can I use a “never comes out of its shell” gag instead? I can’t decide, they’re both equally brilliant. Or what about a predictable toilet joke? I’ll think I’ll go with a retro pop culture classic.

  • Jedi Hamster

    I actually quite enjoyed the game but you are right it does have some serious issues. At only four chapters it felt a little short and I never got to fully upgrade all my turtles before the credits rolled. The combos actually has a lot of depth once you have upgraded them but the camera sucks and until you get used to it the controls does feel laggy. I loved the humour though and the freakish looking turtles kinda grows on you.

    • Tarryn van der Byl

      I actually kind of enjoyed it too. When I wasn’t hating it.

      As you said, the game definitely has some personality, and the voice acting was surprisingly decent.

      But it’s hard to appreciate the good stuff when everything else is broken.

      • Jedi Hamster

        My objectivity is perhaps a bit too clouded by nostalgia as I never outright “hated” the game (well apart from perhaps that Cerberus Mouser fight) but the overall feeling was one of disappointment. This game had potential and I don’t know if the blame lies with Red Fly or Activision for not fully realizing it.

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