2014 saw a lot of big-budget Hollywood movies make it to theaters, but hardly any tie-in games released next to them that arrived on a traditional console or handheld, more than likely due to diminishing returns on rushed-to-market games when easier, digestible games can be made for mobile devices. Never one to miss out on an opportunity to make a quick buck on a license they own, just look at The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well as Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, Activision was ready to meet the August release of Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot with a game of the same name on the 3DS. Leading up to this game the publisher was 0/2 with their TMNT games: the terrible Out of the Shadows and the sub-par Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based on the Nickelodeon animated series. While this game isn’t as bad as those two games, it also doesn’t reach the high points that Danger of the Ooze would hit later in the year nor is it really that recommendable.
TMNT on the 3DS comes from Magic Pockets, who developed the first TMNT 3DS game as well as Ghost Rider on the GBA. The game serves as a sequel to the newly established film universe, compete with the ugly character redesigns and all. After the defeat of the Shredder, the Turtles are still hunting down the remaining members of the Foot Clan while also combating a new enemy in the form of the robotic Mousers. On top of all of that, the brothers must also locate their missing sensei who vanished from their lair under mysterious circumstances.
As this game is set up as a pseudo-sequel to the film, you’ll see a lot more traditional TMNT villains other than the Shredder who, SPOILERS (but not really), shows up as well. Characters like the Rat King, Baxter Stockman as well as Slash show up to wreak havoc and are changed to fit this take on the TMNT lore, similar to how characters were altered to fit into the all of the Spider-Man movie games. While it’s great for these villains to make an appearance, especially to a guy like me who worshipped the Turtles in the late 80’s/early 90’s, they don’t really get that much development outside of a few lines of dialogue before you take them out in a boss fight. They’re also used sparingly and spaced too far apart in the game, and if anything they could have thrown in a few more for good measure.
For something based on a cinematic feature, this game has little in the way of production values. It does have cut-scenes, though they’re only pictures of the TMNT with no animation and a small number of voice clips that do not match the dialogue being spoken. The credits of the game list actors like William Fichtner and Tony Shalhoub as Shredder and Splinter respectively, funny enough because Fichtner never did end up playing Shredder in the film, but you can barely tell it’s them. Something you can tell that is a great Easter egg to old-school TMNT fans is that Cam Clarke voices Leonardo in this game, again a few lines only, but this was the performer who voiced Leonardo back on the very first animated series and is a welcome surprise in a underwhelming game.
A vast majority of Turtles game are beat-em-ups and I’m surprised it’s not a template that was applied here for the sake of laziness, but the design is far more ambitious and to my knowledge, something never tried in a TMNT game. TMNT takes a page from games like Diablo and X-Men: Legends and plays as a hack-n-slash dungeon crawler.
Existing in this genre of game, it actually fixes one of the problems I had with Danger of the Ooze that was released a few months after this; the issue being all the Turtles in that game felt the same whereas here they have unique abilities better suited to particular situations: Leonardo uses his katana’s to open up shielded enemies for attacks, Donatello’s bo staff is used for swarming enemies that require crowd control, Raphael is the go to turtle for large, heavy enemies and Michelangelo has a projectile ability for hitting enemies with ranged weapons. While this set up sounds ideal for this type of game, it rarely is ever needed to be implemented strategically to win, unfortunately.
Yes, you can use Mikey’s projectiles to kill an enemy that is spitting poison projectiles that cause ailment changes to your character, or you can just rush him with whoever you have and wait for the poison to wear off, which isn’t very long. This is just one example of how the game sets up a mechanic where it wants you to constantly be switching back and forth between characters but in most situations it’s completely unnecessary. Status ailments aren’t nearly as detrimental to your well-being as they should be and can be remedied by either waiting, switching to another character and switching back or by using a consumable item. The third option is really pointless as the only thing you’ll ever need to spend your money on in this game is pizza, that even goes for equipment.
Each character can equip new weapons that add things like fire damage, poison damage and increased power among other attributes. Weapons can either found, purchased with currency earned by mowing down enemies, or crafted using a very simple crafting system where you gather loot from fallen foes, smashing objects and raiding treasure chests. Once the crafting option opened, which is pretty early, I never needed to buy one more weapon as the crafted tools were far more advanced than anything I could have bought or found, freeing up more money to just buy pizza such that I could rush enemies with little to no regard to my well-being, a tactic that served just fine even up to the final boss encounter.
All of this would be somewhat passable if the levels within the game were interesting or fun to play in, but they simple aren’t. The levels for the main story campaign, which clocks in at around three hours, all take place within the same sewer, subway, street or waterfront that all blend together, especially if you play for any extended period of time. The game as stated is short, but it feels longer than it is because your slogging through the same 3-4 different environments fighting the same cookie-cutter enemy types that more or less require you to keep hitting attack until they fall down. Every so often you get to fight a boss that will make you sweat a little, but that only happens less than a handful of times and they’re not paced particularly well.
Outside of the main story missions you can participate in side-missions, however they play out just like the main story missions and don’t serve as any break from the repetitive gameplay. These extra levels are locked until you reach a certain level and by the time I was done, less than half of them were unlocked and I had access to a majority of each Turtles abilities. Upon finishing the game I wasn’t really compelled to jump back into the game when I had more or less seen everything it had to offer. If perhaps the difficulty was a tiny bit higher and it was almost necessary to grind levels these bonus stages would be helpful, but that’s sadly not the case.
Before picking up TMNT I heard from some basic searches that this game was something of a hidden gem, and while I did find a lot of ideas within it, they’re implemented in a pretty average game. Perhaps this would serve as a young TMNT fans first introduction to dungeon crawlers like Diablo with its low difficulty, but with its repetitive gameplay as well as environments, only the hardest of hardcore Turtles fans should really seek this out. Anyone else needn’t apply, especially when there’s a better Turtles game on the 3DS in Danger of the Ooze.