Although Mutants in Manhattan received both a digital and retail release, the first video game for the four iconic heroes in a half shell this generation is an utter disappointment. Continuing PlatinumGames’s lineup of licensed offerings, Mutants in Manhattan utilizes the same pleasing cel-shaded visuals found in last year’s Transformers: Devastation and continues the same beat-em-up combo system that their last few games have employed. However, the game’s lack of depth, repetitive combat, and ho-hum mission design is tougher to dine on than turtle soup. The only saving grace is the game’s boss battles, which are relatively enjoyable encounters containing playful banter between the four turtles and the recognizable bosses themselves. If only you didn’t have to play through the uninspired rest of the game to experience them.
Mutants in Manhattan follows the tried-and-true storyline that fans of the series have grown accustomed to since the original comic book series in the 80’s. Shredder and Krang are attempting a nefarious plan to take over the world and have dispatched their mutants across the city. From classics, Bebop and Rocksteady to the more recent mutated shark Armaggon, you’ll encounter almost all of your TMNT favorites.
The opening tutorial sequence introduces the majority of the game’s mechanics, while you’ll learn about the game’s missions structure when playing through the first of nine stages. The game uses a simple two-button light and heavy attack combo system, along with a multi-stage parry system, a one-hit Takedown stealth mechanic, and unique Ninjutsu attacks. The combo system never goes anywhere; it doesn’t evolve. Ever. You won’t unlock new combos, and you never feel like you are doing more than just button-mashing through every fight, regardless of difficulty. Occasionally, you’ll tap to dodge the Foot Clan’s attacks, either rolling out of the way or appearing behind them ready to pounce. Holding the button allows you to block, but you’ll quickly drain your meter. Blocking attacks will consume chunks of it as well, and if it depletes completely, your turtle will be temporarily stunned for a few seconds.
If you happen to come across unsuspecting foes that haven’t seen you yet, you can perform a Takedown mechanic for a one-hit kill. Each turtle comes with four slots for special Ninjutsu attacks that can be changed from within the menus. These include performing double team attacks, temporarily slowing down time, or unleashing a slew of quick attacks. Using XP earned during battles you can purchase new abilities, or even upgrade existing ones that reduces their cooldown timer. In practice, I never felt the need to upgrade or replace any of the starting abilities, as I had no problem spamming basic attacks through this very short game. They also do so little damage, that I never felt to focus on using them.
Items and boosts can be purchased via the Turtles’ Lair by locating any open manhole cover you come across. Besides buying pizza to recover health, you can choose from a bunch of different stat boosters that appear to have minimal effect. Ranged turrets or bombs are a hit-and-miss, and are largely forgettable.
As you might expect, the action becomes hectic with all four turtles on-screen spamming attacks simultaneously. From a gameplay perspective, it makes no sense to restrict the game to only a single turtle, but at the same time, it would have made things more organized. Regardless if you are playing alone or online (no local co-op), Mutants in Manhattan is always a four-player game. Playing online is preferable, but only because playing alone hamstrings your team with disappointing AI. You do have the ability to switch turtles at any time when playing alone, but I was able to stick with Leonardo through the entire four hours the game lasted.
Stages are broken out by bosses, so you’ll always know who you will encounter at the end of the stage. It isn’t simply a matter of reaching the boss at the end of the stage, however, as you must complete meaningless tasks given to you by April O’Neill. Using the unique talents of the four turtles, you’ll be doing the city a service by protecting ATMs, Pizza Trucks, and retrieving stolen piles of gold bars. These highly repetitive, tedious tasks are nothing more than unenjoyable time sinks until you can face the area’s boss. Most of the time you’ll be hopping across rooftops, or running down sewers just waiting for the next mission. Speaking of the environments, you’ll be retracing your steps through the same locations multiple times. Secret bosses can show up when replaying a level, but the added boss only has a portion of its normal health, making it more of a cameo than anything else.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is an utter disappointment, failing to return the game to its arcade roots. Perhaps it would have fared better as a side-scroller, dropping the regrettable meaningless tasks, and instead featuring the four turtles battling countless of Foot Clan ninjas until you reach the boss. The combat doesn’t feel smooth as the game is limited to 30FPS, instead of the typical 60FPS that PlatinumGames deserve. There are collectible comic book covers to find, but the game’s over before you know it and is almost fully priced as well.
Note: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan review is based on a digital PS4 copy of the game, provided by Activision.