I frigging love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! If you had to ask me what my absolute favorite nostalgic show was as a child, it would be the series from 1987 cartoon. It was that mixture of both silly yet awesome, and I wasn’t even aware of the darker comic adaptation that came before. I even liked the 2003 version for quite some time, though I faded out for years until Turtles Forever came on, and I have extreme mixed feelings regarding that special. Point is, I loved it, collected the toys, and collected the games (and sadly played Battle Nexus, aka my suffering). With the obvious exception of the anime episodes and the rock band. I am not kidding with those either, look them up. The anime in particular is hilarious for how god awful it is.
Now when I first heard about this game and saw it, I thought of Michael Bay directing the new TMNT movie, and thought this was related somehow, like a prequel. Turns out it’s actually based on the 2012 cartoon…which I haven’t seen yet. Not off to the best of starts. And the game was also developed by Red Fly Studio, who also helped create a few other titles, like the PS2 and Wii version of Ghostbusters, and the Wii version of Star Wars Force Unleashed 2. Considering how they seem to be developing games for other consoles that have mixed results, it’s not all surprising at what we actually get here.
Visually, I have very mixed feelings. The character models for humans and such are pretty good, and I even like the Shredder design. Karai and Baxter are another batch of mixed feelings, as I did like the designs from the 2003 cartoon more. Still, I find it awesome what they did with the Mousers by giving upgrades that actually make sense, and they even look intimidating to boot! The Foot are also nostalgic, as the design for the basic soldiers remind me of the ninjas from the live-action TMNT movies. Environments look decent enough, but in some places, feel very cramped, and the turtles can sometimes even go through some of the walls a bit. Also, fighting on a staircase is a very bad idea because the game cannot balance it well enough, so it becomes awkward.
The comic cut-scenes aren’t any better as some of them feel downright lazy in some places. And it clashes with the realistic in-game graphics the game has, so it does make me wonder what they were thinking when they did this. If they wanted to settle on one style and focused more on the comic angle like the Ultimate Spider-Man game did, fine, but it doesn’t work here, especially if this made to be based off of a cartoon series.
The lighting is another issue I have. Now I know the idea was to go for realism, for some odd reason, but it certainly makes some areas very hard to see. The subway in particular is the worst offender for me, mainly in the Kurai boss battle, where the lights are passing over the train carts. Oddly enough, playing in Classic mode, which turns everything black and white, did wonders for my eyes, though at the cost of having to study attacks more. Sadly, comic book cut-scenes still remain in color, ruining whatever effect they were going for.
Moreover, the Turtles themselves look scary and odd. I was able to become used to Leonardo and Raphael’s designs, but Mikey and Donny’s are a different matter. Admittedly, Mikey is better with the exception of the comic book cut-scenes, but for Donatello, I just can’t get beyond the way his neck is.
As for story, there is hardly any. Here’s the plot: the Turtles find something smells rotten, April gets kidnapped, they go to rescue her, and face Shredder twice. That’s literally it. So let’s talk about characters for a bit. I have a real problem with are Karai and Michelangelo. Karai seems more evil now as opposed to someone who was struggling with honor like the 2003 cartoon, and it definitely bothers me considering it was one of the few things I liked about her. As for Michelangelo, well…you know how Nickelodeon once said that he was as smart as Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants? I’m beginning to see why. You see, the Turtles can have random conversations, and in a lot of them, Mikey just seems very off, to the point if you wonder if he took an extra nunchaku to the head.
…Okay, I know that doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but coming from a TMNT veteran, he is definitely dumber than usual. In other incarnations, he seemed smart enough at times (smart enough to take advantage of Raphael’s anger in one fight to beat him), and was my absolute favorite character. Here, after so many conversations, I want to throw Patrick’s house cover at him. Outside of him though, the other conversations can be entertaining to hear, but can also be repetitive, as well as the random things they say too. Still, that doesn’t mean they can’t be entertaining to hear sometimes. And the other turtles still come off as great as usual. The taunts in particular are my favorite, in which if you do it near the turtles when combat is not happening, you can watch as they do random things, like dancing or giving each other hi-fives.
The Kraang though are probably the biggest concern, mainly because their goals are unclear. I suppose they are out to invade Earth? Like I said, haven’t see the show, and this addresses another problem: this is definitely something that feels like it was made for fans of the specific show rather than to all TMNT fans. Which is odd, because I think they make a few references to other incarnations, like even a joke on the much hated “Venus” from the Next Mutation series. Or they could be referring to another turtle I forgot to research about, we may never know. The ending for the game as well wasn’t all that satisfying either, and VERY questionable considering who the Shredder is. Overall, this was a very mehish story, but even with my problems, it did get me interested in the show a bit if only to see how it is, so it’s not a complete failure. The lack of Casey Jones though is distressing. Music isn’t too impressive outside of the Turtle Power song either, however some fight music does get the job done nicely, and it’s always good to hear the old Turtle Power song.
Gameplay is the one thing that I am very mixed on. It’s trying to be like X-Men Legends and Batman Arkham series, in that you can switch between the turtles, each one having some uniqueness to them (Mikey is fast, Raph is strong, different moveset/extra weapons, etc.), and that you are able to counter enemy attacks. No longer is this a simple button-masher like games of past. Now you really have to pay attention in a fight and time counters, in which you can knock opponents away or even roll through enemies to dodge attacks and plan your next move. And as you fill up the number of hits in the hit counter, you can pull off even more moves using Turtle Power, which is usually a finisher, or you can even team up with your brothers for an even more powerful version.
And yes, that does come with the classic move from the movie: the Shell Shock. It can even be performed with one Turtle as they come down like a cannon ball; makes me feel bad for the Foot, sometimes. Moves like these have to be earned through leveling up, and you gain experience through fighting bad guys and how you finish them off. Through that, you can also level up and gain more options on how to fight and kick shell! Even the environment can be used at times to help, be it using the walls to run up and strike, or using poles to swing around. All of that sounds great, right? After all, evolving gameplay is one of my favorite features, like in Prototype where the more you progressed, gameplay seemed to change a bit when you got more options to approach a fight.
Well it is!..Until you realize you need practice and lots of it. Sadly, the game has a pace about as fast as a turtle, and not these guys. Now I don’t mind this, as the game was clearly meant to be more than just mashing buttons again and again. The camera in this game though is terrible, even after I fixed it through my console settings (the game doesn’t have an option for this), as it will occasionally get stuck on something and make it much harder to see. Even on normal view, your odds of getting blindsided by a jumping attack can be high. It’s also way closer to the action than it needs to be. Now X-Men Legends and Batman Arkham games seemed to fix this with an adjustable camera, and the latter had a very good default view, keeping combat very focused and visible. Moreover, there seems to be something wrong with the action buttons have, in that if you try to button mash and try to do another move to avoid that, the game will ignore that until after the other move. Hard to explain, but let me give an example:
I ran into a wall and did a backflip. I accidentally held it too long, and tried to do nothing to make sure it stopped. My Turtle kept doing that for about six more times before stopping. Try to imagine that in combat now when you need to try and counter a powerful move. Not pleasant, and it makes counters that much harder to actually do. Heck, I did special counters by complete accident sometimes.
This is where practice comes in, and after a while, yeah, I managed to do much better with the game and still have some fun. I appreciate the ideas presented with the gameplay, but it did cause me to swear at the game sometimes. My biggest gripe though were the team attacks, which sound awesome in theory and look very cool, but are painful to use as almost every time I tried to attempt it, I would either get my turtle rolling or jumping. Practice sadly did nothing for that. The same can be said for certain moves, like Donatello’s pose technique. Another thing I had to adjust to was performing special attacks, which felt delayed and are done by holding down the right trigger, and using the second analog stick to rotate it a certain way. It takes a lot of getting used to compared to the simplicity of X-Men Legends were you hold down a shoulder better and just press one of the four other buttons. This is mainly because the game wanted to add more ways to use those one-hit KO moves, which seem unnecessary as the Batman games found a way around those. Even the training mode with Master Splinter’s instructions do not seem very helpful at times.
There are also a few things you can do during the campaigns. One of them is stealth, which is optional, and allows you to try and silently knock out foes from behind like a ninja for extra XP. Despite the fact that my team would ruin this for me a lot, this one of the more fun aspects I still found myself trying to do, as it did remind me that: yeah, they are turtles, but they are also ninjas rather than just be a simple beat ‘em up game. Terminal puzzles on the other hand took me out, and they aren’t too bad, but the sheer number is staggering in the final level. Wanna know what’s worse? There’s actually a bug at times where even if you solve the puzzle, the door will not unlock. This happened to me twice on the second chapter with an elevator, and the final stage with a door. There are also extra rooms to fight enemies and gain extra gear as well, either pizzas to help heal/revive the team, or shuriken and grenades. They don’t stack between chapters, which is good to help boost challenge, though you do gain some items from chapter 2 and onward at the start.
AI is no better sadly, as your team can sometimes be standing still and doing nothing, but in the end, they do actually fight and know how to use their skills. There is thankfully online multiplayer for those having more difficulty with the game, but only for the story mode. That extra arcade mode that tries to combine the campaign and the original love of the old game beat ‘em ups? Only local multiplayer, which is a shame. Plus you have to beat the campaign to unlock all stages as well. Not even survival mode is multiplayer, which is a shame because it also kinda doubles as a boss rush mode and would be more fun with friends rather than babysitting the AI.
Speaking of challenge modes, those too are unlocked over time. Now remember that camera I said that was a big problem. The Kraang Lair and Subway ones were the most frustrating with it. Aside from that, it all amounts to beating the enemies with style by gaining higher combos, which gives you a higher score depending on what you do, like getting more Turtle Power KO attacks and more. These can also be used to gain more EXP to level up the turtles as well so you can assign status points to make them learn new attacks and passives. I actually did gain more practice from these challenges, and despite some issues, they can plenty fun trying to see just how well you can do. And the campaign also offers upgrade points to gain new weapons Donatello can make after you complete them sometimes, though these usually amount to being able to new special attacks.
Arcade mode lacks the ability to gain EXP but does try to capture the feel of the classic TMNT arcade games of the past, but by using all of the above. The camera doesn’t swerve around like one of my drunken family members, thank god, but the way it’s positioned can make the action hard to see the further you try to get out of sight. It covers all the stages related to the ones you conquered and even has similar boss battles. The only factors are that items can’t be collected, and you are most likely alone unless you have friends over since arcade mode is local multiplayer only. Of all the things the developers could have done, I prayed this was at least online as I don’t have friends near me, so me and a few buddies could enjoy some good old nostalgia playing this.
At the end of the day though, is this game fun? Well it does require attention so that the developers can fix the issues in case they go for game two, or they try to patch this. They are on the right track, but may have gotten off the course too much. The issues really need to be fixed, and because of the technical problems, I cannot give this game a 4 out of 5. Yet despite all the problems I have, even to the point of yelling? I still enjoyed it despite everything and what others may say. If you can put up with everything, you can find something fun. My recommendation is play the demo first, and don’t buy the PC version. According to reports, there are a ton of technical issues, which equals more yelling in my language.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows gets a 3 out of 5.
And for those that still don’t like the game, take this chance to enjoy some of the past. Find some of the cartoons online, or hell, even the movies, which I still adore to this day. Even if I do like this game, it cannot replace the love I have for everything that came before. I know this experience has actually reignited my interested in the series, especially after hearing about the Michael Bay movie. If you do still hunger for a better TMNT game, the PS2 version of the first TMNT game of the 2003 series was actually very fun, including a versus and challenge mode to everything. Lacks online capabilities, sure, but it is definitely more faithful to the original games and series. Alternatively, there are some TMNT arcade games on the Playstation Network and Xbox Arcade, with the old classic and a remake of another, although the latter can be a bit underwhelming.
If you are wondering how this stacks up to the Batman Arkham games, there’s no contest: Batman wins this. Fact is, those games have better stories and characterizations, easier gameplay, better visuals and acting, more to do, and challenge maps were always fun, especially the ones where you can be Robin and Nightwing through DLC. Plus you can get those games for almost as much as TMNT: OotS.
And to the developers, please, for the love of all humanity, at least patch the arcade mode to be playable with online friends as well. And patch the other issues the game has. If those were fixed, I’d easily give this game a 4. The game so far did nearly get a two if things weren’t that fun as I do realize that yes, while practice can help make this game much more enjoyable, it doesn’t work for everyone, especially for a first impression. Even with the ability to maybe improve yourself, that isn’t going to fix technical issues.
I’m Final, and even if you don’t like this game, remember that the old series should be floating around the internet somewhere. I know I plan on watching the old movies this weekend.