Since i did mention the game in my impressions on the Babylon’s Fall demo, and there’s a huge compilation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games (most of the ones done by Konami) being released soon, i’d figured why not, let’s talk about this disappointing as heck turtle excretion, which pretty much killed any potential for more videogames based on beloved nostalgic cartoon series by Platinum Games, after their shortish but really good take on Transformers (the older ones, known as “Generation 1”, or “G-1”) with Transformers Devastation.
I mean, at least this one can still be found around in physical form, unlike other Turtles game, for example the TMNT: Out Of The Shadows one (don’t expect a review of that).
Or the similarly crappy Legend Of Korra game Platinum Games also developed, also deslisted after Activision didn’t wanna renew the license for, BUT i happen to have bought the PS3 version and i still have it, so that i might review, in order to proper understand how Platinum as a studio it’s capable of both incredible height and shitty lows that spoil the studio’s reputation, still.
Getting back to the game at hand, Mutants In Manhattan it’s allegedly based on the original Turtles comics by IDW…. which i haven’t red because i’m mostly familiar with the 80s-90s cartoon series, but we have Tom Waltz – which worked on TMNT comic books published by IDW – as lead writer for the game, so i guess there’s that. It doesn’t really matter as the game doesn’t adapt those but opts for an original story, nor does that stop the plot itself from being very shitty or the writing from being genuinely deserving of being called “cringe”. Utter, grating crap for your ears.
Especially Michelangelo’s dialogues are frigging awful, and i’m perfectly aware that expecting much in terms of writing from TMNT as a whole it’s pointless, but they didn’t have to be this excruciatingly horrible, especially the jokes. Nor we needed to have April constantly telling you the same identical shit that she told you minutes before. At least the music is quite nice and fitting.
Regardless of intention, the plot it’s really generic and just a lazy put together excuse to have the Turtles fight a… not-that-great selection of villains, which are attacking the city, setting up bombs all over the metro, sewers, construction sites, with Shredder and Krang wanting to destroy the city and eventually rule the world, etc. Even as a TMNT game storyline it’s very poor and boring.
I might have overlooked the plot and glossed over the shitty dialogues if the gameplay was great or good, but even more due to the developer being Platinum Games, the disappoiment continues.
The basis are there, with all the Platinum staples, the dodge here also doubling as a parry if timed with an enemy attack, the turtles have different weapons each and they can unleash various special skill, like a healing ring, cheerleading that recovers the cooldown meters of all ninjutsu skills, wrestling and sumo moves, combination moves with other turtles, etc.
The skeleton of a Platinum Games production is there, but the execution it’s incredibly sloppy, just 10 minutes in you can tell how combat mechanically works but isn’t inherently satisfying to do, as hitting enemies lacks any punch, even the lowest tier Foot Soldier peons are damage sponges, and the combat it’s a visual mess, not helped by the camera, as there are too many characters on screen, often the other turtle get in the way as they make combat too visually busy to properly gauge the timing for dodging and counter at a glance (as it works in Bayonetta, for example).
What also doesn’t help its the choice of having a stamina bar for the dodge manouver, with your character becomes dizzy for some seconds after that runs out, which makes sense on paper as a balancing solution, but in practice turns out just to be frustrating since combat it’s visually messy.
Though it’s a “non-problem” of sorts, as enemy IA it’s aggressive (so at least you can’t button mash mindlessly and ignore the dodge-counter mechanics) but prone to brain farts, and on the other hand ally IA it’s too good, as in the CPU controlled turtles even often dash to killsteal (the fuckers) while they also enjoy benefits not given to the player character, like fighting INTO literal fires without being damaged, or never getting spotted by security cameras. Amazing.
Speaking of which, the game has stealth…as in you can instakill enemies that haven’t spotted you, but there’s no takedown animation despite the game calling these “takedowns” anyway, nor that stealth is required unless you stumble into the optional missions that require you to do just that. Though, there are amulets you can equip to easily get “stealth kill”, and there’s one ability that basically lets you cheese the stealth big time, set as a Raphael ability by default, ironically enough.
At the end of each stage there is a boss, which feels like a punishment, as bosses are shit, just insane damage sponges with 7 health bars that barely even flinch, just ignore most of your attacks to start their own, which in turn deal insane amounts of damage in a single hit. Classic cheap shit.
And like their previous Legend Of Korra game, this one also cheaps out big time by the end of the very short campaign and says “fuck you, fight ALL the previous bosses in a shitty gauntlet” , the classic desperated thing you do to pad out a short game.
Even more pathetic is that NONE of this makes the game hard or challenging, as you can easily revive or get revived by the other turtles, and even if you don’t, you have to play a quick button mashing mini-game in order to get back into the fray with no real penalty. It’s nearly impossible to lose, nothing it’s at stake or has to be done well in order to continue, it’s just a battle of attriction against insane damage sponges enemies. Even if you happen to accidentally lose all turtles you have 3 continues for mission that let you join exactly from where you died.
Quite sad and disappointing how easy it is to get S ranks, even on Normal setting, but the main problem is the total lack of actual challenge to any of it, just none.
You can buy items and upgrades from Splinter by accessing your hideout before a mission, entering manholes during levels to buy consumable weapons and items, there is fun stuff to unlock like the sumo slaps, and you can equip these to each turtle with no restriction, but there aren’t many combos for each character, nor can you learn longer or new combo strings/attack or non-ninjutsu moves.
At least character progression it’s not immediatly broken since you need to at least reach a certain player rank in order to even acquire various moves. Yay.
The turtles are quite nimble, being able to climb walls, double jump, glide, grind on rails and wires like Sonic, but very few of these mechanics serve a real purpose as the stages do not have grind rails sections like Ratchet And Clank, and the gliding and platforming is limited to some stages where you have to glide from building to buildings, while in other even basic jumping is barely needed. Stuff like the rail grinding it’s just there, it works, but like most mechanics here, they feel left in as there was no time to properly design levels or sections around these abilities, nor to just cut them.
On this note, level structure isn’t good either, with each “chapter/phase” throwing you into very small open hubs where you have to complete missions in order to unlock the boss fight by filling its “boss bar”.
I guess the idea was to avoid the levels being completely linear, but half the time the stages don’t even have the hubs like areas, these are very small, you still have to complete the objectives in a certain order, often involve some backtracking, AND half the stages are downright linear anyway, so what’s the point? There are some extra missions and secret bosses you might stumble on, and i mean “stumble”, as levels overall are short, badly designed, to the point you’ll be glad there’s a waypoint feature, you have no map or minimap, and even the most linear levels are made confusing to navigate as often you keep seeing the same assets and corridors and geometry.
Stage 7, when you return to the sewers, is the biggest offender, being insanely drown out and repetitive that if it wasn’t for the “boss bar” filling up as you progress through it, you’d think you go around in circle while continuosly looping the same 3 corridors over and over. Unbelievable.
In terms of mission objectives, they range to kill all enemies to destroy roaming enemy vehicles, to go somewhere, or to carry an object somewhere. Sometimes you have to access a terminal or defuse bombs by holding down a button, protect some object from being destroyed, or move an object to a destination. Pretty bland overall, but the game tries at least to have some variety, and sometimes it works, like the stage where you defeat and then pilot Krang robots… well, piloting the robots it’s fun, not so much having to carry shit alongside way too hyperactive IA characters.
There is multiplayer, but it’s online only, a sin for a fuckin TMNT game, local co-op should have been a must, but apparently that was sacrificed to keep the framerate stable.. at 30 FPS. Yes, even on PC. Not that it matters anymore as it was delisted from digital storefronts in 2017 alongside many other licensed Activision titles.
I’m ok but not really impressed or displeased with the art style chosen, honestly i think it’s fine, but from a technical standpoint i feel the cel shading it’s a bit of a patchwork choice as the game feels cheapish from a visual standpoint and rushed all the way.
How rushed? The same cutscene that opens when you start stage 7 (the TCRI building) plays again after you finished stage 8. It’s obviously a mistake, but it was never fixed as the game (at least on PS4) never received a single patch. Apparently i was lucky too, because i’ve red of people having the same cutscene getting loaded 3 times.
The main campaign – as said before – it’s quite short, just fairly short 9 stages that on Normal will take ¾ hours to beat. There’s also online multiplayer, which lets you play the stages of story mode in online co-op, simply removes the need to switch between turtles AND makes boss fights twice as long, making them even worse. If you can find people online, that is.
There are some collectables to get, and extensive customization of the loadouts and trophies will require more playthroughs on the harder difficulties, as some helpful special moves are unlocked only by going through the game once, and will be useful on Hard and Very Hard runs… if you care THAT much about the trophies, that is.
It feels underbaked, and apparently it was incredibly rushed on behalf of Activision in under a year… it definitely feels that way, doesn’t change that the game it’s shit, but at least this one was made by a Platinum Games that actually cared about making videogames and not live services.
I’m honestly not sure if it is better or worse than the crappy Korra game of theirs, as that tried to do something with the elemental stuff and was slightly more fleshed out in terms of mechanics, but it pulled out every damn cheap trick in the book multiple times. Maybe it’s because their Korra game frustrated me a lot more, but i don’t hate Mutants In Manhattan, despite being utter garbage.
Ii’m more disappointed and sad at it than properly angry and frustrated, though i understand why most people would be. It might just be my subconscious nostalgic bias for TMNT. Most likely, i dunno.
Shame, because maybe if the game was good we could have had more Platinum Games-developed titles based on old beloved cartoon licenses. Maybe.