Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that has had no shortage of video games over the past two and a half decades. Whether it be sidescrollers, platformers, or arcade-style beat-em-ups, the series has seen its fair share of tie-ins. However, when the franchise is mentioned, the most famous instalment brought up is TMNT: Turtles in Time, and for good reason: it was paced perfectly, had vibrant visuals, fun combat, and a flawless soundtrack. Over the years, the series has had a difficult time attempting to either replicate that formula, or trying to do something different. Now, Platinum Games has been given the opportunity to put its spin on the franchise, given its mostly successful history with hack-and-slash games. So how do the pizza-eating turtles fare on the PlayStation 4? Well, simply put, after the Japanese developer's superb Transformers: Devastation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a bit of a disappointment.
The title has the turtles facing the threat of Shredder and Krang, who are planning an invasion in New York City. Throughout the game's nine stages, you will face off against the Footclan, Mousers, and other key foes that fans will be familiar with. Throughout each stage, the game follows the format of Madworld or Anarchy Reigns, rather than it does Transformers: Devastation or Bayonetta. You will have an environment to explore, and within that are random objectives that will come up that must be completed (which can be found with your trusty T-Glass). These range from protecting pizza shacks and disarming bombs, to defeating enemies and so on. Upon completing a set amount of these, you will see a meter fill up showing that you're closer to reaching/unlocking a boss's gate.
With Platinum Games at the helm, its history has showcased that it knows how to handle fast-paced, smooth combat mechanics. TMNT's combat system, unfortunately, is missing what normally makes Platinum Games... Well, Platinum Games. Part of this is because the game runs at 30 frames-per-second, versus its signature 60 frames-per-second.
It's certainly not terrible, though. You have your usual light and heavy attacks which you can mix up for various combos, and you can even knock enemies into the air to continue with aerial combat. You also have shurikens (unlimited) which you can aim and throw, as well as special abilities called Ninjutsu. Holding down the L2 button opens a window to activate one of four special attacks. Each character has their own set pertaining to them, but you can customise each turtle's loadout if you prefer to switch the Ninjutsu around. These abilities are incredibly handy, ranging from Turtle Time which will slow-down time, Pizza Power which replenishes some health for all turtles, or the essential Combo Attack. Combo Attack lets you dish out some major damage to foes, and if your partner decides to do the same thing next to you, they will actually trigger a legitimate combo attack together.
The turtles all control fairly nimble, each with their usual perks: Leo is the well-rounded one, Mikey is the fastest, Raph is the powerhouse, and Donnie has a wide range for attacks. You can double-jump, glide in the air, grind on rails, and run up and alongside walls. The manoeuvrability is well done in the game, making controlling the turtles enjoyable and fun.
Of course, the TMNT games have always been synonymous with co-op play. While local co-op is completely absent here, there is four-player online co-op. Now to clarify, there's an odd design decision here. If you plan on playing the whole game co-op your first playthrough, there will be a few connecting cutscenes completely omitted. To see those cutscenes, you will need to play Story Mode, which is the solo run.
That being said, how is the co-op? Well, co-op works really well for the most part. Each player takes control solely of their chosen character (Story Mode you can swap on the fly). During missions, like most Platinum games, you will get ranked on how well you did. The dev's incorporated an extra element to highlight which characters did the best in various categories, which adds a fun competitive touch. There's even in-game communication phrases to pick from in case no one is using their headsets.
At the end of a stage, you will be facing off against iconic characters like Rocksteady, Bebop, and Krang (to name a few). Boss battles are interesting, in which every boss has either five, seven, or nine health bars (respective to difficulty) to take down. Depending on certain actions done during your stage run, secret boss battles may initiate, adding an additional boss into the mix. However, the boss battle durations vary significantly depending on whether you're playing Story Mode or co-oping the campaign. In Story Mode, bosses take a matter of minutes to defeat; in multiplayer, they can drag to nearly 10-15 (even 20) minutes... And that can feel a bit tedious.
The bosses are challenging, which is standard Platinum fare, and will keep you dodging and parrying as much as possible. Should a turtle go down, you can revive them within a short time-frame; otherwise they will go back to their sewer lair. When back in their lair, you will be treated to a comical pizza eating mini-game to bring you back in the middle of the action. Should all four turtles get knocked out, you can use a continue to start the boss over again.
Visually, TMNT's art style looks really cool, nailing the comic-book look of the characters and environments. As mentioned, the framerate stays locked at 30fps, but there's nothing happening in the game that should prevent it from running at 60fps. The level design, meanwhile, is mixed, with some of it being solid, and some areas being downright monotonous. There's one level in the sewers that is an absolute repetitious slog to get through before reaching the boss. The better level designs are certainly the ones where you have more freedom (rooftops and city areas).
Audio wise, the game's solid: voice actors do a good job giving life to the turtles and crew, sound effects definitely get the job done, and the soundtrack accompanies the action on-screen very well for the most part. Otherwise, the soundtrack does a solid job drawing you into the action and exploration.
The overall game takes between three-to-five hours to complete, depending on your difficulty setting. However, Platinum Games usually does put games out that are shorter in length, in exchange for replayability, of which there is some here if you choose to play with pals.
TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is a game that had the potential to be as superb as last year's Transformers: Devastation. Instead, due to a movie releasing this week in theatres, it's clear that Activision rushed Platinum Games to push it out quickly. What's here isn't bad, but it needed to stay in the pizza oven a little bit longer for sure.