Go back to the sewers
HIGH The disco dance party special attack.
LOW the never-ending second sewer level.
WTF What’s up with the turtles’ weird noses?
I don’t understand Platinum Games. Sometimes they create things which are simply wonderful—practically masterpieces—and then they go and create things that are decidedly not.
Are there two separate teams there, one with skills far superior to the other? Or are they accepting contract work and not fussed with how slapdash results impact their reputation?
I have no idea what causes the disparities between their releases, but it’s a little disconcerting to see Platinum’s name on a box and never know whether I’m going to get an action-packed gem or a piece of mind-numbing schlock.
Case in point, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan.
Although I have love for the turtles from way back in the day, I don’t think I would have given Manhattan a second glance if not for the release of Transformers: Devastation last year.
Also from Platinum, Devastation was an amazing piece of fanservice that doubled as an engaging beat-’em-up, and it got so much right that I figured the turtles would get the same high-class treatment. Turns out the joke was on me—although it’s not the worst game I’ve ever played, Manhattan is nowhere near the quality of Devastation.
As Manhattan begins, something weird is going on in the city and it’s up to the heroes in a half-shell to investigate. There’s not much more to it than that, and as someone who hasn’t followed the most recent iteration of the cartoon, I wasn’t familiar with this version past the basics. That said, story isn’t the focus here.
After a fairly thorough tutorial, it’s revealed that our four heroes can wall-run, perform stealth insta-kills, block, parry and more, but these things hardly matter because Manhattan is mostly about running straight into mobs of enemy goons and mashing buttons. It’s almost comical that the devs have added so much stuff that doesn’t feel like it belongs, even going so far as to add special moves that can be swapped and upgraded, charms that add minor effects (5% more experience, yay!), items to buy for use during battle and so forth, but it’s all superfluous when a player’s just attacking like crazy and trying to follow their character on screen amid flashy visual clutter.
Interestingly, solo players control all four turtles at once and can switch between them at any time. There’s no functional difference between them, but turtleswapping is a must since each one has four special moves that run on cooldowns. Whenever a boss or a big mob shows up, the most effective strategy is to fire off the current turtle’s specials and then switch to another one while the last one’s are recharging. It’s not exciting, and the bosses have so much life that there’s enough time for tedium to set in.
The level design is as dull as the combat. It’s mostly large, empty areas and hallways with boring textures. There’s not much environmental interaction happening at any point—these are just places to fight mobs. The worst was the second sewer level, which was so long and neverending that I genuinely thought the game had glitched itself into a repeating loop. Offering nothing but tunnel after tunnel, April O’Neil was incessantly chiming in with “Gosh, this level seems like it goes on forever!” I was already losing my patience, and hearing the developers repeatedly point out their own garbage level design was salt in the wound.
As a counterpoint to my downbeat perspective, I invited my seven-year-old son to sit down and play some levels with me. (In other words, I was hating life and wanted him to play so I wouldn’t have to.)
He’s also a Turtles fan, and although he’s quite capable of taking on games with more complexity than this, he was able to enjoy himself by switching from turtle to turtle and doing dance animations when not stabbing ninjas. It was enough for him for an afternoon, and by extension, it might be enough for other kids in a similar age range.
Getting back to me here, although I can see potential in controlling a team of four and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a perfect fit for such a concept, Mutants In Manhattan feels like a rushed contractual obligation rather than something created out of love or inspiration from the source material. Platinum Games has already proven they’re capable of creating experiences far, far better than this one, and seeing them slumming is pure disappointment.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Platinum Games and published by Activision. It is currently available on PS4, XBO, PS3, 360, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4.
Approximately four hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. No time was spent in the online-only multiplayer mode due to being unable to find a match.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains fantasy violence. Everything here is on-par with the cartoons on TV—some ninja action, but bloodless and vague. It’s just a lot of weapon-swinging, really. There’s no salty language and no sexual content.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: Subtitles are available for dialogue and there are no significant audio cues during gameplay. It’s accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game offers four different preset control schemes, but the controls are otherwise not remappable.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody's looking, and his favorite game of all time is a toss-up between the first Mass Effect and The Witcher 3. You can catch his written work here at GameCritics and you can hear him weekly on the @SoVideogames Podcast. Follow Brad on Twitter and Instagram at @BradGallaway, or contact him via email:
bradgallaway a t gmail dot com