Platforms PC (reviewed), PS4, XBO, PS3, 360
Developer Platinum Games
Publisher Activision
Release Date May 24, 2016

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a Platinum Games developed, action hack-and-slash video game set in the IDW Comics Ninja Turtles universe. It puts players in iconic roles of the four titular Ninja Turtles; Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael. Together they must face a huge threat from their archenemies Shredder and General Krang, one which threatens to destroy the entire city.

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Oh man. I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. A fast-paced, Ninja Turtles action game developed by Platinum has sounded awesome ever since it was announced back in January. Especially after Transformers: Devestation, also developed by Platinum, was a surprisingly good game upon its release last year. So it’s been quite surprising (and disappointing) to play through Mutants in Manhattan and realise what a half-baked mess it has turned out to be.

And I use the word mess deliberately, because it aptly describes the unfolding explosion of action and colour you’re forced to stare out for this games absurdly short running time. Platinum developed action games have a formula. A big part of that formula revolves around combat that requires well timed dodging and blocking of enemy attacks, and the intent in Mutants in Manhattan is no different. Trouble is it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on on-screen at any given moment.

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Mutants in Manhattan’s combat is a mess of dull colours. A lot of this stems from that fact that there are three other protagonists alongside you, all trying their best to take up space on the screen to hit the same enemies you’re hitting. The camera isn’t setup to accommodate four heroes in a half shell and the enemies you’re fighting, so the entire affair becomes a mess. Forget timing your dodges and counters properly, you’ll have so much trouble deciphering what’s happening on the screen it’s generally a miracle if you even know who or what you’re attacking.

What this does to combat is turn if into a mindless button masher. Keep bashing a combination of light and heavy attacks until all the bad guys have fallen over. Combat, the sole purpose of this entire game, feels like a chore. Every enemy in the game is a damage sponge anyway, and hitting them doesn’t really do anything to them. No enemies recoil from your attacks, or show any visible signs that a giant, mutated turtle just hit them in the face seven times with a samurai sword.

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The only way of making any significant dent in an enemy is to use ninjutsu skills – a series of abilities that you unlock and level up through use of in-game currency. You can equip each Turtle with a different loadout of skills, and the idea here is to tailor the four protagonists with four different fighting styles (the game does some of the work for you, equipping each Turtle with a unique skill). Mutants in Manhattan encourages you to switch between Turtles frequently, blasting enemies with all of your cooldown-based abilities as you go. Honestly though, there’s no real need.

What makes Mutants in Manhattan’s combat pointless, though, is just how difficult it is to actually fail at it. Each and every battle, whether it’s against normal enemies or bosses, is almost completely risk-free. If a Turtle is knocked down he can be revived by one of the other three. If he misses the window for being revived, no big deal, he just disappears from combat for a bit and then returns, moments later, with full health. The challenge in Mutants in Manhattan isn’t beating the enemy, the only challenge is seeing if you can actually lose in the first place.

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Even boss fights are simply battles of attrition, rather than tests of any kind of difficulty. These encounters last longer than standard encounters purely because bosses come equipped with seven health bars. There are nine of these bastards to take down in the game, and they’re all as bad as each other. The strategy to beating each boss is the same – unleash all of your offensive abilities for maximum damage while the other three AI-controlled Turtles act as tanks, then switch to the next Turtle and do the same. Repeat until victory.

Or until you can’t take it any more and wonder what the Ninja Turtles did to deserve to be in a game this annoying. The game mixes up this boss fighting formula once during its entire run – when it throws you up against each and every boss you’ve already defeated, trotting them out in sequence so you can have the “pleasure” of fighting them over again. It’s at this point I had to fight a very real urge to snap my Dualshock 4 in half and throw my PC out the window. If anyone makes it past this stage of the game you have my genuine, disbelieving awe at your levels of patience and fortitude.

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Not that any of this really matters anyway, because Mutants in Manhattan is a game that would prefer if you simply got out of its way and let it do all the work for you. One of the mechanics of the four-protagonist system here is the ability to set your friendly AI to a basic instruction. About thirty minutes into my playthrough I found the “Go All Out” setting, and quickly realised that I didn’t even need to be in the room any more to actually finish the game. In fact a lot of the time I was just getting in the way.

Suddenly the Turtles would take care of enemies before I had chance to get anywhere near them. They’d even go so far as to clear out entire areas before I’d had a chance to orient myself after spawning into them. Several missions involving clearing out enemy hideouts, which are no bigger than your average garage, would greet me with a “mission accomplished” screen as soon as it loaded. Hell, my AI-controlled brothers would carry out objectives such as “carry item X to Y” for me. I tested out just how useless I was during an early boss battle by simply hanging back and watching the action, and they took down my opponent with relative ease. At least they were getting me S ratings.

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Each level of the game drops you off in a new, nondescript environment (streets, sewers, etc.) and tasks you with running about, doing random stuff until you’ve “accomplished” enough to be granted access to the associated boss battle. And I use the word accomplish extremely lightly. There’s little accomplishment in running about, completing arbitrary and meaningless tasks until the game decides to let you progress. Although considering the game doesn’t necessarily require player input, this might not be much of a problem at all. You could just nick off and make a cup of tea while you wait for the others to finish things up for you.

Summary

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a disappointment on pretty much every level. Its combat is an audiovisual mess that makes it next to impossible for you to make out what’s actually happening on screen at any given moment. Worse still, it’s incredibly dull to actually play through, thanks to lacklustre combat mechanics, boring boss fights, a lack of any real difficulty, meaningless mission objectives and the fact that the game more or less plays itself. Even the story, which is based on the IDW line of comics, is pants – with a non-existent narrative, rubbish dialogue and pretty awful jokes. Mutants in Manhattan is a shockingly poor game in almost every regard.

3


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