Fans of the fearsome foursome individually known as Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael, not to be confused with their Renaissance namesakes, should be pleased by the resurgence of interest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise of late. Not only is there a new movie on the horizon (‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’, a series reboot expected to hit theaters in August of 2014), but game developer Red Fly Studio, in league with publisher Activision, recently released a brand new game featuring the heroes in a half shell that generations of kids (and adults) have grown to love over the last three decades. Like the movie, however, the game has suffered no shortage of issues. Whereas the film has been held up, pushed back, renamed (at least twice), and lambasted, the video game at least made it through production with seemingly little trouble. But the downloadable game for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network has had its fair share of issues since release.
It’s not that ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows’ has nothing going for it. Indeed, fans of the franchise have lauded the developer’s reliance on nostalgia, including oft-used catch phrases and clear characterization of each individual turtle. They are identifiable by more than just their colored masks and weapons of choice; each adolescent turtle has his own personality, honed through years of comics, animates series’, and films in the franchise, and the game gets high marks amongst the TMNT fan base for spot-on character building. And the customization options for each character are enough to thrill any avid gamer. Unfortunately, that may be where the magic ends.
In truth, most players will probably find themselves wishing that the studio had spent a little less time on the turtle talk (although the banter is amusing) and a little more time on game mechanics. Thus far the release has been plagued by technical issues, namely chugging and delayed action that threaten impending crashes at every turn. But these teenaged crime-fighters have got bigger problems than Shredder; they’ll have to deal with disgruntled fans up in arms over the decidedly lackluster correlation between button-mashing and on-screen response time.
Of course, when it works, the action is awesome, and that may be enough to keep some players going. Especially fun and engaging are the group fighting dynamics, in which a faction of up to four players online (or a two player co-op via console) can tag team the bad guys with multi-faceted attack combos that allow them to double up on damage with moves for multiple players. Also neat (and nostalgic) is the old-timey arcade mode, a flat, side-scroll setup that is little more than an extended fight sequence mirroring levels of regular gameplay. Unfortunately, even this mode isn’t free of the issues that have beset the rest of the game.
The long and short of this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game is that it is currently a bit underwhelming and clunky on the mechanical side, although the creative efforts have been met with widespread approval from an adoring fan base. Sadly, the problems don’t seem like something that can be fixed with a simple patch. We can always hope that the game team responsible will work out the kinks in the system and release an updated version down the line (it is, after all, DLC). But with all of the criticism the game has received, that may be nothing more than a pipe dream. At this point TMNT fans can only pray that next year’s movie release does more to reboot the franchise.