Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan Review
When it comes to TMNT: Mutants Over Manhattan, the surface looks great. Artwork from Corey Smith, the talent behind the absolutely legendary current TMNT comic, developer Platinum's usual pedigree for making awesome games, beat 'em up action and appearances from almost every recognizable character from the series all seem like they are speaking directly to me; "Jason... We made this game for you... for you..." Sadly, in the mere five hours it took to finish the game, it became clear that the problems outweighed the successes. So as much as I wanted to love this game and recommend it to everyone, it just doesn't live up to any of the selling points listed above.
If you have any experience with the turtles, you can probably play Mad Libs with the story. Shredder and Krang (it's spelled with ONE "a," not two... got that, Nickelodeon?) recruit the usual mutant bad guys to - wait for it - take over the world (dun, dun, dunnn). Honestly, the story does get the job done but it might have been more interesting to see something a bit different than the plot of every episode of the original animated series. The character interactions and dialogue do help a little, but if you are looking for a sprawling narrative, this isn't the game for you.
I mentioned the game's artwork comes directly from Corey Smith, a veritable artistic genius and the only person to draw the characters better than their creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. His style perfectly translates to the game's 3D cel-shaded look. The sound isn't bad either, with the voice acting bringing things full circle; it's not always easy to have newer voices for classic characters. Thankfully, even without people like James Avery (Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's Uncle Phil and the original voice of Shredder), the characters just sound exactly like they should. To reiterate the point I made earlier, Mutants Over Manhattan looks, on the surface, like the TMNT game everyone has always wanted.
You know that whole thing about judging books by their covers? Turns out it applies to games, too. Mutants Over Manhattan falls apart when it comes to gameplay. You control a turtle of your choosing (it doesn't matter which, the attacks are pretty much identical with all four turtles) and work through 3D levels, beating up bad guys and facing off with a boss at the end of each stage. The first issue is the other three turtles. AI is inconsistent at best and with all four turtles on-screen at once, it can get pretty hectic. Too much so, in fact; every fight ends up being a total visual mess, with all kinds of attacks and specials going at once. It ends up feeling like you have less control over the battles than you actually do. This issue is amplified by level rankings that are based on your skills. They become a random crapshoot because the game not only judges you, but the others as well. Mutants Over Manhattan is basically a spaz attack on a disc.
Worse yet are the enemies. Ok, so the boss fights are pretty great, showcasing fan-favorite villains (Wingnut!). It is the low level enemies that are an issue. They are dumb as hell, all pretty much identical and a slog to push through. By the end of the game's ninth and final stage, you'll have killed the same bad guy thousands of times. The beat 'em up game always flirts with repetitious gameplay and button mashing, but the genres best games make you forget you are essentially mashing attack to win. Mutants Over Manhattan is not one of those games, and it all gets pretty boring by stage three.
I'm not usually one to complain about a game's length, especially since I have a job, a mortgage and a wife; my gaming time is far less voluminous as an adult and sometimes short games are good. Not this one. I finished the entire thing in just over three hours. For an almost full priced game, that isn't enough bang for my buck. The only upside to the length is that once you are done you'll never need to fight that same nameless enemy and his thousands of twins ever again.
I'm not really sure what happened with Mutants Over Manhattan. On paper and from a presentation standpoint, it is the most perfect TMNT game ever released. All that changes when you actually play it. Boss fights are a highlight, but the enemies and levels that aren't boss-related are painfully boring and repeated ad nauseoum. It falls further from grace when you realize that you paid $40 or $50 for a game that will only take about three hours to finish. I really, REALLY wanted to like this game, I really did. But this is one of Platinum's missteps and even with the positives, it is nearly impossible to recommend this game to anyone.
Final Rating: 55% - A great TMNT game as long as you don't play it.