As a TMNT fan since childhood, I was really excited to check out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. When I booted up the game from my Steam library and the awesome menu screen popped up, with the turtles in the iconic pose from the first issue of the comic book and the Partners In Kryme “Turtle Power” song from the movie playing, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia. Everyone loves the classic Konami games like TMNT Arcade and Turtles In Time, and luckily Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows is a worthy successor and one of the more memorable titles to come out of the franchise in recent memory. There are definitely some problems here, but overall the game nails the Turtles vibe and backs it up with fun combat.
After spending a few hours with the game, it’s obvious that developer Red Fly Studios was going for a slightly darker tone with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows, aiming to please old-school TMNT fans as well as viewers of the new Nickelodeon TV show, which this game is mostly based off of. Essentially, it’s like an grittier version of the Nick show, packed with references to the classic 80s films, comics and animated series while keeping the basic premise and characters. It certainly doesn’t look like the Nick series, however – it’s got a much more realistic look that works quite well, although the designs for the turtles themselves never quite sat right with me. Beating down thugs in the rain-slick, graffitti-laden streets on Manhatten just feels right though, and the fluid combat animation system leads to some epic showdowns throughout the course of the game. When everything is working right, and the camera cooperates, it feels like a solid mimicry of the tried-and-true Batman: Arkham City system with its dodging and countering mechanisms. Swapping between all four turtles at will feels fresh, and keeps the gameplay from getting stale.
Each turtle feels different enough. The dual-katana-wielding Leonardo, as usual, is the most balanced warrior, and his stats echo that sentiment. The hot-tempered Raphael likes to get up close and personal with his sai, and features the greatest strength of the four brothers. Donatello is the brains of the organization, and builds upgrades for the group and expertly hacks doors, alongside having the longest weapon reach. Mikey is the childlike goofball, constantly shouting out wisecracks and is the fastest of the turtles with his lightning-quick nunchaku style.There’s also a simplistic RPG-esque skill tree system, where you can spend earned upgrade points to bolster the turtles’ ability stats, unlock moves, and more. Character-specific weapons can also be leveled up, and teamwork upgrades can be purchased for team-based attacks and stat boosts.
The general gameplay feels really good. There’s a run button, similar to Assassin’s Creed, where the turtles enter their iconic “ninja run” from the Nick series and can run along/ backflip off walls, flip over each other’s shells, swing on lamp posts, grind rails and scale the environments with a familiar parkour feel.
But then there’s the myriad problems that bring the game down a bit. I never experienced any game-breaking bugs or glitches that other reviewers have been complaining about (maybe I played it post-patch?), but I did see a general lack of polish. Characters sometimes get momentarily stuck in the air, audio quips looped incessantly a few times, enemy weapons float mid-air, and so on. The camera is pretty bad, to the point that you’ll need to constantly babysit it in a hectic battle to avoid cheap deaths as you’re staring at a wall. Invisible walls are seemingly everywhere, and it can be really hard to tell where you’re supposed to go in the environment. Sometimes you’ll be looking for a door when you’re supposed to jump off a ledge. There’s supposed to be a yellow marker to help you realize this, but its appearance is maddeningly sporadic and this had me running in circles more often than I’d like. The lighting in the game is also, ironically, incredibly dark, especially in nighttime or underground sequences.
A few of the environments look great, for instance a run through the rooftops at sunset or dispersing justice in the streets during a moonlit rain. A few others are just plain bland and samey, such as the Kraang laboratory facility where literally every floor and hallway looks exactly the same. Also, enemy encounters can last way too long, with enemies taking far too many hits and falling down mid-combo, breaking the flow of the combat. Lastly, I felt it was really odd that you never encounter any mutagen-inspired creations in the game, since they are so prevalent in the Nick series – especially since you eventually find yourself in a Kraang facility surrounded by mutagen! I was at least hoping for a nod to the second film with a Super Shredder face-off.
Even with these problems, I came out of my playthough of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows with a smile on my face. It’s far from perfect, but beating down Shredder and the Foot Clan with the four anthropomorphic reptiles usually felt great and echoed the choreography of the 80s films. It’s dripping with nostalgia – from the Turtle Power song and plenty of nods to the the franchise’s history, to the awesome Arcade mode inspired by the classic games, to the fact that you can play the whole adventure in black-and-white just like the Eastman and Laird comics. They even included the Vanilla Ice “Ninja Rap” dance from the second film as a group animation, but thankfully left out the song itself. If you’re a fan of the turtles, it’s worth picking this game up (it’s only 15 bucks) and reliving some childhood memories with your friends. Others may want to check out the demo first to see if it’s their cup of tea.