Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows Review (PS3)May 7, 2014
As a TMNT fan since childhood, I was in the minority of those who enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows when it released last August for PC and Xbox 360. PS3 players have been waiting an extremely long time for the PSN version to release with no real updates – so long, in fact, that many believed the game was cancelled. Booting up my PlayStation 3 review copy after all this time felt a bit surreal, but when the awesome menu screen popped up, with the Turtles in their iconic poses from the first issue of the comic book, I was amped up to play through it again. There are definitely some problems here — including a practically unplayable online mode — but overall the game nails the TMNT vibe and backs it up with fun combat.
It’s obvious that developer Red Fly Studios was going for a slightly more mature 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 doesn’t look like the Nick series, however – it’s got a much more realistic visual style that works well, although the designs for the Turtles themselves never quite sat right with me (they’re not nearly as terrible as the Michael Bay abominations, though).
Beating down thugs in the rain-slick, graffitti-laden streets of Manhattan feels good 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 reflect this. 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; his bo staff also has 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 solid. There’s a run button, similar to Assassin’s Creed, where the turtles enter their iconic “ninja run” from the Nick series and can 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 few notches. Aside from a general lack of polish, characters sometimes get momentarily stuck in the air, audio quips loop repeatedly, enemy weapons float in 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 from off-screen enemies. 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 far too often. The lighting in the game is also, ironically, incredibly dark, especially in nighttime or underground sequences. The online mode is almost unplayable, with insanely bad glitches that cause frozen enemies, invisible enemies, extreme visual glitches, clipping through walls, falling through the map, and more. The few times me and my friends got it working, it was fun.
A few of the environments look great, for instance a run through the rooftops of NYC at sunset or fighting Purple Dragons in the rainy, moonlit streets. 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, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows put 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; there’s the Turtle Power song on the game’s start menu, an arcade mode inspired by the classic NES games, and you can play the whole game 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. Others may want to check out the demo first to see if it’s their cup of tea — be warned that the online mode is barely functional.