TMNT: Out of the Shadows
I’m a TMNT wonk from way back, owning all of the original comics, so I was stoked to see a TMNT game appear on Xbox Live. The screenshots looked great too, I could see the creators had gone back to the Eastman and Laird comics for inspiration, as one shot had several ‘mouser’ robots in it (from TMNT comic #3). Firing up the game I was expecting a solid brawler with the Turtles beating the snot out of bad guys! So, why was I playing the plucky reporter April O’Neil in the first mission, scrabbling, confused through a burning building and a bunch of shipping containers? Turns out it was a sort of disppointing tutorial level for the game’s basic controls (the next mission you get to play the Turtles honest). Unfortunately the disappointment doesn’t end there as TMNT tarnishes the source material by being a so-so and occasionally broken game.
Graphically the game looks nice, the Turtles are rendered well and the world and opponents have a nicely stylised comic book look about them. Level loading screens consist of short comic book panels carrying the story. The level colours and lighting are fairly bold and cartoony, although everything is generally pretty dark, which makes sense since the Turtles stalk across rooftops in the depths of the night. The darkness can get annoying though as you continue to play, stumbling around the levels, getting turned around by the combat sequences and generally being unsure of where you should be going. This isn’t helped by the cookie cutter use of art either. An early subway level confused me because it all looked the same and after a brawl with the Purple Dragon gang (another nod to the comics) I found myself heading back the way I’d came for some time before I realised my mistake. Some levels also have very hard invisible walls, and occasionally broken geometry so you, and your opponents can get stuck in odd places during brawls which looks terrible on screen, and will likely get at least one of your Turtles knocked down.
As this is a brawler you’ll spend a lot of time fighting, and the combat system is fairly good. There’s four Turtles of course, and if every Turtle is knocked down, that’s game over for you, although standing Turtles can revive their mates of course. The Turtles all have their expected signature weapons and each fights with a different set of animations, special moves and funny (if repeatative) quips – for example Donatello keeps making jokes about calling ‘staff meetings’. When the combat works well it is fun to play, reminding me of certain other night stalking vigilante combat games on the Xbox.
There’s the usual brawler fare of standard vanilla moves, fancy combos, and a light RPG-like system that gives you XP during combat that lets you unlock additional moves. You can swap between Turtles on the fly in the midst of combat too which is fun. However the enemy AI is pretty simple, consistently largely of rushing you in groups to form large, messy melees. You’ll see glitchy behaviour too, with Turtles teleporting through each other and opponents as they fight, and the camera seems to be about two feet too close to the Turtle you’re playing all the time. This makes combat confusing as you sometimes struggle to see exactly what is going on, and it’s particularly hard to track where the other Turtles are during fights should you want to swap to them.
To mix things up there’s the odd stealth sequence where one Turtle issues hand signals to stop the rest and breaks off on his own for a bit. These seem kinda fun until you discover the stopped Turtles won’t come to your help if you should get spotted and dragged into combat, which can lead to you fighting off hordes of opponents by yourself while desperately trying to signal to the other Turtles to wake the heck up and help! There’s also a throw away ‘door lock hacking’ mini-game as well which doesn’t really add anything except arbitrary barriers.
Overall TMNT: Out of the Shadows is a frustrating game. Frustrating because it just doesn’t feel polished – it feels like a rushed release. It’s also frustrating because occasionally you can see hints of what a more polished version of the game would be like. That version of TMNT would be a fun, fitting tribute to the source material. However considering the number of similar brawling games available on XBox Live with issues, and the low likelihood of the issues being patched, I can’t really recommend this one unless you’re a really die hard TMNT fan.
Available on: XBLA, Steam Reviewed on: XBLA