Why Is My Freshly Ordered,
Promptly Delivered Pizza Cold?
Reviewed on PS4
You just got off work, and you’re tired. You hop in your car, swiftly turn the key to start the engine, and drive as fast as you can away from the job you’ve grown so sick of. During the drive, you think of comfort: sweatpants (or shorts), a loose, baggy tee shirt (or no shirt at all, if that’s how you roll), your favorite film (or record or game or book or whatever), and pizza. Yeah, pizza, you nod to yourself in a salivating affirmation. You get home—finally. You charge through your door like S.W.A.T. and do exactly what it is you thought of in the car: you peel your clothes off, toss them to the floor of your apartment, and throw on “comfort.” Plopping yourself on the bed, you pull out your phone, dial The Pizza Man, and order an extra large pepperoni with olives, sausage, Canadian bacon, and pineapple. (You have peculiar tastes.) You’re all set: Pulp Fiction‘s title menu loops incessantly as you anticipate the arrival of your pizza. An hour and a half goes by and your pizza finally arrives. But, there’s a problem: it’s cold as hell! The excitement of your favorite delicacy has deflated to disappointment; as you begrudgingly munch on your cold, pathetic fucking pizza, you sit in silence, stoic, utterly vexed that your favorite pizza place has screwed you. Sadly, this isn’t the first time—and it may not be the last. Regrettably, this scenario does not only depict a real event that happened to me, but it accurately describes my thoughts of Activision and PlatinumGames’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan.
For a game that was possibly in development for a year and a half—at the very least, right?—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan was officially announced earlier this year. On January 26th, developer PlatinumGames (in cohorts with publisher Activision) announced the title, its release date, and the platforms with which was slated to release on. (Which are the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, and PC via Microsoft Windows.) Just four months after its official release date, PlatinumGames allowed the turtles to roam further than just the sewers of development. Unfortunately, the turtles still require more training. (Where was Master Splinter? He wouldn’t have let this happen: he knows when the turtles are ready.) Insipid combat, repetitive missions, egregious glitches, spontaneous difficulty spikes, and cheap boss battles expose Mutants in Manhattans being as amateurish, which is not the TMNT I know.
"The narrative lacks creativity, making it predictable, tedious, and, ultimately, boring."
It’s a shame: the game nails its comic book aestetic. Much like their other licensed game, Transformers: Devastation, PlatinumGames took to the cel-shaded art style to give Mutants in Manhattan an authentic look. Beautifully rendered, the visuals of the game pop with a flare of Nickelodeon’s animated television series. The sewers have this cartoony grotesqueness to them, with sewage appearing as a vile, muted green. The alleyways are richly dark, painted with a deep black. The city of Manhattan itself is gloomy, lonely, and lifeless—not just because of the fantastic art direction, but also because of the literal lack of life, aside from the, you know, frequent foot soldier. Because of the cel-shaded art style, PlatinumGames keep details to a bare minimum, even going so far as leaving some areas untextured: buildings have the gist, but lack the panache to be truly convincing; sewers look appropriate, but lack the bravado to be engrossing; the city is apparent, but lacks the heart to be immersive. Though cel-shading doesn’t need to be explicitly detailed, the blatant shortage of detail attentiveness leaves much to be desired. Even still, the game’s visuals are alluring: from the characters’ design to the palette the developers chose, Mutants in Manhattan seems to capture the aesthetic of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe (even if there are no people to be found, anywhere).
"Combat is confusing and monotonous, and the lack of local co-op is perplexing."
While appealing, Mutants in Manhattan fails to capture the essence of turtle action. You have the choice of playing as one of the four turtles—Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, or Raphael. (Of course. Who else would you play as, right?) As expected, each turtle has their own unique fighting style, but, regrettably, all of the unlockable Ninjutsu are transferable: there is not a “turtle specific” special move, as you might assume there to be. You have a light attack, heavy attack, a dodge (which can be used as a parry), and a shuriken throw. Much like typically character action games by PlatinumGames, you can chain combos together to, what, look more flashy? Sadly, most of the time, the game is a button-mashing fest of “die, die, die, okay, onto the next objective.” Aggravatingly, all four turtles are on the screen at the same damn time, which is frustrating: attacks get jumbled together in a hodgepodge of neon colors (representative of the turtles themselves, of course), making it difficult to discern what is even going on. This is especially true when there is only one enemy on the screen, such as a lone foot soldier or a boss. And because you only control one of the four turtles at a time, the other three are either controlled by AI or online players. Which means there is, you guessed it, no local co-op. This is a puzzling omission, especially since the TMNT license practically begs for it.
Couple this with the repetitive missions and you have a recipe for uninteresting combat and mission “variety.” Each mission—called stages—unfold the same way: you start by selecting a turtle, equipping Ninjutsu, picking a charm that has a minute effect, choosing a title that serves zero purpose and getting thrown into the stage. From there, you progress through these “open” environments, defeating foot soldiers and rock men until April O’Neil squawks mission objectives for you to do. These range from defeating a cluster of enemies to defusing bombs or safely escorting said bombs to defeat yet more clusters of enemies. After doing enough of these “objectives,” a boss gauge will fill; once full, the boss will appear, and you’ll have to make your way from one loading screen to the next in order to fight him (or her). While fighting the four enemy types (and their several variations) can be monotonous, they can nonetheless be entertaining, if a bit routine in terms of mechanics. Bosses have two forms: a base form and an “enraged” form. (It is just as it sounds: the boss’ base form is par for the course, and their “enraged” form covers them in a red aurora once a certain health threshold has been reached, making their attacks faster and harder.) Unfortunately, while fun, the boss battles divulge to, much like standard enemies, button-mashing escapades; no strategy goes into these epic fights, and most times the “enraged” form kills you because of their cheap, nearly unblockable, high damage attacks. Repeat this several times (including secret bosses), and it becomes not only monotonous and frustrating, but just plain boring. (There’s a theme here.)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan had potential. With the pedigree of PlatinumGames developing the project—and the incredible titles under their belt like Transformers: Devastation, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Vanquish, and the Bayonetta series—Mutants in Manhattan was primed to be an excellent third-person character action game. Sadly, an uneventful narrative, chaotic combat, meager enemy variety, frustrating boss fights, and an omission of local co-op make this game one of the worst in PlatinumGames’ portfolio. (And I like The Legend of Korra, which is arguably terrible.) At least there’s plenty of pizza, even if it’s cold.