I’ve loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their various incarnations in comics, movies, and TV shows for many years. But I can’t help but acknowledge how Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan has a few good ideas that are muddied by various technical issues and uninspired gameplay.
Mutants in Manhattan is the latest video game incarnation of the turtles in a half shell that pulls a lot of visual inspiration from the IDW comics and less from the Hollywood movies. There are a lot of Turtles references and fun nods that TMNT fans will enjoy, but the rest of this pizza pie isn’t good enough to make me want another slice.
Developer PlatinumGames gives TMNT fans the same fast moving action from their previous game, Transformers Devastation. The big difference here is that you have a much larger area to explore in a dark stylized New York City. Unlike in Transformers Devastation, I wasn’t progressing along a linear path, but rather completing small missions scattered throughout an area before meeting up with a boss to take down. This made Mutants in Manhattan feel like a much larger scale game, but everything I did in it felt monotonous and boring very quickly. Each time I got a marker on screen from April o’ Neil, I would travel there to take out a group of enemies or move an item, then rinse and repeat this until I could go where the boss of the stage was located.
The fighting in Mutants of Manhattan has you in control of all four turtles, with the ability to switch control between any turtle whenever you want. Besides weak and strong attacks, you can do combo moves that have two turtles working together. This is good, but at no point can all four turtles do a big team attack together as a group.
This is baffling since a lot of emphasis in TMNT is about how all four of the turtles constantly work together. The combo attacks themselves don’t have a lot of variety. There are only four combo attacks, depending on the turtle you are controlling when you initiate it, and they can be useless against some enemies and bosses that appear.
Visually, Mutants in Manhattan looks interesting. A lot of the designs for all of the characters pull inspiration from the IDW and Eastman/Laird comics, which are darker interpretations of the TMNT stories. A lot of characters from the comics do make appearances, but there are some notable absences that TMNT fans may find puzzling. Casey Jones is referred to in dialogue, but never actually shows up in the story, nor does Baxter Stockman despite the Mousers appearing everywhere in the game. There are stages in the story that look bland compared to the rest of the game. When I was exploring the New York City sewers, everything in the stage looked like it was recycled and repeated as I moved around.
Technical bugs littered throughout Mutants in Manhattan’s stages are what kept me from really enjoying my time with it. I found myself struggling with some fights when playing with CPU allies, mainly when the CPU would forget to assist me or get caught in obstacles on the map. This ended up becoming a regular annoyance throughout and would make sections take a long time to complete, or worse, force me to redo boss fights from the beginning.
There is a weird bug where initiating a combo attack while jumping in the air goes unassisted. None of the CPU allies will recognize your attack in the air and stand idly by, causing you to waste the attack despite the CPU being ready for a combo. This became especially annoying in boss fights when I would constantly miss out on chances to deal big damage with a combo attack.
Mutants in Manhattan does offer four player co-op, which sounds ideal for a TMNT game. But besides stages being the same as the solo campaign, playing multiplayer with three friends doesn’t remedy a lot of the game’s issues. Multiplayer has you choose a turtle to stick with throughout a full stage, which can be limiting in some cases.
Before starting however, you can equip different charms and special moves that have various effects in battle. Their effects however, aren’t too influencing in how you fight or approach different battles. You can upgrade these charm affects by obtaining collectibles at the end of stages, but it can be a long process to power them up significantly.
Unfortunately, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan isn’t the best game for fans of the series. While there are some great concepts and visual designs for popular characters, there are technical issues and design flaws that make Mutants in Manhattan feel subpar. PlatinumGames has done great work with 80s cartoon properties like Transformers, but they didn’t do as well with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t think I’ll be needing a second slice of this pizza.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan for the PlayStation 4 provided by Activision.