Cowabunga dudes! Those heroes in-a-half-shell are out of retirement (again) for as many times in a decade but with a renewed interest in the IDW comic and a kid friendly Nick toon just wrapping up its first season ( not to mention a Michael Bay made movie on the way); can the four ninja turtles crawl out of their own shadows or is this Summer of arcade 90s inspired mashup a shell of their former glory?…
Hats off to Redfly for wanting to make the game in the first place and try to bring some life back into what has a been a pretty flat transition to video games for the turtles. Wether it’s the fact that no one has ever really got over the great side scrolling beat em ups of the late 80s, some series as great as they are (Startrek…) simply do not always make great games.
Redfly has sadly also been restricted to licensing. Whilst the IDW comics are in a league and class of their own, the developers are stuck with the much more neutered TV licence, specifically the Nickelodeon version currently in development, and yet mercifully have been able to adapt even that into a homage of the live action movies from the 90s.
April O’Neil has been rejigged, once again- now much older than the recent cartoon and familiar faces like Master Splinter have been removed and sidelined to the tutorial menu. The story is bare bones focussing on the four amphibians with a perchance for martial arts as they take on eight or so levels across the current cast of kids cartoon characters including favourites Baxter Stockman and ‘Krang for a new generation’. Aprils’ been “kidnapped” so don’t expect her to make much of an appearance and whilst parts of the game look like the 90s live action movie set, other parts…clearly smack of high level restrictions imposed by current Nickelodeon designs.
Cutscenes that dominate the main storyline of the game are non-animated ‘comic’ panel shots with voice over that look rushed and under developed. Basically just screen shots with a Photoshop effect, there is little to no love in how the story is presented. This is really unfortunate as Redfly have clearly a love for the Ninja Turtle franchise, at least the live action movie and the gameplay is significantly stronger than the overall story. The sheer lack of characters: including Casey Jones, Beebop & Rocksteady or the Purple Dragons is not made up by the four brothers and will leave older and hardcore fans wanting.
References to the early 90s live action movies continue because for whatever reason the darker more realistic version of the turtles borrow heavily from it in gameplay, including cheesy tag team moves, team power ups and Michelangelo’s’ ‘break dance’ move from the first movie.
Players can switch between the four turtles at will using the DPAD which is generally excellent, even in the middle of a fight as the AI will take over and you can seamlessly keep fighting. Combat consists of Heavy and light attacks, combos and curiously a lot of blocking and defence; countering the attacks at the right time to either block or deflect damage.
Beyond this though, the game becomes more muddled and overblown than left over pizza pie including an unforgivable glitch where: If the player is crouching in stealth, and all the other turtles are crouching and the player decides to engage in a fight whilst in stealth and switch back to fighting- the other three players stay locked in a crouch and will not spring into action!! Yes you can sneak up on enemies, but don’t try to engage them in combat because your 3 amigos won’t be there to help.
What originally feels like a fighting system similar to Batman, turns out o be much more overly complicated as characters do not have a grapple or any sort of grab which would be perfect for pinning baddies and have your brother wail on them. Instead in the middle of a battle players are expected to hold down the bumper whilst twisting the right thumb stick to launch a special attack, all whilst moving and blocking with the other controls. Countering as well is unnecessarily complicated with the need to both block and move at the same time in different directions to successfully pull it off. In the heat of battle you may not even realise that is WAS a special attack such is the animation of the moves.
Outside of fighting your ninja pals will seamlessly run around the city, over rooftops and there is some dynamic fun in that Redfly have tried to build in parkour moves in the animation. You can grind railing, but only some railings, you can swing on pipes and bounce off walls but it never ends up working out as cool, especially in combat as it sounds.
Mercifully as an arcade game, some leeway can be given. Further for purist there is a full ‘original arcade mode’ as well as a homage to the 80 side scrolling style with a whole new game that takes 8 of the levels and puts four players on a side scrolling speed run.
By including drop in- drop out coop, leader boards, 2 different games and at least 2 different game modes PLUS a fully functioning tutorial dojo and practise lab; there is actually a lot of content in the back-end of this turtle tale.
The ability to level up your turtles, research new abilities and powers and give each one their own unique “super” weapon (Leonardo has a double ended sword, Donatello has a gravity glove…) is god, but is totally overshadowed by overly complex gameplay, poor animation a lack of special effect or any sort of cohesion between all the different ideas.
Graphics & Audio
Graphically the game is as hit and miss as the combat with perhaps the most ‘mature’ and uncanny looking turtles since that much mentioned live action movie.
It’s a serious point to make, because the enemies are drawn straight from the current Nickelodeon cartoon with exaggerated childish features and rubbery movement and yet, whilst the proportions of the turtles are perhaps the most…lanky and humanised to date- they don’t actually fit with the rest of the world.
Images for the load screens are rushed an whilst you can find and unlock art, that appears on the fridge in the base you can’t zoom in or ‘look’ at the art it just sort of appears there. The game could have looked better with some polish especially as a head-liner for the summer of arcade.
Similarly you are either really going to dig the audio and music or find it offbeat and annoying. The theme song this time around has been lifted straight from the live action movies with a combination of rap and grating chip tunes. As you run around the world the music is decidedly ‘eastern’ with swelling Asian inspired music mixed in again, with rap and bass.
One of the major highlights of the game that Redfly have included is capturing the personality of each turtle perfectly. Whilst Donatello does most of the talking, and the voice actor for Raphael just sounds “off” there is some great moments of just running around and hearing them break out in conversation for no reason. In fact the four turtles never stop talking whether it’s Michelangelo’s one liners or Leonardo giving direction to (the player)
For the casual gamer who doesn’t care half of what the Ninja Turtles franchise is about there is a less than average brawler here that seriously wants to be more than it is. For fans, this is a curious homage to a time that the series has long since left behind. It is such a shame that this is not the next big thing for the teenage mutants and goes nowhere in regards to adding to the current cartoon or including new and developing ideas in the current comic books. This particular brand of turtle power might just be better crawling back into the shadow it came from.