With the film about a week away, the official Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game based on the film was expected. To our surprise, an Arcade release was also leaked and then officially announced, bringing back the glory days of the arcade game. With updates such as some Live play and leaderboards, things were getting exciting. As the game released just yesterday, would it bring back the memories experienced in ‘89, or would another retro title fail to impress once more and suffer at the hands of technology moving on?
Naturally, you can play as any of the four turtles, whether you prefer Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael or Michelangelo it doesn’t matter, since in the single player game you can decide who you want to be whenever you die. If you don’t want to play as Donatello anymore, simply press one of the four face buttons to choose a different character. You won’t know which button corresponds to which turtle, but you’ll have fun finding out and seeing how each character performs.
The game has remained very true to the original. Unlike other retro Arcade releases, TMNT has no option for Enhanced Graphics; you have to either like the old and dated graphics, or lump them. Even the cutscenes and little storyboards remain the same, as do the incredibly corny lines that the turtles speak mid-game. If you remember pouring your pennies or quarters into the arcade machines in ‘89, you will feel very much at home here.
The game is incredibly simple to pick up and play, as you would expect. With the left stick moving your character, there are only two other buttons designated to do anything by default, with A jumping and X attacking. If that control setup isn’t to your liking, head into the settings and you will discover that any button can do either of the moves, therefore you could have the Left Trigger making the turtles jump, with the Right Trigger making the turtle attack. The simplicity set by the controls is also true of the game. You simply have to attack everything that comes your way as you progress through each of the five Scenes in the game, in typical side-scrolling fashion. There are little changes in what you do; pressing X multiple times usually suffices, as it flings the weapon your turtle has in the way of the approaching enemy. Occasionally, if the enemy gets close, your turtle will throw the enemy. Quite a nice touch and it deals more damage.
The enemies themselves aren’t exactly intelligent, but they provide enough of a challenge to force a few credits from you. They occasionally will grab your turtle if you get close enough, forcing a button mashing frenzy to ensue to break free. As the game progresses, the enemies carry bigger and deadlier weapons, such as giant bombs, or very long sticks, or even guns that they continually fire and zap a lot of your health. To counter this, a jump and attack move will be required from your turtle, and you’ll have to hope the AI doesn’t respond by shooting upwards instead.
At the end of every level you play, there will be a boss. Oversized and overpowered, bosses can be a frustrating experience. They deal considerably more damage than the other regular enemies, and naturally take more hits. More often than not you will just keep dying and respawning, especially when you meet Shredder at the end, who just never seems to die. It’s a wonder anyone ever completed the game back in 1989, since it would have cost a serious amount of money to get anywhere. However, the game loses any point it might have had to exist with the lack of a credit system. Knowing that you can restart without any form of punishment is not an incentive to play the game. You will eventually beat the game, whether on your own or are involved in some local co-op play, since everyone just restarts willy-nilly. Nothing will be too tough except attaining the stupidly hard achievements, which, if you don’t go online, you won’t bother with as the single player is just repetitive and boring.
Thankfully the Xbox Live co-op play brings some meaning back into TMNT’s existence. Up to four players can play, each taking control of one turtle and having to stick with their choice, unlike the single player. When the game starts, each player has twenty credits, which must see them through to the end of the game. At last there becomes a strategy. No longer can someone just stand next to a boss and hammer X until the button breaks. Instead you have to work as a team and come up with some sort of plan, drawing the boss out and attacking when the time is right. You will still lose one or two credits per boss, but not nearly as many as you would in the single player when you just don’t care. With the chat option available too, everything should be a smooth operation.
Unfortunately, you will do well to find a game with four people that has no lag. Even when you start the game up, the opening cutscene lags (the one where the turtles jump off the building). It all slows right down, and as soon as a single enemy appears, the game is almost unplayable. Couple that with the fact that the more players there are the more enemies there are, and you’ll soon be pressing the Start button and scrolling down to Quit. Once again a retro game suffers from inexcusable lag. The game is playable with three most of the time, but you can tell it isn’t free-flowing thanks to the music not being as fast as it usually is. Two players is fine, but with twenty credits it is difficult to reach the end of the game.
In the end, the experience is frustrating. Reliving childhood memories just doesn’t seem to work on the Arcade with retro titles, and this game is no different. The graphics look dated as you would expect, and the not-so-exciting HD background doesn’t offer any help. Gameplay wise it remains exactly the same, but it is far too obvious that this game was designed to rape children out of their money. With unlimited credits in the single player, you’ll wonder why you are playing a game that offers absolutely no challenge, since the removal of the credit system allows you to hammer X all day long without worrying about your credits running out. The Achievements won’t keep you playing, since the majority require a fair bit of work to get. The multiplayer, which could have saved the game, fails to. Lag rears it’s ugly head unceremoniously with four players, and still remains with three, though admittedly more bearable. In the end you’ll be left with a game that will seldom be played, and you’ll find yourself wondering why retro titles are continually dug up, because once again this fails to bring back happy memories, and technology has moved on too much for this to be enjoyable anymore.
Final Score: 4 out of 10 - Poor (How do we rate games?)