Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
It’s okay. It’s alright. It’s enjoyable. It’s decent.
Office discussions over the merit of TMNT: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tended to hover around this half-hearted commitment, straying away from clinical, sharp opinion to offer a mindless shrug of the shoulders in its place. It’s okay. It’s alright. No one seems to want to say anything bad about it and conversely, everyone’s scared of sticking their neck out and daring to suggest that a licensed game – gasp! – could actually be quite good.
So there’s an uneasy silence, an impasse where no one dares offer further opinion. “The Achievements were easy though, weren’t they?” someone decides to pipe up and everyone nods in agreement.
TMNT is just one of those games, which is infinitely better than being one of those games. You know the type; those games rushed out in time to coincide with the film release, knowing full well that it’s rubbish but can ride into the charts on the coat-tails of the movie itself. While TMNT does have a few of the traits that half-hearted film licences have kicked out over the years, such as collectable tokens, unlockable artwork and pointless “the game of the movie!” gesturing on the back of the box, the difference is this one also has – gasp! – decent gameplay on its side.
Ubisoft’s own heritage is the reason for this. Ubisoft might as well be renamed Ubidrop for all the online problems it suffers with its Ghost Recons and Rainbow Sixes (and no multiplayer in TMNT… coincidence?) but damn, it sure knows how to make a platform game. You can see Prince Of Persia’s DNA lines running through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Leonardo and co. jump, flip, leap and swing their way through the levels with a slickness and fluency you simply don’t find outside the Prince Of Persia series. The rewind function has obviously been taken out but it doesn’t need to be in. This is Prince Of Persia for kids. The margin for error is both large and largely irrelevant as the punishment for each mistake is slight, thanks to the infinite lives and checkpoints at each turn propping you up. Smaller hands won’t get angry and throw the controller at the TV for the very first time in their short, sweet-filled lives. It’s actually impossible to get wound up by this title.
Even the fighting is done nicely enough, with each turtle feeling sufficiently different rather than the expected palette swap thanks to unique combos and tag team moves. If kids can’t quite manage that, then there’s no actual way of dying either. Run out of energy and you hammer A, as a fellow turtle helps you back to your feet. It’s all very Disney-esque in its twee treatment of the turtles but somehow, better for it. It’s easy without being patronising and smart yet accessible without feeling the need to dumb down. As Ubisoft has proved, it’s not a tricky balancing act, this kids’ game lark. Just don’t insult your audience. This is the first kids’ game we can think of that’s actually fun for older gamers too, who finally get to enjoy the nostalgia from their favourite cartoon series now Konami has been deprived of the chance to further drag the TMNT series through the dirt.
Which makes it such a shame that Ubisoft Montreal apparently forgot to make a full game. What’s there is good but what’s there isn’t an awful lot. Given the infinite lives and the gentle level design, you could stumble your way through this in four hours. Four hours! That’s about the same time it takes to watch a single Lord Of The Rings film or a one-day international cricket match, although you don’t get Achievement points for either of those. In gaming terms, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is little more than a fart, a brief yet slimy roll around in the hay. No one buys games to be done and dusted within four hours and then start looking to the rest of their collection for stuff to play. That’s why God invented the rental system (and they say he did nothing on the seventh day – ha!). If ever an Xbox 360 game has screamed rental, this is it.
We know you don’t have much faith in film licences and no doubt, most will have written this off before they even get to the ‘licence’ in ‘film licence’. Yet, in a bizarre world where Britney Spears can go from PVC-wearing sex kitten to shaven-head, umbrella-wielding ninja, anything is possible. A film-based game that turns out to be fun and treats its source material with a respect? It’s true. If only it wasn’t so short… as it is, it’s okay. It’s alright. It’s decent.