Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review #341: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - Mutants in Manhattan

 Sometimes I think people don't 'get' Platinum Games' games.
 Mutants in Manhattan is the latest TMNT game to be released, and it received a somewhat lukewarm reception. Now, I admit that I'm a TMNT fan, but after playing through the game I simply can't agree with some of the criticism levered against the game. It made me think, and realize, that people sometimes don't 'get' Platinum Games' games. Look at all the flak Revengeance got over the lack of a block button, a feature it didn't need, even a few critics didn't seem to 'get' Vanquish, which I felt was pretty dope, even God Hand was the target of some undeserved criticism.

 The game is heavily inspired on the newest IDW comics, which I felt was a brilliant decision. While the designs aren't exactly the same, for example, in these comics the four turtles have different types of arm-guards, yet in the game only Leo has any sort of of arm-guards, however, they managed to give them different belts and their masks have different lengths and shapes, which are beautiful details that set them apart. April's take is different as well, she seems to be a young adult here, while in the comics she is portrayed as a teenager. Basically, this incarnation of the turtles most closely resemble the comics, but it's not set in that universe. The voice cast is entirely different from any other version of the turtles as well, and everyone did a fantastic job as their characters, this might probably be my favorite version of Leo, and I love how they brought back Mirage comics' Raphael's 'Crud!' exclamation. If I haven't made it clear yet, if you love the comic book versions of the characters, you will absolutely adore the presentation, I know I did. This is the version of the turtles I've been waiting for ever since I discovered the comics. These are the turtles we deserve in videogame form. As for the plot itself, it's a simple 'Krang and Shredder have teamed up and are up to no good', it's a very simple set up, that's far from engrossing, but it's all the story a game like this needs. There're cutscenes before and after each level, and I felt they were fantastic, while the story wasn't all that interesting, I loved seeing the turtles interact with the other characters, like Splinter, April, Slash, Bebop, etc.
 The game is... I guess an 'objective-based beat'em up' sums it up. There's 9 'missions', that take place in about 4 different environments, but each time an environment is reused, it's slightly altered. There're the rooftops and the story rooftops, the sewers and the sewers with fast-moving water, the streets and the ruined streets, etc. Each environment is a medium sized stage that can be somewhat freely explored. 'Somewhat' because your objectives are always clearly defined, and while you can find a couple of items and a few collectibles, there aren't tangible rewards for your efforts. Free items are nice, but you can always enter the sewers and buy more from Splinter, and the collectibles are boring covers from the IDW comics. There's no costumes, skills or anything worthwhile to be found. Interestingly, the objectives on each stage are randomized, however, they always revolve around beating up bad guys. Objectives can range from: Beating all the bad guys, defeating all the bad guys without being seen, protecting an object by... defeating all the bad guys, defusing bombs/recovering data in which one or more turtle must hold circle over an object while the others... beat up the bad guys or even taking objects from one point from another... while under barrage from enemies, so a few of the turtles will have to beat up a few villains. It's an interesting idea that do make subsequent playthroughs retain some of the freshness, but at the end of the day all you are really doing is beating up enemies. Which is fine, really, since this is a beat'em up.

 After you finish 5 or 6 missions April will home-in on the boss' location, and you can finally go fight them. Boss fights were my favorite part of the game, they are tough, they are long and they are fun. On Normal they've 7 life bars each, but depending on the difficulty setting the number may increase or decrease. While you have the numerical advantage on these fights, bosses pack quite a punch and their attacks cover very wide areas, so you will have to make the most of the dodge/block/parry systems to pull through. The first 4 bosses are a bit easy, but after you get to Armaggon, they really pick up. I've heard a lot of people claiming that these are 'obscenely hard', but they really aren't. I gave Michelangelo and Donnie support movesets, while I gave a balanced amount of deffensive and ofensive moves on Leo and kept Raph with an exclusively offensive moveset. I played most of the time as Leo, and if you learn how to block, dodge and parry, the battles become exhilarating. The 'life' system works on the player's favor, every time a turtle loses all its health, he retrieves to his shell and has 9-4 seconds(Depending on how many times he reached this state already) for another turtle to revive him, if none makes it in time, they are sent to the lair to eat pizza and recover. As long as at least one turtle remains out of the lair, you don't lose. And assuming that you do lose, there's 3 continues per level, and while you have to start the boss from the start, it's not overly punishing. At least on the normal difficulty setting, the challenge is just right.
 The combat system works like most of Platinum Games', there's a weak and a strong attack for offense, and R2 is used for defensive purposes. Tapping R2 produces a dodge, holding R2 lets you bock, and either tapping or letting go off R2 at the exact moment you get hit will produce a parry. While blocking prevents all damage, holding R2 for too long will make your turtle dizzy and open for attack. If you are playing solo, L2 is used to swap turtles or issue commands to the CPU allies. I had the turtles on 'All out' and they didn't hamper me at all. They could hold their own against normal enemies and bosses, would do an acceptable job covering me if I chose to defuse bombs and reviving me when I lost all my health. Each turtle can equip four different special moves, used by holding one of the shoulder buttons and pressing any of the four face buttons on the controller. They range from offensive attacks, like an area-hitting spinning attack, combo attacks that can be strengthened if another turtle uses the same move close to you, flying kicks, to support moves, like barriers, healing circles, or temporary buffs. I found that equipping Mikey and Donnie with support moves, since their exclusive moves are already leaning towards support, worked really well, and since Leo was my favorite, I gave him a healing circle move, Turtle Time(Slowdown) which I switched to Invincibility after I unlocked hit, and two offensive moves while Raph would support with damage as well.

 There's around 18-20 different special moves that can be equipped and upgraded. Defeating each boss will also unlock new moves for purchase. While special moves looked visually different I don't think there's much incentive for experimentation after you find moves that you like. The thing is, this is not a combo-based game, so it's not like you have juggling moves, or stunning moves, etc, all moves are simply different ways of dealing damage. The damage, area of effect and cooldown on each might be different, but the end result is somewhat the same. You can further customize each turtle by equipping charms on them, which can be enhanced by using different scavenge found after finishing a level. The amount of slots for equipping charms varied depending on the difficulty setting, the higher the difficulty, the more slots you get.
 While some my consider it inconsequential, I think the lack of offline multiplayer is a huge missed opportunity. It's not like the graphics are particularly intensive, the framerate is stuck at 30, and the other turtles fight alongside you at all times, so it's a bit baffling. There's online Co-op, at least, but it's not the same. There's also 'secret bosses', which are actually alternate bosses, on every stage, popular consensus is that triggering them is absolutely random, and getting high scores or playing on higher difficulty settings may, or may not, increase your chance of fighting them. It's not as cool as it sounds, since you simply get the same bosses from other levels, like instead of fighting Bebop on stage 1, you fight Karai, stage 5's boss. but at least you get new cutscenes, and there's an exclusive 'alternate boss' in the form of Super Shredder, which can't be fought normally.

 I liked Mutants in Manhattan a lot, it's not the best TMNT game out there, and it's far from Platinum Games' best efforts, but to call it mediocre is to do it a disservice, but I will agree that it's a game best enjoyed by fans of the franchise, particularly by fans of the comics, since the misguided fans from the terrible 1987 show won't give anything that isn't 'light-hearted' and 'funny' a chance. Reviewers saying stuff like 'go play the Konami arcade games instead' are delusional and misguided by nostalgia, since, if they found this game repetitive, they wouldn't last more than two minutes playing those beat'em ups. For shame, people, for shame.
 7.0 out of 10

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