Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

TMNT: OOTS, maybe should have stayed in the shadows.
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Ahh… nostalgia…
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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that name represents so many things from my childhood.  I was born in the 80’s and grew up on TMNT, Transformers, and GI Joe.  I also like to think about the classic arcades from that era as well. Turtles in Time was one of my favorite quarter munching machines out there.  So many fond memories of the four turtles who happened to get some toxic goo on them, and a rat… of course.

Flash forward to the year 2013 and these same teenage turtles should be well on their way to their mid-thirties, instead are still teenagers. Leonardo, Raphael, Donetello, and Michelangelo have been through a few reboots to say the least.  The current reboot of the series comes from Nickelodeon.  In this generations TMNT, the four of them are still learning their ninja ways from leader Master Splinter.  Red Fly Studios worked on TMNT: Out of the Shadows and it is published by Activision.

Here we go.

Before the release of the game, Red Fly Studios said they were attempting to put those quarter munching machines through a glorious 2013 overhaul for the console (my paraphrasing, not a direct quote).  And in a few ways they did just that… in other ways though, the game teeters on just plain broken.  Throughout the games campaign mode I frequently encountered the issue of not triggering the invisible line to start the next cut scene. Other times a guard would just be standing aimlessly in the corner as if there weren’t a giant fight a few feet away from him. 

A handful of times I would just run around for a few minutes doing absolutely nothing, because there were no clear indicators as to where to go. During the entire 4th chapter only Leonardo’s legs and swords were showing, no arms, no body, no head. Every. Single. Cutscene was a slide show in the style of a comic book.  That may not sound too bad, but when all the cool stuff happens, like explosions and fight scenes are still images, it gets very boring.

Shell Shock!

Now, for all those things it does wrong, the things it does right, it does pretty darn well. To start, you get to choose which of the four turtles you want to play with.  At any time you are able to switch between characters using your directional pad.  Maybe I’m easy to impress, but the idea of using the left D-pad button for Leonardo, right D-pad button for Raphael, down for Donetello, and up for Michelangelo, just seemed very intuitive.  Each turtle has an upgrade tree as well as a upgradable weapon.  The delivery in which it introduces you to these mechanics, or lack there of, doesn’t take away from the experience. 

My favorite mechanic was Donatello using some type of gravity bracer/gauntlet to lift foes into the air and do one heck of a ground pound.  As for the ability tree, it allows you to become stronger, faster, and more resilient.  It also allows for some pretty cool team finishers you’d often associate with the TMNT.  Such as smashing an enemy between your shells.  The combat system is similar to that of the latest entries from Batman titles.  You are usually swarmed with a good amount of enemies.  There will be a flash of color (different colors for different attacks) before the opponent strikes.  This results in a very fluid counter-based combat.  To give an example of how integrated countering is into the scheme, Raphael’s special move is a counter.

Tell me a story old friend.

The story was nothing to write home about, nor was it terrible.  Having some cutscenes would’ve helped, as I’ve mentioned.  There are really no spoilers here.  If you’ve seen anything resembling an action cartoon, mainly the TMNT, this is all too familiar.  April O’Neil, a friend of the turtles, gets captured by Shredder, the long time nemesis of the TMNT.  There were no real high points.  There’s a problem, fight a lot, save your friend, and of course before the credits role there’s a cliffhanger about Shredder and another mysterious person looming over them… “until next time.”

You mean there’s… (gulp!) More?!

Aside from the campaign there is a horde mode which is more of just what you came for: combat.  The lack of a story is quite nice if you’re in the mood for some good ol’ fashioned brawling.  As you progress in the campaign you unlock different levels to play horde mode on.  You also unlock “Donetello’s Arcade” while playing the campaign.  The arcade mode is more akin to the 80’s arcade style for the map layout and the camera positioning.  I found this mode the most challenging, and with absolutely no major bugs compared to the story campaign.

Should you buy it?

All in all, TMNT: OOTS shouldn’t have been the last game offered on the Xbox 360’s Summer of Arcade (previously high caliber games like Braid, Limbo, Shadow Complex, and Mark of the Ninja).  The few things it does seem to accomplish were very much enjoyable.  With all the things that are wrong though, it seems impossible to overlook.  The game clearly needed just a bit more time for the developers to polish the game. An update may solve most if not all the problems. $15 seems a bit much for the game (that’s the reason for the 5/10 otherwise a cheaper price would bump it to a 6.) $5-$10 sounds about right. Underneath that hard, ugly, scratched up shell, is a great, soft, and squishy, fun turtle game just waiting to come out of it’s shell.  Until then though, wait for it to go on sale.

by: Greg Magee, @Coatedpolecat

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
TMNT: OOTS, maybe should have stayed in the shadows.

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I'm a stay at home dad who writes about video games. I enjoy my family, video games, and music.