It’s initially hard to fault any Turtles video game that pulls at the strings of nostalgia from the outset with Partners in Kryme’s mega-hit from 1990 looping on the title screen. This could be it, this could be THE Turtles game to really capture that feeling of lost summers, skint knees and battering a legion of evil ninjas known as The Foot (it certainly was a tiresome summer holiday).
Sadly, the good ship nostalgia can only take Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows so far before you’ll find yourself mutinous as it shurikens itself in its own two-toed foot.
This is a sticky and bland brawler that borrows (see: steals) all its combat from the Arkham Asylum school of fights. That said, this is probably one of the better Turtles titles in those terms. Fighting bad guys is the whole nucleus of the plot and if that’s all you’re after, by Christ, that’s what you’re going to get. But amid a cluster-fart of bugs and annoyances, there are simply not enough cowabungas in your memory to keep you going.
While there’s some sort of plot to pay attention to, you’ll mostly concentrate on upping your fighty combos by relentlessly pummelling bad chaps to collect XP to trade in for even more moves to pound even MORE baddies. You can choose whichever Turtle you want to play with and, as well as each one’s standard bunch of moves, there are individual character traits to improve. Mixing up combos and utilising Team TPKOs (Turtle Power Knock Outs) by building up a combo-meter are all nicely done and the fights themselves are fairly satisfying. Sadly, most of the moves and tricks you unlock will be completely superfluous. The samey battles and bewildering on-screen brawling can reduce it to a button-smashing thumb exercise which, with its complicated move-list, it’s so obviously trying to avoid.
Some of its brightest moments come from taunts, used to entice opponents into fights, or celebrate with your pals as well as finally chaining together a sequence of hits that will up your combo count through the proverbial rafters. However, there just isn’t enough diversity to the moves to keep the whole thing interesting past the first few levels with a real feeling that the over-complication is a cover-up for the lack of real game here.
OOTS is also a stylistically confused game, with blocky, uninspired but serviceable, game graphics constantly interrupted by colourful, but dull, comic-book stylings for cut-scenes and, confusingly, ultra-detailed static photos for loading.
Amid all the fighting there are some forced platforming segments where a drunken camera will have you admiring the scenery more than your clambering Turtle. Progress in these segments usually relies on an object, or a pathway, flashing yellow to indicate where to go. Despite these small playgrounds, it’s not unusual to get completely lost.
Between missions, there’s stuff to do in the sewer, like listen to rat-faced rat Splinter part with some pearls of wisdom, or train up your perpetually adolescent dermochelyidae (yeah, I looked that up and it doesn’t really work here, the fuck you going to do about it?). Thankfully, all the voice-work is well done although repetitive phrases and non-skippable cut-scenes spear that right in the arse.
OOTS is a decent enough brawler when it comes to punching, kicking and punching and kicking, but its tiny itchy annoyances really hold it back. With some fun to be had playing with environmental interactions and the joy of the camaraderie between the reptilian bros, there’s probably enough steam blasting from this sewer to keep mega-fans sated. But this is a game that feels jagged at every edge, unfinished and lacking any sort of finesse. More development time could’ve clearly ironed out many of its most spit-worthy bugs. So, sadly, it’s back underground into the shadows for you, Turtles, for further incubation until you can hatch into something beautiful.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows is available to download now for Xbox 360 and PC, with a PS3 release on 24th September.