Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows crawls out of the sewers to wrap up the 2013 XBLA Summer of Arcade. Sadly, it doesn’t exactly send the promotion out with a bang, as it features uninspired gameplay and lacks anything resembling a compelling story. As a long-time fan of TMNT, this is indeed a disappointment.
Upon starting the game, you take control of April O’Neil, the turtles’ faithful human ally. Her prologue segment serves as a fairly straightforward tutorial, ending with her being kidnapped and now in need of rescue. Hey, that’s our plot! Rescue the princess! How original!
From there you play as any and all of the titular turtles, switching between them as you please. In fact one of the better concepts implemented is the way you can tag between team mates in order to chain longer combos and deal more damage. Unfortunately this idea is only good in concept. The combat tried its hardest to replicate the smooth grappling mechanics from the recent Batman Arkham games, but it fails to deliver. It may be the clunkiness of trying to switch from Leo to Mikey to Donnie in rapid succession, or perhaps it’s the fact that turtles do not move as swift as bats, regardless of ‘ninja’ being in their job description. Whatever the case, the fights (which amount to approximately 75% of the game) often left me frustrated and went on much too long.
That brings me to another sore spot: I know the Turtles live in the sewers, but that doesn’t excuse how much tunnel vision you must suffer through. You’ve got Batman-ish battles that feel more like Devil May Cry hack-n-slash contained within an extremely Final Fantasy XIII-esque linearity model. But at least in FFXIII you have some beautiful cutscenes to look forward to in between the point-A-to-point-B missions.
OotS showcases some pretty stellar character models during the loading screens, but every single plot-centric “cutscene” is played out like a comic with voice-overs, akin to that of the abysmal Sonic and the Secret Rings, which looks pretty crummy and feels downright lazy. When the turtle brothers banter in-game (repetitive and obnoxious though it may be), it impressed me to see that their mouths actually move with the words they are saying. If the time and effort can be put it for details like that, why must we be subjected to such laziness during moments of actual importance? Seems like a waste of quality models.
That said, “moments of actual importance” are hard to find within. If I may complain a bit more, there are many locked doors throughout the game which must be hacked in order to proceed. This, again, is a good idea gone bad when implemented. First off, the hacking mini-games are incredibly easy. Perhaps they are more geared toward a younger audience though, so that is forgiveable. What really seems off about them is that if you do fail to hack the door in the allotted time frame, sirens sound and big bold letters appear saying, “SECURITY BREACH DETECTED”. Obviously after this happened I prepared myself for the inevitable wave of enemies sure to come stop my attempts at forced entry.
So I waited. And I waited. I waited some more before wandering around the corner to see a whole zero enemies have come to take me down. Just as a test, I failed the hacking game again on purpose, to see what, if anything would happen the second time. Sure enough, the bells and whistles that come with failing to successfully unlock the door have absolutely no negative consequences, aside from having to take an extra 30 seconds to try again. No extra battles, no time delay until I can attempt the hack again; nothing. If you’re going to make sure a big deal out of failing, surely there should be another obstacle to overcome, else leave it out completely.
Now that the most unfortunate issues have been addressed, are you guys ready for some Turtleception? I found the most fun from this Xbox Live Arcade game came in the form of a playable arcade game in-game. The side-scrolling arcade box can be accessed through the main menu hub, which shows you around the turtles’ home in the sewers (actually pretty neat). It is a wonderfully realized beat-em-up, playing pretty much like an HD remaster of the old 1989 arcade game. Since that classic has been a couple years removed from the XBLA marketplace, this is the best TMNT multiplayer experience to be found currently, if I may be so bold.
You’ve got your health bar (refilled, of course, by pizza), an interactive environment (letting you swing from power lines or street signs), and solid boss baddies littered throughout. In addition to the nostalgic throwbacks, it also features many of the special abilities introduced in the OotS main game, which feel much more suited to the side-scrolling action than the unfortunate attempt at 3D brawling.
If there’s a down side to be had from this arcade “mini-game” it is that you must unlock playable levels for it by completing the less than stellar main game. It feels like a chore, but if you can make it through that you are rewarded with a surprisingly enjoyable game, much more worthy of the $15 price tag than that which has been primarily advertised.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows was developed by Red Fly Studio and published by Activison. It is the fourth and final Summer of Arcade titles, currently available on the Xbox Live Arcade for $14.99. This title is also currently available on Steam and will release on the PlayStation Network on September 24.
A digital download code for this game was provided to Save/Continue by the publisher for review purposes.