Step One before reading this blog: watch this video. Get turtle’d up.
Recently Activision, and developer Red Fly Studio released the latest offering to the Ninja Turtles gaming crowd: TMNT Out of Shadows. Unlike previous releases while Ubisoft had the licensing for the series, this game is not a remake, or port of the classic ninja turtle games – but an entirely new game. And seeming how I’ve been moving at a turtle’s pace as far as my posts here on TBOD go…this felt appropriate.
Still drawing heavily on the series’ roots as a co-op brawler, Out of Shadows still offers that hack and kick goodness we’re all used to, but adds a rather hefty spectrum of combos, counters, special weapons, and an upgrade and level system that rivals most RPG’s out there. Each turtle has his own level progression tree, and series of up-gradable abilities that encourage replay.
Now, being the TMNT fan that I am, I instantly gobbled this up as soon as it hit, and dove right in. As a kid I would read the original black and white comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, watched the cartoon(s), and had just about every action figure. At first glorious glance it was obvious that Red Fly had put some serious fan service into the look, and feel of this game.
The Turtle’s underground lair is essentially your in-game UI menu, and each selection will tour you to different areas such as the dojo, to throw-down against Donnie’s robot Foot Soldiers solo, or as a team. Learn combos, and get much needed practice to succeed at the rather difficult campaign. I’ll touch on combat later, but the game uses an attack/counter formula similar to the Batman: Arkham series, but one that is much faster-paced.
Other areas within the Turtle HQ include, A concept art gallery, The main campaign selection map, and the one that made me nerd-squeal: Donatello’s workshop, where you can purchase and upgrade cool weapon mods, and other inventions by the notorious tech-tinkering turtle.
The coolest addition to HQ which fans of the classic games will love, is an old-school arcade machine where you can play out mini versions of the campaign levels in side scrolling beat ’em up bliss. Each mission for the classic style game is unlocked via campaign.
The combat system for TMNT Out of Shadows, is to put it “lightly” a gong show. It’s fun, and rather challenging – but the games wonky camera (which you constantly fight with to prevent extreme close-up angles when it collides with walls.) makes for some rage-quit inducing moments sometimes.
In a nutshell the core combat function is rich, and offers some great animations, and the ability to call out team KO’s and other attacks that really show the brothers true calling, which is kicking the shit out of thugs and ninjas in tandem.
For the first time ever, the player is now able to take control of each turtle on the fly – using the D-Pad. This makes for some very cool opportunities to practice each turtles unique combat style, speed, as well as how to utilize team attacks to your advantage. Early on, you’ll learn that the Dojo I mentioned earlier is your best friend as training is important to get a feel for each character before braving the unforgiving campaign.
The health-system is a tad on the stagnant side, offering hidden, and sparse pizza boxes which serve as single use med-packs that you can keep in a mini-inventory along with throwing stars, and any power-weapon you might have purchased from the workshop. Pizza can be used to either replentish your health meter, or can be cashed in to revive a turtle if they are KO’d.
Due to the sparse nature of health, it creates a frustrating situation where it’s virtually impossible to keep each turtle “healthy” nor recall which of them has a pizza in their inventory. When you revive a turtle, they respawn with little to no health, thus wasting the precious pie entirely. I recommend taking the selfish route, especially when you are being swarmed with enemies. There is one particular moment I was stuck at for some time as a shit load of robots systematically killed each turtle that I was not controlling, leaving me alone against the raving horde of mechanical teeth and claws. Online co-op can help you get through a difficult situation however – so all is not lost.
The game’s story is based on the Nickelodeon series, which is not a far cry from the animated series I grew up with, so there’s plenty of familiarity with characters like Baxter Stockman & his robots, the foot, etc. All I can say, is that it’s a ninja turtle storyline, and it works pretty well and will give fans some real nostalgic nerdgasms, But don’t come here looking for a grandiose dramatic epic. It’s designed to reawaken your inner 8 year old…and it does it’s job well.
Well enough until the clunky camera shits on your parade when fighting in narrow spaces, or areas with lots of background geometry to literally trip-up and catch the mischievous camera, which seems on a quest to make you want to seriously kick a baby seal in the face. (Hey, I’m Canadian.) My best words of Splinter-esque wisdom would be:
“A warrior, will face many dangers, and enemies. But if his soul is pure. His presence a shadow, and his ability to rotate the camera quickly before being suckered by a Foot Soldier is true… He shall succeed.”
At first acquaintance TMNT Out Of Shadows is a fun and great offering to the series, that offers plenty of good ol’ gaming nostalgia, with a heaping helping of new school features.
After about an hour, you’ll likely light your XBOX on fire out of rage – but soon enough run out to get a new console so you can let this game give you heavy doses of joy and pure livid anguish again, and again in no time.