STAFF REVIEW of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows Box art For those of us who don't consider an original Xbox console to be an antique relic of a distant, long forgotten gaming age, there is a good chance you grew up loving the invented characters from pens of Eastman and Laird called the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If, by some chance, you happen to have lived on another planet or haven't been born yet, the premise of TMNT is fairly straightforward; There are four turtle brothers named Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. These four turtles came into contact with green ooze which mutated them into life sized characters. These brothers were cared for by a rat named Splinter who (according to the purists of the story) became their ninja sensei and taught them everything he learned while watching his owner and ninja master, Hamato Yoshi. It's through Splinter's teachings that these brothers learned about the harmony of life, the secrets of mastering the art of Ninja, and the bond that forms through brotherhood. During the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade, gamers around the globe waited patiently to get their hands on this latest turtle adventure: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. The time has come for the turtles to arise once again, but is this latest release a knockout blow, or does it get shell shocked to the discard pile. Let's find out.

Starting the game is quite possibly the best moment if you are a TMNT fan as you hear the sample from the iconic song T-U-R-T-L-E POWER booming over your speakers. If you're a fan of TMNT, then I'm sorry to say that this will probably be the highlight of your gaming experience. After that everything pretty much doesn't go downhill, but rather in an orbital free fall decent without any form of recovery. This will lead to complete amazement as you shake your head in disbelief, then feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and depression when you realize that your hopes and dreams have been utterly demonized, set on fire, demolished and then the remains blown into atoms. This is honestly where the review could end, however, there is so much going against this game that it's our duty to relay all of this agony to you our dear reader. Got all your affairs in order? Here we go.

To start things off the story is incredibly short and relies on your turtle running through various levels beating the ever loving crap out of anything that isn't a turtle. While the gameplay overview is fairly straight forward, there is barely anything at all redeeming about it. Ninjas were supposed to be renowned for their ability to move quickly, silently, and their movements would flow like the wind. In this TMNT game the characters do move quickly and silently, but instead of flowing like the wind, it feels more like a chaotic and psychotic explosion. This is caused by one of the worst cameras available in a game. The only quality that could be considered good about the camera system is that it gives other developers a brilliant and shining example of what not to do. While you're running around fighting everyone, you will also notice that there is no mini map or objective marker anywhere on the screen. So ultimately what ends up happening is that you go looking for the next batch of guys to beat up because you realize that you haven't been in this part of the level before.

Now that we have established that the best way to navigate the levels is to go looking for fights, how does this latest TMNT game stack up when it comes to combat? When you factor in that this TMNT game is supposed to have a combat system similar to the new Batman games, you automatically you start to think, "**** YEAH, THIS IS THE NINJA TURTLES GAME I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR!" Then you play the game and realize that this combat system is lackluster at best and feels very distant to what was originally hyped up. You do have your attacks and counter moves, however the execution of these moves don't have the razor precision of a ninja sword, but more like the cumbersome force of a wrecking ball. Sure you can do online co-op with three other friends, but honestly, if your friends want to play co-op TMNT, there are much better games to play.

So far we have touched on how the overall gameplay mechanics make the game about as enjoyable as cliff diving in the desert, but if you thought all this misery was at an end, we're sorry to disrupt the years, the characters of TMNT have undergone some dramatic artistic changes that either have you in pure bliss, or uncompromising misery. This time around the characters are based off the new Nickelodeon cartoon show, or at least that is what's supposed to be the case. What we actually find in this latest TMNT game is more of a genetics experiment where the outcome isn't what you hoped it would be. Somehow Red Fly Studio managed to create a character that looks as though an elephant mated with a turtle to produce either an Elepurtle or a Turtlephant. A true genetics masterpiece, however, the end product reminds me of the "kill me" scene in Aliens. The comic style screens between levels and important moments do pay homage to the origin of TMNT, but outside of that, Out of the Shadows looks like it should go back and hide.

There are some factors though from the RPG realm and that is in the form of character upgrades. Instead of training for years to perfect your ninja form, just beat up enough people and earn experience to level up and gain a character point. Using these points will allow you to unlock new combos that you use and even upgrade your weapon. While this feature does the job, it would have been a nice to include more depth to it, as opposed to its very basic and minimal aspects. Even this small amount of ingenuity can't help the demise of this TMNT game. Oh and we almost forgot, this incredible steaming pile can be yours for the low price of $15. There are retail titles out there right now that cost less than $15 and give you a far better experience, furthermore, there are TMNT arcade games that are better and are cheaper as well. Why would anyone spend $15 on this disaster? Maybe that’s a long lost ninja secret.

A quick checklist for any future TMNT games:

1) Story - longer, more dramatic, meaningful.
2) Camera - not as twitchy and more refined.
3) Gameplay - simplify and perfect.
4) RPG system - give more substance and depth.
5) Artwork - look to the past to give solid ground.

Overall: 3.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 3.0 / 10
Sound: 3.0 / 10


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