Platinum Games is taking the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out of their shells

Mutants in Manhattan opens up a whole vibrant city to the crime-fighting reptiles, in a game that’s best played online with a group of friends

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 3:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 April, 2016, 3:00am

Platinum Games has had an unexpected hit working with old cartoons from the 1980s. Transformers: Devastation drew favourable reviews by going back to the original animated series for inspiration. Hoping to find a similar kind of success, the Japanese developer is turning again to a beloved children’s series – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

But the studio’s approach with TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan will be slightly different this time around. The team won’t be cribbing notes from the original cartoon. Director Eiro Shirahama says his take on the heroes in a half shell doesn’t borrow from a single source. It’s an amalgam of the old shows along with the comic books and Nickelodeon programmes.

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On the surface, the visuals look aggressive and dark like the Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird comic books but the tone has the levity of the ’90s cartoons. Meanwhile the turtles’ character design looks a lot like the recent CGI incarnation on Nickelodeon.

All of this combines for an unusual take on the Turtles that remains singularly a Platinum Games project. That means it has quick-twitch action and a solid combat system, but Shirahama and his team add multiplayer to the mix. It’s an obvious decision given that we’re dealing with a franchise known for its four heroes: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo.

Each turtle shares the same move set, up to a point. There is a light and hard attack, but in addition, each has his own signature set of moves that can be accessed by holding down the left trigger. The moves coincide with the role that each has on the team. For example, Donatello is the healer and revives the group if they’re knocked out or low on health. Meanwhile, Michelangelo has a move that will reset the cool-down on everyone else’s special abilities. This pushes players to talk with each other when they play online co-op. (Sorry, there’s no couch co-op in this one.)

Along with these special sets of moves, players also can perform coordinated attacks. If Mikey and Donnie use a special attack at the same time, they will combo off each other. As with any Platinum Games title, there is a dodge button, a lock-on and the ability to clamber up buildings and float down using a parachute. The combat system makes the experience feel like an updated version of those beloved Konami arcade games.

The huge difference is that Platinum Games brings that experience into the world of contemporary gaming with a fully polygonal Manhattan. Players can clamber up buildings and grind down rails attached to the top of structures. They can jump atop awnings and bounce to the roofs. Players have pretty much free rein, and they can roam around until April O’Neil gives them a mission.

Most of the tasks are simple, like beating up a squad of foot soldiers or protecting innocents. But they have an important impact on the game because players are supposed to finish these jobs and gain green gems that represent battle points. Players spend these points at the turtle’s base to buy turrets, health-restoring pizza and other upgrades. They essentially grind power-ups for a boss battle that eventually opens up on the map. They have to do this for each level of the game.

If any of this sounds familiar, the game design does resemble Shirahama’s other work in MadWorld and Anarchy Reigns. There’s a lot of exploring in a so-so world, but that ends up being punctuated by occasional scuffles.

It looks like TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan will have Platinum’s trademark difficulty. It’s a game that can be played solo as well, and players will be able to switch between the turtles, but the release is better played online with a group of people.

Expect to see the title released in the summer.

Tribune News Service