Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Launching just in time for the upcoming film sequel TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is a co-op arcade brawler from Platinum Games which aims to redeem the somewhat checkered history of past TMNT games while also taking players on a whirlwind adventure which pits them against a veritable who’s who of classic villains from the series.
While Mutants in Manhattan features some pretty solid combat and progression mechanics, its shallow, repetitive gameplay loops makes it hard to justify the game’s asking price, especially on current-gen platforms.
The Gang’s All Here
The story driving Mutants in Manhattan isn’t terribly original, but then again I doubt it was really meant to be, since its main purpose seems to be explaining why the four-man turtle squad has to fight so many iconic TMNT foes. When Krang and Shredder team up to launch a full-scale invasion of Manhattan, it’s up to Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo (with occasional help from April and Splinter) to put a stop to their plans.
Unfortunately, the dastardly pair has also recruited a large number of lesser villains, including Rocksteady, Bebop, Karai, Wingnut, and more, to dispose of the meddling turtles.
The game pulls deep from the well of TMNT lore, with only the most diehard fans of the Heroes in a Half-Shell being able to recognize all of the character who show up. These villains are naturally set up as boss encounters at the end of each of Mutants in Manhattan’s nine different stages, and while getting to see and fight them is cool at first, by the time the player reaches the game’s later stages, they start to feel a bit repetitive, mainly because many of the bosses employ the same types of attacks, and the fact that the entire turtle team is ganging up on a single enemy means that the screen quickly becomes cluttered with bright, garish visual effects.
The Art of War
For what it’s worth, Mutants in Manhattan’s combat and navigation mechanics both feel very solid, though the fact that you can never alter each turtle’s basic attacks does feel like a missed opportunity. Instead, players can buy and upgrade different “Ninjitsu” skills, i.e. special attacks and maneuvers which can deal large amounts of damage, heal allies, and more.
There is a basic leveling up system for unlocking new Ninjitsu skills, and each turtle can be customized with their own personal Ninjitsu loadouts, but the progression system only goes up to level 10, so there’s not much in the way of replay value once you reach the maximum level and beat all the story missions.
Each story mission stage involves exploring an open environment and completing various objectives (defeat enemies, clear hideouts, defuse bombs, secure intel machines, etc.) on the way to the boss, and the stages themselves actually offer a decent spread of different objectives and environmental aesthetics, but since there’s only nine stages total, even a casual solo player will be able to breeze through the story campaign in a mere couple of hours.
What limited replay value there is can be found in grinding for XP, discovering each stage’s hidden bosses, earning cosmetic emblems for completing certain goals (kill X number of enemies, revive X number of teammates, etc.) and gathering Charms (equip-able items which grant passive effects) and collectible comic book covers.
Playing solo and playing via online co-op multiplayer (there is no couch co-op) are both viable options, though, depending on which you choose, you should adjust the difficulty accordingly (the game tends to be easy to the point of boring if you play any difficulty easier than Hard while playing co-op). I also like how players can create and search for online lobbies which are tailored to specific end goals (XP farming, finding secret bosses, going for high stage rankings, etc.), though these specialized lobbies will really only matter to the truly dedicated among the game’s community.
For now, I’d say Mutants in Manhattan’s biggest detractor is the amount of content you get for the price you pay. The game costs $49.99 on current-gen platforms, and even going for the last-gen versions only knocks a measly $10 off the asking price. For such a high price-point, you get access to nine relatively short stages with a middling amount of replay value and not much else.
It’d be one thing if you and three buddies could just split the game’s price four ways and then play couch co-op with a single copy, but the lack of couch co-op sadly ruins that strategy. If you’re absolutely dying to play a new TMNT game, Mutants in Manhattan is at least serviceable from a gameplay standpoint, but you might want to wait until you can pick up a copy at a discount.