Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Turtles-mania is something we can still remember vividly, even as a cynical 30-year old. We remember begging our mum to buy Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (as it was known in the UK) bread, which has to be the height of merchandising insanity. Turtles bread, for goodness sake! We wanted anything and everything Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles-related, whether it was bedsheets, lampshades, trading cards, spaghetti shapes action figures, or yes, bread. But 23 years on, will we want Activision's new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game?
It's a pertinent question, not least because Acti's game – in development at Mushroom Men and Ghostbusters for Wii dev, Red Fly – is being aimed at a more mature audience. It's being made for old-skool Turtles fans who watched the cartoon in the late 80s and early 90s, although it's based on the new Nickelodeon series viewed by younger kids. Confused? So are we.
Essentially, it seems that Acti and Red Fly want to have their cake and eat it, coaxing in the younger audience who love the current cartoon, while appealing to the older fans' sense of rose-hued nostalgia. Potentially, the game could therefore draw in an enormous following, especially when you consider that the first episode of the new animated series apparently pulled in over 12 million viewers worldwide.
In the US alone, the series attracts around 2-3 million viewers per episode, making it a pretty damn lucrative franchise. Hence the emergence of a new game – the first since 2009 - which assumes the guise of a third-person beat 'em up that's not a million miles away from the Batman: Arkham titles with its combos and counters. Built around four player co-op, this iteration of TMNT features team-up moves, and if you're playing in single-player, you'll still have three Turtles with you that you can seamlessly switch between at will.
Our first look at the game takes us to the Turtles' subterranean sewer HQ, which acts as your hub where you're able to apply any upgrades you've unlocked, train in the dojo, access side missions and the challenge mode, as well as secret retro arcade games. In the dojo, you're able to take on wooden training robots, flexing each of the Turtles unique fighting styles.
Leonardo is an all-rounder with his classic dual katana swords, and can unlock an upgrade that fixes the blades together into a new weapon; Raphael wields his sais and can gain access to iron fists to complement his close-quarters toughness; Michaelangelo spins his speedy nunchuks and can get retractible blades attached to them as an upgrade; and finally Donatello's ranged staff is later complemented by an unlockable secondary weapon.
After a dalliance with the dojo, we're taken out to the dark and grimy New York streets, where the 'fearsome fighting team' tackle some stock street thugs who launch an ambush down an alleyway. Basic strikes and heavy strikes make stringing together combos straightforward and simple, while a face button handles counter moves like Michelangelo's gassy belch. It looks streamlined enough, and team moves enable the Turtles to combine their abilities, like using Donatello's staff to swing around, while kicking any thugs dumb enough to get in the way.
Bring together all four Turtles, and you can crush bad guys between their half-shells. The team has a diverse selection of moves, including flips over enemies and devastating finishers when your power gauge is filled. Environments are also interactive and can be used to your advantage, and you can taunt enemies to draw their attention, before unleashing your collective Turtle Power.
Each Turtle has their own upgradeable skill trees and attributes such as health, damage, toughness and speed, that should help in bolstering the game's longevity. Comprised of seven different environments to explore around New York City, including a robot factory, the sewers and the streets, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows ought to boast plenty of gameplay, and promises to be especially enjoyable online in co-op with three other friends.
As the first Turtles game in four years, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows certainly looks like it has potential, despite this alpha build of the Unreal Engine-powered game having its fair share of flaws, like screen tearing and a choppy frame rate. There's no reason why these issues can't be brushed up in time for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows' late June release however, and as old-skool Turtles fans who were there back in the late-80s when it all began, we're hoping this will be the game the Heroes in a Half-Shell deserve.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows will be emerging from the sewers for XBLA this summer for a projected price of 1600 Microsoft Points. The price and date is still to be confirmed.
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