I’m not going to waste my time teasing this review. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is lousy. Skip it. If you want to find out what makes it so bad keep reading.
TMNT: OOTS is a bad, buggy, unfinished wreck of a game. I’m tempted to do this review as a list, which we all know is the lowest form of “writing,” but even I’m not that lazy.
Or am I?
The cutscenes look like they were hastily made on MS Paint.
This is how the devs decided to present the game, and so this is how I will present it to you. These ugly, static cutscenes move along the plot. Check out Donnie down there. He has found himself a boot.
The enemies come in four similar flavors of grunt.
Purple Dragons, The Foot, Mousers (and Man-cers --don’t ask) and the Kraang --it’s all the same. Some hit harder than others. That’s about it. Other than the miniscule Mousers, I felt I was fighting the same enemy in every level. There are also a handful of annoying, uninspired boss fights --and by handful I mean three different bosses over four chapters. Do the math.
Environmental deja vu.
Bland is an overstatement. The alleys, sewers, docks, and rooftops all feel like the same boring corridor arena. There’s no radar or objective indicator. I would say this makes it difficult to navigate the levels but they’re too linear to cause any disorientation.
Voice overs are a jumbled mess of catch phrases.
Spin-sanity! Welcome to the STAFF meeting! Do you like catch phrases? Do you love them? I mean, really, REALLY love them? Do you like it when people speak over each other? Do you think you can spend the rest of your life listening to the same lines over and over again? Because after an hour with OOTS this small collection of phrases with haunt you to your grave.
The Turtles look embarrassed to be here.
Look at them. Do it. They need to feel shame.
Special moves require intimate knowledge of the right thumbstick.
This is pretty much where the whole thing goes to hell. The combat system on its own has some redeeming value. Each Turtle has their own move sets, taunts, and special abilities. There are some very cool combos and team attacks you can pull off with other human players (forget about it with the AI). An upgrade system unlocks some decent finishers.
Once I got past mashing X and Y combos it just sucks. You have to hold the right trigger and perform quarter, half, and full circle movements with the right analog stick to perform special moves. I found myself holding the right trigger and spinning the analog stick at varying speeds, hoping a power move would register.
The counter system could kill Batman.
The counter system in OOTS is a hobo’s version of the Arkham titles’ fluid block and counter combat. Whereas Batman is the goddamn Batman, the TMNTs are not. The laggy, unresponsive counter system makes me wonder if the Turtles collectively asked someone to hold their beers right before the fight began. When it works, it’s cool. When it doesn’t, consider yourself face punched. Spoiler: It’s almost never cool.
Reviving a fallen friend requires holding two buttons and a prayer.
You have to hold the LB and RT or some totally heinous combination to revive a fallen pal. And you can only do that if one of you has pizza. If you run out of health and pizza before the end of the level be prepared to be booted to the chapter lobby. Now you get to play the whole level all over again.
Online co-op is DOA on PC.
Have fun trying to connect with friends for a game. I just took a tour of the OOTS community hub on Steam and the keyboard krew seems to be a bit miffed. Online co-op in the XBLA version works, but it’s got some funky lag. The Turtle’s bandanas stretch all over the screen, dudes warp around the combat arena, and half the party can be trapped in a load screen when changing locations. Online co-op is the only way to experience the main campaign with four players, by the way.
Local co-op is poorly implemented in two different game modes.
You would think it would be hard to screw up couch co-op in a TMNT game. Just make it happen, and the fans with take care of the rest. Well it happened, but not very well. The main campaign supports local co-op, but only for two players. Check out the split screen. Yeah… No.
Once you give up on that frustration you can move on to the Arcade mode. Four local players can play through a side scrolling beat'em up. It’s like a 2.5D version of the core game and more closely resembles the glorious adventures of the Turtles’ past. Sadly, I had to play through the main game to unlock the arcade stages, and it’s still subject to most of the technical shortcomings of the full version. You also won’t collect any XP for upgrades.
It’s fifteen bucks for a night of disappointment.
Four chapters can be completed in an evening. After that there’s not much left to do. You can grind XP by playing through Challenges or a Survival mode (which only support single player). Despite the names, both of these modes are simple wave-based survival modes. It’s like playing the campaign, except now you won’t get godawful cut scenes or have to move from one generic room to another through barren corridors. This would actually be better, but since it’s locked in as a solo experience, it’s pretty much masturbation.
The AI plays as good as it looks.
You know how no developer has ever made a decent AI substitute for human players? Yeah, they didn’t do it in this game, either.
The camera is going to @#$% you over.
It might hide behind scenery. It might pan out so that you have no idea who is friend or foe. At times it will get stuck over your shoulder. That’s okay. It wasn’t really helping, anyway.
There’s so much more crap.
You will clip through environments. You will target the wrong enemies. If you’re really unlucky you may fall through the game map entirely. There's an intermittent stealth element which may work, and it may not. Do you like hacking mini-games? I didn't think so. Those are in there, too. I can’t believe you’re still reading this.
The opening April O’Neil sequence is one of the worst "tutorials" I have ever played.
I don’t know if Red Fly ran out of money, time, or the will to live, but this junk introduction feels like it was forced into the game at the last minute as pseudo-aborted afterthought. In hindsight, I guess it’s an adequate precursor to the rest of the game. Job well done?
Unapologetic fanboys will find something of value here. But at this stage in the game you should know not to trust fanboys. I played through OOTS with a few buddies who had convinced themselves it was alright. I was beginning to do the same. I enjoyed myself, but that's more of a testament to the quality of the people I was playing with rather than the quality of the game. I revisited it the next day and the spell was broken. This is a poor excuse for a licensed game --especially for a game promoted in the XBLA Summer of Arcade. I used to get excited for the XBLA summer offerings. I don’t think I ever will again.
This review was based on the XBLA version of the game, which I foolishly paid for with my own money.