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TMNT: Out of the Shadows review

Mediocre
AT A GLANCE
  • Combat has some good ideas
  • Arcade mode tickles your nostalgia
  • Decent production values
  • The fighting never really comes together
  • Campaign is short and bland between battles
  • Too much unnecessary content

If we’re being honest, there are more mediocre TMNT video games than there were puns about shell shock in the first draft of this review. Considering the sheer quantity of of low-rent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games out there, it’s a wonder that this beat-‘em-up franchise has had such remarkable longevity. The unerringly middling efforts are particularly odd because the concept here seems plain--and was largely nailed with the original arcade cabinets decades ago. Out of the Shadows, sadly, only flirts with these past triumphs. Heavy flirting, maybe, but it’s too badly built of a game to live up to its strong potential.

Most designers, and rightly so, use combat and brotherly interaction as the driving force in this franchise. On paper or in a design document someplace, developer Red Fly really got it right this time. Essentially a system weapon strikes, kicks, and a block button that can be used for counter attacks, it isn’t unlike Rocksteady’s brilliantly constructed Arkham Asylum/ City melee with a twist. In solo play, all four turtles are present, so after landing a string of attacks against an enemy, you can hit the d-pad to immediately take control of a different brother that’s knee deep in a Foot Clan throw down.

"It’s too badly built of a game to live up to its strong potential."

But everything lacks the fluidity to make it truly sing. Attacks chain together slowly and with little mobility, so you’re often sitting in the same spot hitting nothing when it feels as though your techniques should be aggressively pounding the swarm of enemies around you. There’s no tempo from fighting one enemy to the next. Worse, none of these separate battle mechanics blend together like they should. Weapons and kicks lumber along one after the next, and while you may see an on-screen prompt to block and counter, you’ll be stuck in moves that never string together, or you’ll miss the opportunity altogether and end your combos in the wiffed block stance.

The main campaign doesn’t exactly help matters, either. While some limited exploring can be done between group battles to scrounge for secondary weapons and health replenishment, objectives to move on aren’t very clearly defined. It’s not uncommon to wander around an environment aimlessly until you realize that you’re supposed to pull that small lever three floors above you. Funny enough, the opening tutorial introduces you to movement mechanics that never, ever show up in the rest of the game. Since the campaign is merely four levels long and each run about 10-20 minutes apiece, it really doesn’t matter; it’s over before you know it.

But that’s when you’re met with the extra challenges, unlockables, and an Arcade game born from the DNA of the more classic entries into this troubled franchise. This added... stuff is evidently the problem. There’s just too much crammed into this game, from the modes to the expansive skill trees (way too big for a four-level game). The extra modes are superfluous, and the Arcade game, while a neat touch, makes you wonder why they didn’t just toss out the main campaign and focus on that. It’s not a stretch to imagine that if Red Fly had left well enough alone on all of the extra stuff, they would have plenty of time to refine what would have made this game good.

"There’s just too much crammed into this game."

There are some legitimate bright spots. For one, it’s a pretty game. The character models of each of the Turtles look very good and animate well, and even the chaff of mooks that you beat through look attractively fierce, even though they’re not exactly varied. The voice acting is strong, and the constant stream of immature jokes doesn’t get as grating as you might think. Still images that serve to expound the plot have a nice, simple elegance to them, too. That said, good production values can only carry sloppy gameplay so far.

The sun rises. The world turns. Another half-baked Ninja Turtles game disrupts our normally peaceful lives. You may now return to tearfully recalling the Zen-like beauty of Turtles in Time or the original Arcade game. At this rate, we may never have it as good again, no matter how hard they try.

This review was conducted using the Xbox 360 version of the game.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Red Fly Studio
ESRB Rating:
Teen: Violence

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11 comments

  • MissingDjinn - August 30, 2013 7:44 p.m.

    I think it was good. Not to say the best, but it was a good first try. Just add more bosses and levels (DLC maybe?) and add about ten more levels and it would be a blast. Also put in the old classics revamped in 3d and you got a winner. I have played way worse and they costed $60.00, so why complain about a game that is only $15. Just needs some polish and then it will golden!
  • Stinger911 - August 29, 2013 7:34 p.m.

    The gameplay is actually quite good. It feels like a diet soda version of Arkham. It just has a learning curve. The command buffering is a little extreme, so if you mash buttons mid-combo you'll feel out of control. You have to time them and think ahead. And when it comes to countering, you have to anticipate incoming strikes to catch them early if you want the full counter. If you press it late, you only get a block. It's a little bit awkward but makes sense once you understand it. Arkham's system was a bit easier to just pick up and play. And there are, admittedly, some weird collision issues sometimes. Like if you do an evasion flip over an opponent, sometimes you won't actually flip over him but will get stuck. I was taken by surprise when the reviewer said that the gameplay is bad but the production value is good. In my mind, it's the exact opposite. The core gameplay is good -- it's just rough around the edges and not quite as polished to a sheen as Rocksteady's efforts. Anyway, I recommend the Steam version because the combat feels much smoother at 60 FPS.
  • gyromne - August 29, 2013 3:34 p.m.

    So why can"t I invert my camera settings? I didn't even get to play this,because I feel like the camera is backwards and can't change it! Also, Iwish I would've known it was activision that made this before I bought and downloaded,because they haven't put out a good game in like ever.
  • shawksta - August 29, 2013 3:25 p.m.

    TOO LATE, i already bought it before reading reviews. Played the demo, it was fine to me save for the camera being my only issue but got used to it. It seemed fun and interesting to me, and im dying to try out that classic arcade mode.
  • BladedFalcon - August 29, 2013 3:14 p.m.

    Welp, I guess I should thank Activision for making it so easy for me to boycott their products. This was one that kinda looked interesting when first revealed... But yeah, seeing play-troughs of it now, it looks really mediocre. Activision sure is on a roll this year!
  • codystovall - August 29, 2013 2:43 p.m.

    we need a rocksteady, gritty turtle game.
  • Vonter - August 29, 2013 2:22 p.m.

    What is it with developers not having more imagination in their character designs or in this case character reinterpretation. Might as well had done it with he style of the new cartoon because that at least distinguises the turtles besides their bandana color. There are times when realism is not the way to go. Just sayin.
  • APerfidiousDane - August 29, 2013 1:57 p.m.

    Too bad the Steam version is riddled with coop and crashing bugs :(
  • Redeater - August 29, 2013 1:47 p.m.

    And so the march of mediocrity continues. It's pretty goddamn sad that arguably the best TMNT game came out as a arcade game almost 3 decades ago. It's a show based on ninjas, mutants, and mutant ninja turtles......how has this not been turned into one of the best games of all times??!!
  • Redeater - August 29, 2013 1:49 p.m.

    Let's dream that they come to their senses and hire Platinum or Rocksteady for the next one.......or at least blatantly rip off their style.
  • VooDooDevil1369 - August 29, 2013 1:02 p.m.

    I agree with this review on its merits, although with 3 young boys who LOVE the turtles, the design flaws will not bother them as much as seasoned games as you and I, with that said they love being able to play the turtles. This game is totally worth the $15 just for the entertainment value it brings my kids. As a matter of fact I can ignore the gameplay myself to hop into a 4 player round of this.

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