There's a new Ninja Turtles movie in theaters and there's a new Ninja Turtles game to play. Couldn't possibly be a coincidence. With our hopes raised by the intrinsic nostalgia we attach to anything TMNT, we approached Mutants in Manhattan with lofty hopes for a return to the glory days of the four-player co-op Ninja Turtles arcade games that ate our countless quarters whenever we visited a pizza place or bowling alley as youngsters. Sadly, that wasn't to be in 2016 as TMNT: Mutants In Manhattan is a buzzy, messy exercise in confusion and chaos.
Before we dig into what's wrong with Mutants in Manhattan, let's talk about what it does right. Stylistically, the game looks great. Animations that look ripped from comic book pages. The gameplay as well as the cut-scenes absolutely nail the look and tone that kindled our love for these reptilian teenage ninjas in the first place. Michaelangelo's love of pizza, Leonardo's decisive leadership, Splinter's ancient wisdom; it's all there. Then there's the gameplay which actually feels like it was meant to be an evolution from the old arcade style TMNT games, bringing the fearsome foursome into an open-world where fights break out suddenly and plenty of foot soldier fodder await your trouncings. Each character brings different combos to the table, as unique as each one of their signature weapons. Setting off into the open-world snippets of NYC - it's never a full-blown city like in GTA - April O'Neil guides you to checkpoints and points out new objectives that range from the ho-hum of thwarting petty thieves to major boss battles against big bads you'll likely recognize.
All of this would make for a good game if the shortcomings of the gameplay weren't so obvious. Many of those shortcomings stem from the fact that all turtles are present at all times, whether you're playing solo or with friends. In the solo campaign, a decently competent teammate AI controls the turtle you're not using at the moment. The ever-present crowd of turtles makes it difficult to address individual enemies or to effectively use combos and make them count. A decent amount of this confusion gets mitigated when friends join in to play but co-op in Mutants in Manhattan is limited to online only multiplayer, a departure from the arcade stylings of having four friends take on the legions of foot soldiers at the same time in your battle to win the day. If you are able to convince three other friends to plunk down $50 for the game and dig in with you, the experience takes a huge turn for the better but, without matchmaking to pair you with other players, it's a tall order to put together a four man team that'll make the most of your purchase.
Long-time fans will likely overlook the downsides since playability (and replayability) in TMNT: Mutants in Manhattan is high and, mostly, enjoyable if you can keep your focus and climb the learning curve of combos. Of course, there's also a certain glee in taking on iconic villains like Rocksteady, Bebop, Krang and Shredder that more than balance out the bevy of other mundane tasks like hacking into computer terminals or rolling bags of money away from thieves. Still, most gamers may want to consider saving their own bags of money until Mutants in Manhattan becomes a bargain bin buy.