Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were mysteriously absent during the 90s. I would have said conspicuously absent but nobody seemed to miss them. Their demised can be attributed to eventually reaching over-saturation and finally imploded. Now they're back due to a new cartoon which has already spawned a couple of videogames. The latest game is entitled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee and like the last two games, threatens to send the Turtles back into hibernation or wherever the hell they went last time.

This time the Turtles may take to hiding out of embarrassment. Mutant Melee is slightly better than Battle Nexus in terms of control but it lacks a cohesive storyline and overall the controls still aren't responsive enough. Like the TMNT games before it, it lacks consistency. I don't know if it's the convoluted storyline or the meddling of the developers but the characters don't come across with the same depth and charm that they display in the series. Every aspect of this game is generic.

As if to appease fans, all of the enemies from the series are featured in this game. The story tries very hard to tie them all in but it's stretched and the seams are showing. Missions are not much more than a few simple commands that will either have you fight someone or try not to get yourself hurt. The levels are short and easy at first. While they remain short they do increase in difficulty - and some levels don't even change much except to re-arrange the layout.

With "melee" in the title you would expect the focus of this game to be on combat - which it is. Unfortunately the combat system still suffers from sloppy controls issues. Timing is everything in this game and while I can't be absolutely sure I'm hitting all the buttons perfectly, I am sure that I'm hitting them much more accurately than is actually being registered. There is a main and secondary attack for each turtle as well as a block and counter move. Each turtle has his own signature move which makes them more or less valuable for a specific foe or situation. Often you will have several enemies to fight at once. Instead of pulling off awesome combos you'll find that some blocks don't register and you'll take a hit which puts a serious dent in your combo. There is no "perfect" time to hit the controls. It's more or less arbitrary. Just hit the button and hope for the best.

There are plenty of unlockable characters but none of them are much better equipped to deal with the wonky control system than any other one. It might have been a nice diversion to play as April but she may as well don a turtle outfit since she has the same basic moves. Even the unlockable stages and modes don't offer any salvation. The four-player modes offers the most fun. The arenas may be sparse but due to lack of precision in the controls that's a good thing since there is less things to get hung up on.

The modes in Melee Mode are decent variations of Deathmatch, KOH and Last Man Standing. In Keep Away you must take a treasure chest into your possession and guard it at all costs. The longer you can hold on to it the more points you will earn. In all of these modes you'll be kicking, punching and bashing your opponents around in an effort to stay alive and complete your objective. At the very least you are all equally matched by the limitations of the control system.

Graphically the game looks like a cheap rendition of the cartoon series. The movements are smooth but the environments are best described as "vague" since they lack no real detail. The lines are repetitive and uninspired. These are like robot versions of the Turtles that can't think for themselves. The sound effects are good and the music is decent but they should be since they came from the TV show.

At twenty bucks, it's not a total rip off but the bargain price doesn't make the game any better. If you look around you'll find some really good older titles that you may have overlooked for about the same price. Check out more of our reviews for some hot tips.

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System: XBOX
Dev: Konmai
Pub: Konami
Released: March 2005
Players: 1 - 4
Review by Dean