The Turtles Have Left the Building
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) wrap up their 25th anniversary celebration with one final adventure on Nintendo DS. Do these brawlers on the half-shell bring excitement to the dual-screen, or are fans in for more disappointment from the Fab Four?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack is an old-school-style beat’em-up with a focus on two-character cooperative play. Whether you hook up with another human player or not, each mission will require you to pick one turtle to play as and another to accompany you. The story is a somewhat vacant and uninspired tale that will take you from the present to the future, and even into virtual reality. The artwork in between missions is cool to look at, but the production, as a whole, is lifeless and uninteresting.
Unfortunately, the story and presentation are the only real shining moments in Arcade Attack when compared to the actual gameplay. When we say “old-school,” we sure do mean it. The turtles move from left to right in a pseudo-side-scrolling fashion, and though the game is rendered fully in 3D, movement and combat are strictly confined to 2D planes. Your turtle can move freely from foreground to background, but his body always faces either to the left or right. Think Streets of Rage, and you’ll get a good idea of how this game works.
There are several options in terms of gameplay, with the Story Mode being the main attraction. There’s a Stage Attack mode as well, though we had a tough time discerning any differences between it and the actual Story Mode, other than the fact that the cutscenes are absent from play.
In Story Mode, you play through eight levels, each with its own unique theme and variety of baddies. There’s a decent selection of enemies, but the premise is always the same: run to the right, fight an onslaught of foes, move to the right again, and repeat the process until you’re greeted with the end credits. I kid you not. You might be required to jump over a small step here and there in order to make it to the next staged brawl, but there is literally no other change in the formula from beginning to end.
Control of the turtles is handled with the face buttons, and button mapping is yet another sore spot in the game. Sure, it’s a button-masher, but it could have at least been a decent one. Your weapon attack is assigned to the B button, kicking to A; that leaves the Y button for guarding, and X to jump. Jumping always feels awkward, and it’s a safe bet most players won’t find inspiration to incorporate jumping attacks into their repertoire of brawling. Were jumping mapped to the B button, the game still wouldn’t allow you to pull off satisfying combos. The turtles’ movement is slow and lumbering, and timing attacks while jumping is a clumsy process.
While guarding, you can dodge to the background, foreground, or backwards from the direction your character’s facing. The mechanic lends a little something extra to the gameplay – especially during boss fights – but ultimately, Arcade Attack is a dull, overbearing chore of a game. The best strategy is simply to guard, spam your weapon attack, and repeat. Bosses offer a slight challenge, as do some of the game’s latter enemies, but the clunky character movement and control mean you’ll never even manage to squeeze a modicum of mindless fun out of the game.
Luckily, the experience is over before you know it. Eight levels and a handful of comic book cutscenes don’t amount to much, which means you can beat the game in about an hour or two. A hard difficulty setting is unlocked for Story Mode upon completion of the game, as is a Survival Mode, but you’ll have to buy these extras (with collected turtle shells – the game’s form of currency) in order to “enjoy” them. Chances are, though, if you didn’t care for the main game, Survival won’t do much to add value to your purchase.
There is a cooperative multiplayer option, but it’s local, multi-card only. Good luck talking a friend into buying their own copy of the game. On second thought, friends don’t let friends play games this bad.
It might be of little consequence, but one thing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack does have going for it is its visual presentation. The 3D character models and environments are attractive, and some of the animations are pretty cool to watch. There isn’t all that much to see, however, as each themed level reuses the same assets, objects, and enemies throughout. There aren’t any neat, little comic book additions, such as seeing words like “BAM,” “KAPOW,” etc. flash across the screen when you or an enemy gets hit – all stuff you’d expect to see in a game based on a comic book license – though your hit multiplier in the top-right of the screen will let you know when you’re doing well in combat.
The music in the game is decent, but it’s just sort of… there. There aren’t any crescendos that bring excitement to the gameplay, and the sound effects are completely lackluster. The soundtrack could just as easily have been elevator music, as it feels completely detached from the gameplay. There’s no voice work, no continuity, and when you piece all the various elements of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Arcade Attack together, you end up with a functional yet completely pedestrian gaming experience unworthy of the Turtles name.
Twenty-five years of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this is how Ubisoft celebrates the franchise. “Disappointing” doesn’t even begin to describe just how let down we are by this game. The best thing that can be said about Arcade Attack is that it isn’t broken. Your turtles move and fight with some level of consistency, but the gameplay is consistently poor. They’re ninja turtles, yet they move like sumo snails. Though many games reuse a mechanic or level type in order to pad a game’s length, Arcade Attack’s entire premise is based upon reusing one single device over and over… and over again. It’s as if the development team was given barely enough time to consider what type of game they wanted to create, and were left with no room to flesh out any creative ideas whatsoever; Arcade Attack’s not even demo-worthy, really. This game isn’t for fans of either TMNT or beat’em-ups, or even games for that matter.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.0 Graphics
It’s an attractive game to look at, though the variety is sparse. 2.5 Control
There’s nothing broken here, but character control is sluggish and unsatisfying. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is decent on its own, but it does absolutely nothing to lend excitement to the gameplay. 1.0
First generation cell-phone games had more interesting gameplay. Arcade Attack is functional, but that doesn’t equate to fun.
2.0 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.