Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled Review for Xbox 360

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled Review for Xbox 360

Turtle Power

Adults often wince when they look back at the games they enjoyed as children. Also, thanks to changing tastes and technology, even modern children might find kids’ fare from decades past a little silly.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled screenshot

Such is the plight that has befallen the early-’90s brawler Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. It doesn’t matter how fond your memories of classic Turtles beat-’em-ups are, you’re unlikely to re-live them today, even with the new HD version of this much-loved coin-op (and later, with some changes, Super Nintendo) title.

It’s not that the developers did a completely poor job getting the game “re-shelled,” as the updated name has it. The high-def visuals, though they arguably hurt the nostalgia (there’s no option to play with the original graphics), present the four heroes and their environments in a realistic yet just-cartoonish-enough light. It always feels a little weird when 2-D gameplay and 3-D graphics meet, but this game overcomes the awkwardness. Also, despite fears that the ability to attack in all directions (instead of just left and right) would disrupt the game’s balance, we found it to be a sensible update that helps players control the hordes, especially when playing solo (up to four players can work together, and the levels are designed accordingly).

Other aspects of the update didn’t go so well, unfortunately. The worst part is the sound. Between the insanely cheesy music and the repetitive, poorly acted comments the Turtles blurt out with gusto, you’ll turn the volume down in a hurry. Within the space of a minute or two, how many times can you hear, “Dohh! My nose!” and “My toes! My toes!”?

Also, games that eat quarters in malls are very different from games that entertain people in their homes. To a certain degree the developers knew this; reportedly, they re-tooled some of the enemies to make them more console-friendly. Otherwise, however, the arcade-style gameplay remains intact to a fault. There is an upside in that returning fans will feel right at home, but there are many more downsides.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled screenshot

For one, you’ll encounter lots of cheap hits from random, hard-to-avoid traps. A path made of boards is so poorly constructed that every few feet, your Turtle steps on one that see-saws, smacking him in the head (more precisely, the nose). In the sewer, for some reason there are floating, quickly moving gates that dock energy off your life bar, et cetera.

The continue system also broke in the jump to consoles. Whereas in an arcade each continue costs money, there’s no punishment at all in hitting the start button on a console controller. Usually, console developers limit players’ continues enough that the game is challenging, but not the ones who handled Turtles in Time Re-Shelled. You have six lives, infinite continues, and the ability to save your progress. As a result, the “normal” difficulty (the second of four settings) is laughably easy; the average player should be able to slash his way through all the “scenes” in 45 minutes, give or take. There are enough pizza power-ups lying around that in the first few levels, we didn’t lose a single life. Anyone looking for the slightest challenge should start on “hard” difficulty right away.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled screenshot

One advantage that consoles have over arcades is that console games can feature additional modes. Turtles in Time Re-Shelled has two, but both show incredible laziness on the developers’ part. One simply lets you play any stage you’ve unlocked with 99 lives, and the other gives you only one life and turns you loose in the normal game. The game really cries out for some competitive multiplayer (you can only play with friends in co-op, local or online), or maybe even some all-new story levels to unlock.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled screenshot

The biggest problem here, however, has nothing to do with how the developers “re-shelled” the game for the modern era, or how they tweaked (and failed to tweak) the settings to make it more fun on consoles as opposed to arcade machines. The biggest problem is that you can’t simply “re-shell” a game that doesn’t hold up anymore and expect it to work. You have to remake it completely, or at most release the pure original for nostalgia purposes only.

As it turns out, by 2009 standards, Turtles in Time is not very good. It has none of the features that made some games from its era age well. Design-wise, the levels are all basically streets that fill with enemies; even when you surf through a sewer or on air, there’s no real difference in the way you move around the screen (somehow, even when you jump sideways, the surfboard stays right under your character). Players have to overcome no platforming challenges, solve no puzzles, and, aside from the bosses, spend time memorizing no enemy patterns. On the lower skill levels, it’s almost always enough just to walk up to your foes and hammer the two attack buttons (though eventually you do have to learn the few special moves and combos).

The characters vary slightly in such abilities as reach and speed, but the differences aren’t all that noticeable, and there’s no need to use more than one Turtle anyway. The story’s time-travel theme enables each stage to look completely different from the last, but otherwise the tale is nothing special, and there’s not much detail to the plot (which is explained in painfully cheesy cutscenes).

The visceral thrill of smacking recognizable cartoon enemies with swords and nunchuks was enough to entertain elementary-schoolers in the early ’90s, but those elementary-schoolers are in their mid-to-late 20s now, and today’s elementary-schoolers have access to far better fighting games. What we’re left with is a brief, simple trip down memory lane, stuffed into a new shell and polished to a shine for $10.

True, there are $10 downloads that are worse, especially if you plan to play this with friends, or if the original game meant a whole lot to you back in the grunge era. But lots of $10 downloads are better, too.

The re-shelling was a success; everything is rendered in 3-D, with a look that walks the fine line between realism and cartoon. 4.8 Control
Walk. Jump. Push the attack buttons. Not a whole lot can go wrong here. 1.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is truly awful, and the voice acting is obnoxious. 2.6 Play Value
The bottom line is that the game doesn’t hold up very well, but it’s mildly amusing to play for an hour or so, especially with friends. 2.8 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • New graphics, classic gameplay: The game has upgraded 3-D graphics, but still features the same side-scrolling beat-’em-up gameplay we all love.
  • Multiplayer: Play the four-player co-op and survival modes available online and locally.
  • Cowabunga, dudes! It’s the Turtles back in one of their all-time classic arcade games, now playable on Xbox 360.

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