Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a property that suffers from a cavalcade of mediocre tie-ins, and soon that’s going to extend to what will undoubtedly be a train wreck of a Michael Bay film. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows is the latest video game tie-in to join the fray, with questionable art direction, plenty of bugs, repetitive combat, and bizarre design decisions. It’s about as awkward as watching April O’Neil crawl around in tunnels in a skintight suit while the camera focuses on her behind — which is actually part of the game.
Thankfully, most of the game is based around beating the stuffing out of bad guys. That’s one area this clumsy brawler does a decent job at, having basically transplanted the entirety of the Batman: Arkham Asylum combo and move set into each brawl. You can chain combos together in any direction and build up opportunities for attacks that will instantly KO unsuspecting baddies. Countering attacks is fluid, but it simply feels far too easy. You can roll away from attacks rather than counter them, and you’re not penalized. The game asks you to counter just for the sake of doing so sometimes, and it’s hard to wrap your head around why. Other moves feel useless in the heat of a battle, and to be honest it’s just rather dull at times. Unfortunately, fighting is actually where Out of the Shadows shines.
With the positive out of the way, we can discuss the issues plaguing this tie-in. For one, the turtles themselves are rocking an unsettling hyper-realistic look, halfway between the CG reboot on Nickelodeon and the supposed “alien” turtles coming to theaters. Camera angles shift rapidly to nonviable locales, forcing you to recalibrate during some particularly hairy situations. Platforming segments are lazy, nondescript, short and sweet detours that barely act as a facade to cover up the mediocre “exploration” missions between fights.
It’s difficult enough as it is to figure out where, exactly, you’re supposed to go. Everything looks the same, to be frank, and in many instances you may find yourself scouring levels for straggler enemies that need to be taken out in order to continue. This happens considerably more often than is necessary, so dealing with it can become extremely frustrating. You get the impression that the game wasn’t complete before being pushed out to the public, and this is especially evident when you find yourself looking for the next place to pass through. Unskippable cut scenes, some that fail to trigger entirely, unfinished level architecture, and repetitive sound bites combine to create an amalgam of horrible design, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to avoid the many freezes that occur during combat and the menus themselves.
Aesthetic blandness and aural atrocities aside, the combat really is the only bright spot to speak of, and even that is flawed. It’s a shame, considering this is a powerhouse of a license with plenty to offer. Uninspired and broken level design, unattractive components, and the stench of a licensed game gone wrong yet again are all viable reasons to pass on this one, especially if you’re a big TMNT fan.