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TMNT Review

Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date: March 20, 2007 Also On: GCN, PS2, Wii and Xbox 360

TMNT, the Ninja Turtle Wii debut, is an action game with platforming elements that are reminiscent of Prince of Persia. The uncanny resemblance is appropriate, as Ubisoft Montreal was the team responsible for handling the video game based off of the new animated flick. How does the motion-sensing controls of the Wii mix with the bodacious turtles?

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Unfortunately, with every good aspect of TMNT comes a bad one. I like to start positively, so I’ll say that the Prince of Persia engine used here works really well in all of the game’s clever and fast-paced platform-based jump puzzles. Controlling each of the four turtles in the game’s 16 levels is simple; using the nunchuck’s analog stick you’ll roam around, and by pressing the A button you’ll jump. Each turtle can double-jump, run along walls, spin from poles, and even jump up walls with the acrobatics of…well, a ninja! This is the only TMNT game I’ve played that takes that “ninja” part of the tile into account, and as I quickly darted through the jumping puzzles I couldn’t help but feel like a slippery, reptilian badass. Some of the turtles have special jumping abilities–for example, Michelangelo can use his nunchucks to hover and get more distance out of his jumps, and Donatello can use his bo staff to fling himself over gaps with low clearance.

It’s too bad that the turtles don’t hold up well in battle. In fact, TMNT’s battle system is as awful as they come. Brain-dead enemies will circle around your turtle, slashing or shooting their weapon at seemingly-random times. They do very little to avoid your attacks, and oftentimes will unflinchingly walk right into your attacking turtle. The enemies react very similarly to the bad guys in Saturday morning cartoons or cheesy action flicks; one crony will usually rush in while his buddies stand around gawking and waiting for their turn to be beaten to the ground. The most frustrating part is that beating anything to the ground is a tiresome exercise. TMNT for Wii asks you to flick around the Wii remote to attack and the nunchuck to do a kicking attack. None of the movements actually interact with in-game animations, and the turtles will simply repeat the same combo as you swing the remote around. Fighting and winning becomes a test of strength and endurance as your wrist and forearm pay the price of what would inevitably be carpal tunnel. This simply isn’t the way a Wii game is supposed to perform. Worst of all there isn’t an option to turn off the motion-based combat. Playing TMNT is only about 70% entertaining, while about 30% of the game where you’re fighting is absolutely dreadful. Every time I saw “Fight!” appear on the screen, I wanted to give up. The combat is just terrible, and when boss fights appear, it’s even more tiring and less entertaining.

TMNT has an ongoing “teamwork” theme, but both the platform and fighting sequences hardly support it. Just before the midway point of the game you reunite with all of your turtle brothers and earn the ability to use them for an acrobatic maneuver and special attacks. The former is a super-long jumping move where one turtle appears in midair and throws another even further, allowing the player to cross long gaps. The latter are powerful attacks that generally knock down or kill several different enemies at a time. These are the only attacks that you can use without flicking controllers around, so that makes them my favorite, but they can only be used once before they have to “recharge.” It seems like an obvious decision to include cooperative multiplayer or even A.I.-controlled turtles fighting at your side in the single-player levels, but disgustingly, neither ideas are featured in this game. It makes for a lonely, not-so-rad experience.

The Wii version of TMNT features nine exclusive mini-games, each of which utilizes Wii remote sensitivity in some sort of way. Some of the minis are fun, while others are only as abysmal as the fighting system. Still, they hardly make the Wii version better than other versions–the GCN, PC, PS2, Xbox, and Xbox 360 versions of TMNT have most of the same features, similar visuals, and none of the painful motion-based combat mechanics. All console versions of the game have a fairly large amount of unlockable bonuses, like video clips of the film and goofy cheat codes. There are unlockable Challenge Levels that resemble wire-frame VR levels from Metal Gear Solid, and those were a lot of fun. Each one of them tests your jumping abilities, and it’s fun to try and earn high scores and more tokens to buy more unlockables. If there’s a single saving grace, it’s those Challenge Levels. They’re a blast. Lastly, the GBA game is actually much different than the other versions of the game. It’s modeled after old-school side-scrolling beat-em’-up games rather than action/platforming titles like Prince of Persia.

TMNT definitely doesn’t look bad, but it doesn’t do much to push Wii’s hardware. Enemy models are very basic and special effects seem to be kept to a minimum quantity and quality, but the outdoor levels look pretty nice. The animation isn’t bad, especially while running along walls and spinning around poles. The attacks could have flowed together a lot better, but the combat system wouldn’t benefit from smooth animation anyway.

To be completely blunt, nothing is more annoying than hearing “Super Sensationalistic, Bro!” forty times in 15 minutes. I understand that the decade-old slang is a part of the TMNT charm, but I am more than annoyed with this game’s voice-over work. The sound effects, especially during combat, are pretty bland. Fortunately the music is pretty good, and the annoying voices can actually be turned off.

It’s unfortunate that the first TMNT effort on Nintendo Wii didn’t turn out so well. As a childhood fan of the movies, television series, and toys, I was hoping for more from Ubisoft’s first effort. They show promise, but future Turtles games need to have more of the awesome platform elements with a hint, maybe a spoonful of a fun, working combat system.

Graphics: 6.5
Sound: 5.5
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 6
Written by Cliff Review Guide