Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Activision (Magic Pockets)
ESRB Rating: “Everyone” for Fantasy Violence
The new Ninja Turtles is here whether you like it or not. The movie is out, and believe it or not it was made for children. No, not you — you already had a Ninja Turtles. You know, the one from your childhood you claim is being ruined by this new one that has nothing to do with it. The other one still exists, believe it or not, and you can still watch it. Your childhood isn’t ruined; it’s right there on your damn DVD shelf. This one isn’t for you. It’s for them. It’s for the kids who have childhoods right now. It’s for my son, who turns two this weekend. This was the first movie we went to together that was just for him, and he had a great time. He clapped at the trailers, climbed all over his seat and spilled pink lemonade all over himself. It was awesome. I’ll never forget this experience. I can hardly remember the show from the eighties.
New movies for kids have to come with new video game tie-ins. It’s a universal law or something. They’re kinda dying out a bit as the game industry “grows up,” tossing all the lighter licensed fare into the mobile market while the AAA industry eats itself alive with licensed games that have to be overblown and gritty. Batman rules the skies while also being stuck in the nineties, and even the last Ninja Turtles game for adults was a poor imitation of the Arkham series. Developer Magic Pockets also handled a project based on the thoroughly good 2012 TV series, which had some severe budget issues but was a step in the right direction. Magic Pockets tried again here with a 3DS game based on the new film, and this time it’s trying something a little different.
Heroes, half-shells, etc. You know the drill
What we have here is, essentially, the coolest entry point into Diablo-style dungeon-crawling I’ve ever seen. Because it has Ninja Turtles in it. There’s something about Splinter going missing that doesn’t really matter (does it ever?) because you’ll be too busy jumping into levels and smashing your way through hordes of enemies to notice. This isn’t the usual arcade beat-‘em-up thing modern Ninja Turtles games generally cling to. You drop down into Isometric View Land, and simple tutorial messages walk you through the all-too-familiar mechanics. You have a basic melee combo not unlike just hammering on a mouse button, and different skills with varying cooldowns can be used to mix things up. Other than beating up mobs your goal is to gather as much loot as you can so you can craft new weapons later. Yeah, there’s even a rudimentary crafting system in this bad boy. Isn’t that adorable?
Style for days, bruh
The greatest triumph of the 2014 film is how intensely infused with character it is. Each turtle feels distinct, and it isn’t just through goofy dialogue that we learn who these characters are. Film is a visual medium, and we finally have a Ninja Turtles thing that takes full advantage. Each turtle shows us themselves the way teenagers do best — their budding sense of personal style. Leonardo collects pins and decorates his shell, Donatello is covered in tech, Michelangelo has urban swagger and Raphael tries to look as imposing as he possibly can. Even their headbands are radically different.
The game reflects that in an appropriate fashion, through mechanics. It’s actually kind of an ugly, muddled affair — which shouldn’t be surprising. I imagine the budget wasn’t so hot. The turtles can only look so distinct with a far away camera and grainy visuals, so the RPG systems in place go a long way to make swapping through the roster much more than an aesthetic preference. Michelangelo, for example, is a speedy trickster. He moves faster than the others and his skills all revolve around controlling space. It fits his zanier personality perfectly, and falls in line with familiar roguish RPG tropes. The others all have distinct abilities and handle differently in appropriate ways.
Get this for your kids, take up a save slot when they aren’t looking
While the dungeon-crawling 101 bullet points are all present, the general presentation is pretty bare-bones. You select levels from a list, pick side-missions from a list and can look at a list of achievements that give you bonuses. The shop and crafting give a little more meat to the experience but overall if you’re looking for the next Dungeons and Dragons joint you’re barking up the wrong tree. What really makes Ninja Turtles is its ambition, it’s interest in going above and beyond the call of duty and using its license as a gateway to bigger and better things. Any parent who unwittingly brings this home to their kids is doing them a solid rather than a disservice. Even if you know what you’re doing, if you’re a parent in 2014 and your kids like the Ninja Turtles, go for it. In a few years, when they’re old enough to join your fiftieth Diablo 2 run or whatever, they’ll be totally prepared.
This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie tie-in is Baby’s First Diablo Clone, and that’s a shell of a cool thing.
Site: [Magic Pockets]