For most, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brings up memories of the goofy, violence prone reptiles beating down baddies and scarfing up pizza, all while running through the sewers and taking life advice from an overgrown rat. When developer Red Fly Studio announced they were creating an old school beat ‘em up mixed with some RPG elements, I thought to myself “What’s not to like!?” Sadly, TMNT: Out of the Shadows honestly astounds me that it ever saw the light of day and that they try to actually charge people money for this broken, train wreck of a game.
Featuring the newly designed turtles, the game’s storyline consists of barely understandable plot from all the classic evildoers of TMNT lore, told through what may be the most poorly illustrated slideshow cut scenes I’ve seen in a video game. Gameplay consists of the classic beat ‘em up arcade styled affair we’ve all played in past games. Unlike the previous releases of the TMNT games, this time around, they drop the side-scrolling for a full open 3-D world. Each turtle comes with his own abilities and special moves which can be unlocked and improved via the RPG-themed levelling system.
Out of the Shadows takes a darker, grittier visual style than we’ve seen with other TMNT titles. With dark alleyways, neon signs, and damp sewers, the game can look quite nice at times. Character models look great, albeit a bit creepy at times, and fit well with the overall style of the game.
Enemies vary in types and attacks, requiring different moves and counters to successfully overcome them. Of course, the good old fashioned ‘hit them until they die’ style works, but it’s always more rewarding to use a bit of finesse. A new feature in Out of the Shadows is a cooperative move, referred to as a team attack. These team attacks, when you can manage to pull them off, are very satisfying. There’s just something about seeing two abnormally large turtles throw themselves at dinosaur robots that makes me feel happy inside.
My favourite part of the game was the time I spent interacting with the other turtles using the in-game taunt system. Featuring dancing, high-fiving, and general goofiness, the classic turtle attitude shines through the drab surroundings, if only for a second.
The main menu, or headquarters is well thought out and is full of character; featuring all our favourite turtles along with their own style of sewer décor. The HQ contains various different extras, like training, character stats, and even an arcade cabinet that allows you to play a side scrolling version of the game. Sadly this is not playable with friends like the main game, it is however a very nice addition.
Co-op is always a welcome addition, and often can make even the worst titles tolerable. The game features online 4-player drop-in/drop-out co-op, as well as local split-screen. The main campaign can be played locally or online, but disappointingly the arcade cabinet mode is local only. The interaction and co-op combat does well to heighten your fun, if only for a moment, and it’s always fun to laugh at ridiculously broken games with your friends from time to time.
Where to begin? The game is so bug ridden and broken that I would barely consider it playable. Within the first ten minutes of me playing this title, I encountered countless problems. Cut scenes refusing to trigger, wild camera movement, bugged animations, and even some enemies not spawning or showing any interests in the job at hand, staring at walls rather than fighting.. and that’s just to name a few. This title is so bug-filled I feel legitimate sadness for any who bought it. I myself showed excitement when it was first announced, and to say I was let down is a vast understatement.
The music consists of the same repeating lacklustre background noise that is so amazingly generic it should be awarded some type of medal. Its endless droning would not soothe a savage beast, but rather turn normal men into some sort of werewolf hybrid. For example, chapter two’s background music consists of little more than a few beats and the phrase “bounce, bounce, bounce…” echoed endlessly over and over.
Lack of direction is a huge problem in this game. Without any direction whatsoever, you’ll find yourself aimlessly wondering around areas long after all enemies are defeated. On top of that, nearly every cut scene ceases to trigger, so you’ll find yourself not knowing if you are missing something, or the game has just decided to trap you for kicks.
That’s not to say you’ll be happy when a cut scene starts; the artwork of these slideshows are some of the worst I’ve seen in my gaming history. Looking like no more than fifteen minutes were put into these, I find it amazing that someone was actually paid for this. The scenes are barely animated and boring to say the least. They do mix in the occasional in-game cut-scene, consisting of extremely limited animations and the bare minimum of dialog. The story, generic beyond belief, does progress as you play. It’s the basic TMNT storyline; defeat Shredder and his evil robot minions. Even with that simple formula, the game fails to tell even the most basic of stories without confusion and lack of direction.
The gameplay is chaotic and unexplained. I’m all for a game not holding the player’s hand, but Out of the Shadows tells you absolutely nothing. Opposed to most games, I actually learned things from the tips displayed in the loading screen; not very much, but something at the very least. To make matters worse, the button prompts that show you when and how to do a power move only shows up for the host player in multiplayer games. When playing with a friend, they seemed amazed at how I was pulling off any move other than punch and kick. It wasn’t until later when they hosted a game that we realized the problem was with the game. The way health items, namely large pizzas, are used is also completely unexplained, needing one to revive players being conveniently left out. It was common place to see players repeatedly running over downed teammates trying everything they could to revive them.
Another major problem stemming from not being told what to do lies within the second chapter of the game. After you manage to progress with either luck or blind tinkering, you approach an area with multiple robots. You’ve defeated these enemies before but for some reason, this time they are invincible. Of course, you aren’t told this, and I was only able to pass this area after several replays and simply running away in a desperate attempt to progress. This issue would only be slightly annoying in single player, taking advantage of the checkpoint system. But I, as with most players, preferred to play this in co-op mode, where the checkpoint system was mysteriously absent. After the tenth replay of this chapter, I found myself questioning my reason to live.
The bosses are extremely over-powered and you are given little to no health items. Mix this with the ever present clipping and placement bugs that prevent you from even attacking a boss’s weak spots, and you are left with a game that is difficult only because the mechanics are broken. And with no checkpoints, prepare yourself for a soul crushingly annoying experience.
Protect your fond memories because TMNT: Out of the Shadows is dead set on tarnishing them forever. This half-baked, broken, and honestly embarrassing title will leave you wondering if the development team consisted of a snail and two pieces of toast. A buggy mess throughout, it’s a wonder that this title ever reached the public.
If you’re looking for a great way to waste your money, or test your ability to deal with extreme frustration, look no further. But if you’re looking for a fun, old school beat ‘em up, move along. Sadly this time around the turtles would be better off stuck on their backs.