The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade machine is an oddity which, despite not being all that great, enraptured a generation of players. The XBLA re-release’s incredible sales suggests most of them still play games and, for whatever reasons, Turtles arcade is one of those games that has a little bit of resonance. Not least because most other video game interpretations of the Turtles, which seem to be prime ‘game’ material, have fallen so woefully short.
Even before Mutants in Manhattan was announced there was some buzz about the potential of it on social media – maybe it was a marketing plant, but it was one that worked because the combination made sense. Platinum Games, the action specialists, with a beloved action license – and if Transformers Devastation was anything to go by, the least we could expect is a solid brawler with a beautiful nostalgia-kneading visual style. This would have been an acceptable outcome but, for reasons best known to itself, Platinum has chosen instead to spin the wheel and bet it all on the number four.
There are good reasons for focusing on co-op multiplayer, of course, not least the fact that the Turtles are a foursome. But it’s worth establishing upfront that of all the things it gets wrong, Mutants in Manhattan offers a below-par single-player experience. There are many reasons for why it feels so empty but the crux is that this is a game designed with an ideal scenario in mind – which is four players co-oping. Once you understand this, things like the short, randomised stages and the power of the turtles’ abilities when comboed begin to make sense. In a reversal of normal roles, single-player ends up feeling like the offshoot.