Cowabunga dudes! The Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles are re-shelled, brought forward in time in this, a remake of the 1991 arcade classic ‘Turtles in Time’. Now in full 3D, the game has retained all of its hallmark features right down to the music and four-player co-op, which is both good and bad depending on how much nostalgia you allow to entice you back for another round; and If you’ve been living under a shell for the last twenty odd years, now is as good as time as any to bust out some ninjitsu, and meet; the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a long and fondly remembered history. Celebrating their 25th Anniversary over the next year, most gamers have at least posed a passing glance at either the cartoons, comics, various movies or games over the years. The games of the early nineties are one particular highpoint. Arriving at the peak of arcade gaming, just as consoles were intruding on the home viewer and on the back of a successful animated series, The TMNT games were well received at the time. As the years have progressed and with a new re-booted series of shows, the turtles have found a home on Xbox Live Arcade amongst a resurgence of classic titles.
Unfortunately, almost the sole reason for purchasing Turtles in Time is nostalgia, because as much as nothing has changed in the game; most gamers have evolved past the basic premise of this side-scrolling action beat `em up.
Playing as Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo or Raphael, players battle across eight areas- each with themed graphics and unique bosses to beat at the end. The “re-shelled” clause in the title, refers to the new graphics but also the updated gameplay modes which include Quickplay and Survival mode; which is becoming an increasingly popular staple in multiplayer these days. These help to add longevity to the game as well as alternatives for co-operative battles but unfortunately don’t do much to relieve what is essentially a very pretty but very boring game by Ubisoft.
Four players online quickly crowd the screen as each turtle fights to fend off the next ninja. Rather than supporting teamwork, players end up competing for the highest score through an endless stream of repeated attacks and dodges. It can be hard to see exactly where you are in the chaos and the ‘unlimited lives’ so often wished for at the arcade, only help to continue the onslaught of wave after wave of generic bad-guys.
Almost exactly two years ago another coin-op turtles game was released on XBLA albeit restored in its original pixel format. Side by side this helps to highlight both the pros and cons of re-releasing Turtles in Time so soon after. Both games are essentially the same and the formula of one-button mashing different colored enemies over and over can get repetitive.
Ubisoft have gone to great lengths to make the game visually appealing, but without treading on the fragile toes of distant memories, thus the game feels like it should be more than it is. In the end, the graphics and additional stats given to each turtle differently are wasted, when you can simply play another version of the same game, but exactly as it was when you were younger.
Further, in contrast to the previous release of TMNT (1989), ‘Turtles in Time’ is significantly harder. With one boss per stage and only three ‘lives’ but infinite re-starts this grinding can become frustrating as your high-score is slowly effected.
‘Turtles in Time’ is not Ubisofts first foray in re-making seminal classics and if it weren’t for the visual stylings then you would be better off buying the original re-released 1989 game from XBLA.
Ubisoft also took on the challenge of re-imagining the first Prince of Persia and did so in explicit detail. This attention to detail though only goes so far though to mask a game that is perhaps, past its prime. In fact Ubisoft has stuck so close to the original that a lack of any creative license is painfully obvious. Unlike the aforementioned remake of the 1989 game, Turtles in Time at least features some of the most overlooked villains in recent memory. All the favorites are back: Krang, Beebop and Rock Steady. There are only two real cut scenes in the game: One showing Krang stealing the Statue of Liberty and one at the end showing its return. This is the only explanation on offer for the short story save for a mechanism whereby Krang sends turtles ‘back in time’. For some reason he also sent an onslaught of ninjas of varying color and difficulty each with different skills. Colours in this game are very important helping to further distinguish both between different turtles and the different foot soldiers, allowing association between the color of the ninja and their respective weapons.
Menus are slick graphically, with all the trapping of the best graphic novels. There are nice touches such as the expletive cartoon words that constantly appear for every hit, punch, fall and explosion.
One last sign though, that Ubisoft didn’t try as hard as they could to build originality into the title is the fact that the models and items look suspiciously similar to their game from the latest movie, released in 2007, with voices from the new 2003 cartoon series. It would seem that Ubisoft has re-used the models and characters much like their Prince re-make which also used the same assets from other Prince of Persia titles developed under them. This allows Ubisoft to bring all their products into line with each other but also makes you wish they had developed another independent, original story with all the current third person action adventure elements we have come to expect.
Once more, the music and sounds in the game are reliant upon both a helpful amount of interest in the Ninja Turtles and an appreciation of the humor the series is well known for. Generally the voices of all characters are well represented and add further distinction to each turtle and their personalities. Each stage has a respective theme tune, remasted but otherwise as annoying as any arcade jingle. With eight in total though, only a one or two stand out such as the Wild West level, unique in that you are moving along a speeding bullock train, the music suitably capturing the atmosphere of the action. Played enough, the sounds will stick in your head, but for turtle tech-heads this is nothing new and apparently, exactly the same as of eighteen years ago.
It is easy to forget, that this game originally came out eighteen years ago. As much as can be said not much has changed, enough has to make fans feel short changed for what is essentially a trip down memory lane. In this time of Turtle renaissance though, there is another TMNT being released on the WII console: TMTN Smash-Up. This may be a preferable option for those looking for a more original fix, but on XBLA ‘Turtles in Time’ is the option with more. Better Graphics and Game types, at 800 MS points, you will wish you didn’t already spend the 400 on the 1989 classic. Too much turtles though; is never enough.
With DC comics and Marvel carving up a fair share of the comic book action these days, it is nice to see four humble turtles can still have an impact on a generation of gamers. There are plenty out there who never had the chance to play the arcade classic almost two decades ago. The ones that did, that now have their own children, can for a reasonable price spend a few hours reliving the glory days, of the original, heroes in a half shell.
AAG Score: 7/10
1. Too much Ninja Turtles is never enough
2. Re-mastered 3D Graphics
3. Additional game types.
1. This has all been done before
2. Does the price justify new graphics?
3. Boring with little replay value
Reviewed and Written by Ian Crane