Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan review

Game Info
Platform 360, PS3, Win, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher Activision
Developer PlatinumGames
Release Date May 24, 2016

As Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan installed, I couldn't help wondering: Which Platinum am I about to get?

Will it be the Bayonetta developer with a best-in-class action game? ... Probably not; our reviews editor doesn't like me that much. But could I hope for the Platinum that cranked out a fundamentally solid and slavishly respectful Transformers: Devastation? Maybe?

The enemies keep coming, and you have to keep hitting them

After a six-hour campaign that manages to be both mind-numbingly dull and insultingly repetitive, I'm sad to report that Mutants in Manhattan is made by the Platinum that brought us The Legend of Korra.

May God have mercy on us all.

I'm not going to recap a story for you. The Turtles hate Shredder, Shredder hates the Turtles, everybody fights forever. The rhino man and and warthog boy are there too. They are always there. Shredder has a space laser? Maybe it belongs to Krang? None of it matters enough to recount. The cutscenes are probably more interesting than the loading screens they obscure, which is the kindest thing I can say for them.

You fight waves of bad guys while controlling one of four ninja turtles, switching between them on the fly. They don't feel fundamentally different, but Platinum has introduced a system called "ninjutsu" that lets you customize each turtle with ancient ninja arts like throwing healing pizza.


Each turtle can equip up to four of the 30 or so ninjutsu, which offers a lot of flexibility at the cost of being an absolute chore to manage. Also, trying to remember to which buttons and which turtles have your 16 different ninja arts equipped in the heat of battle is an exercise in frustration.

In an irritating trend carried over from Transformers: Devastation, Platinum piles on several more fiddly systems. Each turtle can equip a stat-boosting charm, and charms can be upgraded and dismantled, and none of the boosts are very good so let's not waste more time with this sentence. Ninjutsu can also be upgraded, but it's done with the same currency as unlocking new skills. I saw precious few new abilities because I had to keep pumping points into existing powers to keep up.

I could fill a review with all the odd, extraneous cruft that has been injected into Mutants in Manhattan to help hide the fact that the central game is utterly without merit. Sadly, I have to leave room to make fun of Michelangelo's misuse of the term "Fastball Special" later, so I'll keep it to a paragraph:

The Turtles can knock out unaware enemies in one hit, but as enemies are rarely ever unclear on the location of the four screaming, pizza-throwing man-turtles, there's not much point to stealth. The Turtles can grind on wires and rails in a handful of stages, but this is never meaningful or fun. The Turtles can climb walls, which seems to serve no purpose other than to allow environments to be carelessly constructed.

The Turtles hate Shredder, Shredder hates the Turtles, everybody fights forever

So what is all this mechanical window dressing trying to cover up? Only the most insipid brawler I've played in recent memory.

The enemies keep coming, and you have to keep hitting them. Sometimes there's a bomb to defuse (hold a button when enemies are dead) or a terminal to hack (hold a button when the enemies are dead). It's never anything approximating fun.

Oh, I take that back: Three times, you spend 30 seconds rolling a ball to a hole. That was OK.



If you were being forced to play Mutants in Manhattan and looking for any way to make it more palatable, suffering alongside friends (or randomly matched strangers) may be your best option.

Each player takes on one of the turtles, which, satisfyingly, feels a bit more deliberate than trying to micromanage three horrid AI partners. It also makes it easier to use abilities in concert if your fellow players know what they're doing. It would be even easier with couch co-op; sadly, this option has been omitted.

Regardless, playing with other people doesn't fix any of the game's underlying issues. A boring, antagonistically repetitive slog is still that, no matter how people are along for the ride.

In the tutorial I was meticulously taught how to counter and parry. This became instantly hilarious when the game's first stage transmogrified my TV into an indecipherable nightmare collage of ninjas and neon lights, and I began to worry I had somehow unwittingly mainlined a 13-year-old boy's hypothalamus. There would be no parrying. I was doing well if I could spot my turtle on the screen.

donnie tmnt

This unintentional joke is, incidentally, the only functional one in the game. The vast majority of the turtles' dialogue is supposed to be funny, and not a word elicits so much as a smile. But there are more than enough cringes to go around. At one point Michelangelo says, "That's my Fastball Special, dude!" when he throws a shuriken. Hey Mikey? Unless that last shuriken was your deceptively diminutive partner Shuriken Man, I assure you that was not your "Fastball Special." Doofus.

Is there an "all your base are belong to us" reference? Of course there is.

While the game's writing isn't doing the turtles any favors, it at least makes them look cool with some flashy animations and cool character designs for them and their foes. Much of their impact is blunted by ridiculously overcrowded fights in laughably flat environments.

Also, every song sounds like a low-on-toner dot matrix printer tumbling down the stairs of a burned-down synthesizer factory while it tries to print a picture of a guitar.

So no, presentation doesn't save the ninja turtles' latest outing, but I'm not sure any amount of polish could have hidden just how boring it is to play.


Here is the story of every level of Mutants in Manhattan: I found some bad guys, I kept activating my special powers until all the bad guys were gone, then I moved on to the next herd. Didn't dodge. Didn't parry. Didn't have to. Just kept wading through. This was all the strategy I needed to carry me to the boss, at which point things, unfathomably, took a turn for the worse.

In another lousy habit from Transformers: Devastation, bosses have been juiced with ludicrous amounts of health that must be whittled away, rather than given abilities that would make for an interesting combat encounter. Every boss — and this is going to sound like a joke, but I swear it's not — has seven health bars that must be depleted. Seven. In the last two bars, bosses get angrier and stronger; this is the point where they have their only real chance at wiping you out if you get sloppy.

Wrap Up:

this is the longest short game I've ever played

Every boss is like this. Every stage is like this. In fact, the stages are just named after the bosses at the end, because who cares, right?

Then, just when you think you can't repeat this grueling slog yet again, Mutants in Manhattan decides to pad out the last of its six hours by ... making you fight every boss again. Six bosses, 42 health bars. Are we having fun yet?

We are not.

Have we ever?

I don't remember.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants In Manhattan was reviewed using a retail PS4 disc purchased by Polygon. You can find additional information about Polygon's ethics policy here.

About Polygon's Reviews
3 PS4