Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The license lottery produces a decent title.
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Movie tie-ins are often a hit and miss affair. Unforgettable hits, such as Lego Star Wars are just as often tempered by unforgivable misses, such as Miami Vice. OK, so Lego Star Wars is actually two licenses rolled up into one but that should only make the task of converting a linear story made for a passive audience into a piece of interactive electronic entertainment that much more difficult. It is not as simple and straightforward an endeavour as one might initially think.
To be fair to the industry though, as game designers and developers have learnt from their mistakes, improved their processes and progressed towards a sensei level of mastery for their trade, the standard has generally risen and the hit-to-miss ratio is favouring the hits. Far fewer turkeys make it through to retail - or should that be turtles, as a prime example is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whilst many games have been released in the past based on the Ninja Turtles license, most have been poor at best and awful at worst - and this is with the majority not even being based on a movie. The freedom and creativity thus afforded should theoretically make the task easier but evidently this is not the case.
"The franchise has a lot of redeeming to do... the game of the new film already had significant pressure heaped upon its young mutant shoulders."
Loosely following the plot of the movie, the game takes the unusual angle of re-telling the story in the past tense via comic strips and voice-overs. Both perfectly suit this license, with the latter allowing for plenty of humorous moments provided by the excellent voice-acting and the former juxtapositioning the more recent medium of videogaming with the turtles comic book roots. Each prelude introduces the player to the next level where initially you control one of Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo and even Raph's vigilante alter-ego, the Nightwatcher.
Played out in a souped-up Crash Bandicoot kind of way, each level is a linear affair with no control over the camera. Instead it follows a fixed path, pushing and prodding you along. As well as the camera angle, other hints exist for which way to go, such as coins which can be collected to raise your end-of-level ranking. The observant will also notice a well-trodden track here and there which provides a further clue as to the path to follow. It would be foolish to assume this was not restrictive - for it is - but what Ubisoft take with one hand, they give back with the other.
The responsiveness and control of your character makes it a joy to play, being as quick and nimble as any decent ninja worth their salt should be. There are plenty of nooks and crannies combined within the excellent level design (such as the New York City rooftops, sewer system or construction sites) to jump, flip, scale and wall-run across. It is not all a hop, skip and a jump though as the fixed camera angle can at times be a burden, making it hard to judge angles and perspectives especially when leaping from moving platform to moving platform. Thankfully these moments are infrequent and only a temporary inconvenience.