Tag Archive: Splinter

Oh! Shell-shocked!

Like many people my age, I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Movies, comics, cartoons, and action figures depicted the lean, green, fighting machines everywhere I looked, so it’s no wonder that I’ve remained enamored with the franchise throughout the years. It helps that they’ve maintained some measure of success in many of these mediums since their mid-’80s inception. But there’s still one area the Heroes in a Half-shell continue to stumble in: games.

Sure, we all remember how awesome Turtles in Time was in the arcade, but that was more than 20 years ago. And, yes, we’ve seen some mediocre-to-above-average TMNT offerings since then, but we haven’t had that huge blockbuster hit that harnesses the magic of Turtles games from decades ago. TMNT: Out of the Shadows hoped to be that game—the one that could marry nostalgia with the expectations of a modern audience. The good news? It did succeed in avoiding being average. The bad news? It’s downright awful.

I was cautiously optimistic when I heard about Out of the Shadows. Unlike the middling offerings based off the second cartoon from the early 2000s, Out of the Shadows is based on the latest animated incarnation of the TMNT. A downloadable title sounded like a good way for Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Donatello to dip their toes back into the digital waters, especially with a new iteration like the Nickelodeon cartoon fresh in everyone’s minds. After playing the game, it felt like Red Fly Studio had a bunch of ideas on a board in the planning stages of Out of the Shadows and instead of paring them down like most developers would, they tried to cram in every idea they had and ended up with this confounding mess.

The most glaring and obvious flaw comes from the gameplay, which tries to channel the Batman: Arkham series with buttons assigned to weapon attacks, kicks, jump, counters, and gadgets (usually just shuriken, but other Turtle specific items later). In theory you were supposed to feel like a true ninja badass. Each Turtle would have their own style based on their weapon and personality, and you could switch between Turtles with the D-pad like some multi-character action-RPGs do (think Marvel Ultimate Alliance).

Instead, the combat is busted—the first of many broken things you’ll notice in this game. There seems to be a delay between your button inputs and when your character actually performs the action, causing you to frequently break your own combos with an extra button press intended to make up for the game’s inconsistent speed. Because the Turtles don’t automatically lock on to their nearest foe when fighting, it’s difficult to aim many of your combat maneuvers, especially when you’re just dealing with a single opponent. Worse yet, if you’re using projectile weapons, you’ll sometimes hit a friendly instead of a foe.

Tying the game further into the action-RPG genre, the Turtles can also gain levels and earn points to be put into the most elaborate bunch of skill trees you’ll ever see in a downloadable game. Some may relish the challenge of trying to earn the dozens of points it’ll take to max out a single Turtle, but I’m of the mind that it’s just overkill. The convoluted system feels a microcosm of Red Fly’s development approach: Come up with up way too many ideas and never stop to cut the fat.

This isn’t to say Out of the Shadows doesn’t have a couple of highlights, though. The arcade mode, which features seven stages taken from the game’s campaign, utilizes four-player local/online co-op so that you and your friends can get a hint of how things were back in the 8- and 16-bit TMNT glory days. Even this, though, is tarnished by the odd, realistic art style that tries to make the Turtles look like they did in their 1990s live action movies and a horrendous camera that glitches and gets caught every time you turn a corner.

And don’t think that the questionable art direction and busted camera are limited to Arcade Mode, because they only get worse in the campaign. The off-putting visual style only becomes more pronounced via the cutscenes, where voice acting is done over animation-style stills that look a lot more like the cartoon the game is supposed to be based off of. This transition from realistic gameplay to cartoony cutscenes and back left me completely befuddled. The incongruity becomes more dramatic if you try the “classic” option that then turns everything black and white like the original Eastman and Laird comics.

The voice acting, at least, is a bright spot. The actors from the cartoon are not present, but a solid cast led by voice acting veterans like Yuri Lowenthal as Donatello and Catherine Taber as April O’Neill do their best with a script and dialogue taken straight from common TMNT canon. The only problems with the audio come from the fact that every time you pick up an item, a line of dialogue is spoken corresponding to the Turtle you were controlling. As an unintended side effect, sometimes story sensitive lines will be triggered at the same time you pick up a pizza and you’ll have two separate lines played simultaneously as an incomprehensible, garbled mess. That’s not to mention how quickly it gets annoying to hear Donatello lament the fact that he’s eating pizza off of a floor every time you pick one up. Maybe it’s some weird Pizza Hut propaganda.

The campaign’s problems don’t end here, however. It also suffers because it only supports two players locally. Considering you can play the arcade mode locally with four players—which, for all intents and purposes, is nearly as long as the campaign—there is no reason to not have this feature in both modes.

At least, that’s what I thought until I tried playing the campaign locally with a friend and was presented with a split screen. That’s when I realized that there had to have been two different teams working on the two modes separately, with no communication between them. To have all four players presented relatively comfortably from a single viewpoint in arcade mode, then to squish the third-person action point of view into split screen in campaign is quite simply one of the most boneheaded things I’ve ever seen in a game like this.

But even that’s not the crux of Out of the Shadows‘ stupidity. I’ve never spent so much time being lost in a game so linear. There are several massive arena-like enclaves where you’ll have to face countless classic Turtle baddies including Mousers, Foot Ninja, and Purple Dragon gangsters. Once you clear the area, you’ll then waste a lot of time running around and mashing the A button to see what is or isn’t climbable and just what will open up the path way to the next area, since there are no indicators or mini-map to help you along. The worst, though, is when a single enemy will have glitched into one of the boundaries of the arena and you don’t realize that until you do your lap, knock him out so you can advance, then have to run around mashing the A button again, still hoping to find the right path out.

But then again, maybe this is all just part of Red Fly’s lack of self-editing. There were some decent core ideas here that ended up getting lost under the piles of gameplay garbage thrown on top. (One of those bad ideas includes spending some of their budget on getting the rights to Partners in Kryme song “TURTLE Power” from the 1990 movie to serve as their main title theme, by the way.) There are references to the comics, the movies, the cartoons and previous games. There’s split-screen, local co-op, online co-op, skill trees, action-RPG character selection, and Batman-like combat. At the end of the day, TMNT: Out of the Shadows doesn’t know what it wants to be and doesn’t do anything it tries to be well. It doesn’t make the younger Nickelodeon fans or the older, nostalgia-driven fans like myself happy. All it ends up being is a mess and a waste of time.

Developer: Red Fly Studio • Publisher: Activision • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 08.28.13
There seem to be the beginnings of some good ideas in TMNT: Out of the Shadows, but none of them are properly fleshed out. Instead, these shortcomings are simply covered up with more half-followed-through mechanics, resulting in a mess of a game.
The Good The arcade mode will feel nostalgic for some. 
The Bad Lots of glitches, loose combat, and an identity crisis.
The Ugly Everything visually about this game.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PC (Steam), and coming later for PS3 (PSN). Primary version reviewed was for Xbox 360.

A huge week last week means no surprise that this week was a bit of a lighter hit on the ol’ wallet. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have some quality comics though for us to deliver in this week’s Pullbox!

Marvel – Wolverine and the X-Men #12 – Wolverine and the Avengers continue to keep Hope away from the Phoenix Five as a massive fight breaks out in one of Wolverine’s favorite dive bars. Hope escapes though after Wolverine and Rachel Grey have an impassioned speech explaining both their cases and Rachel must return to Cyclops empty-handed.

So, I’ve been avoiding the whole Avengers vs X-Men event, but with the slim pickings this week, it was an inevitability. There were a lot of great things about this issue. The two-page spread of the Avengers amping up for battle was the first ‘Oh wow’ moment I’ve had in a while from a comic book in terms of art and with the cheap shots that Wolverine throws at Rachel like saying it’s great her mother wasn’t here to see this was just wonderful writing. It shows how personal this fight has really gotten. The only thing better was the ending where you see that Rachel starts to remember who she really is and Gladiator finally reaches Earth, setting up an epic fight for the next issue!

Marvel – X-Men Legacy #269 – Rogue starts coming into her own as she sees the real good that the Phoenix Five are doing and borrows Iceman’s powers for a short while to assist some folks down in the Gulf of Mexico. Unfortunately for her, Ms. Marvel crashes the party (looking as hot as ever) looking to talk. Rogue isn’t really in a talking mood though.

Again, this issue shows how personal things are starting to get for a lot of these characters as Rogue tries to absorb Ms. Marvel’s powers again and Ms. Marvel freaks out as these two had a long and sordid history caused by Rogue absorbing too much for a long time and putting Ms. Marvel into a coma. The fight though between Rogue with a hint of Ms. Marvel’s power and a hint of Iceman’s versus a fully powered Ms. Marvel was epic to see play out, but I admit I was a little disappointed in how brash Rogue acted as it didn’t offer up a chance for the quality dialog like what we saw in Wolverine and the X-Men. The twist ending though with Magik helps us see where this whole event is going though as it looks like a lot of the X-Men not touched by the Phoenix may start rebelling soon.

DC – Before Watchmen: Nite Owl #1 (of 4) – The Nite Owl we know from Watchmen is actually a legacy hero, carrying on the mantle for the original when he grew too old. This book explores his origins, his relationship with Rorschach, and his first encounter with Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre, also a legacy hero at that point inheriting it from her mother.

Honestly, this Before Watchmen event has been hit or miss with me so far and DC is only batting .500. The Comedian book was stellar, Minutemen and Silk Spectre were both disappointing, but Nite Owl falls on the side of awesome. Seeing how young Daniel was inspired by robotics and designed a lot of his tech from an early age was something we never really saw from the character. Or the crush he instantly developed for Silk Spectre. His rapport with Rorschach was also comical and so this book lays an interesting foundation of action, humor, and romance in only its first couple dozen pages in this first of four mini-series.

DC – Green Lantern: New Guardians #10 – The Reach are on the verge of claiming the Hope Lanterns’ Power Battery, but Kyle, Arkillo, and Fatality arrive on the scene to provide aid and allow the Hope Lanterns to reach their full offensive potential. But is the battle already lost and what will happen should the Hope Power Battery fall into the wrong hands?

It’s rare to see the bad guys win in comics, but Kyle’s uncharacteristic lack of hope is the downfall for the group here. Saint Walker is not pleased with abandoning the homeworld of Hope and you may start to see some other lanterns exercise other emotions…like rage. I admit, this new Green Lantern monthly has slowed down some in the past few issues and it doesn’t seem to know what direction it wants to take. The characters are definitely dynamic enough if properly written, but aside from Arkillo and Saint Walker, no one has really stood out since the first couple of issues. If this trend continues, this monthly may no longer have a place in my box.

IDW – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #11 – The TMNT are still without Master Splinter, but a lucky break may point them in the direction they need to finally track down the Foot headquarters and bring home their father. Meanwhile, Splinter is trapped in a life or death battle against the entirety of the Foot Clan as the Shredder watches on!

Kevin Eastman’s return to comics with a re-launched TMNT has been glorious and this issue continues that trend. It’s build up to the battle we’ve longed to see between Splinter and Shredder is terrific and Splinter’s inner dialogue is something of pure beauty, only eclipsed by the banter the two ninja masters have with each other as Splinter takes down lackey after lackey. It will be interesting to see where the turtles themselves go from here though as the spotlight really hasn’t been on them for a couple of issues and if they can get to Splinter in time before exhaustion allows one of the Shredder’s deadly blades to hit a critical blow and just what will happen when they take on Shredder for the first time.