|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Mutant Nightmare (2005)
Available for: PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube
When it comes to milking a craze, it doesn’t get any worse than the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise. The cartoon series became an instant hit in the late 80’s, only to influence the production of thousands of collectible toys, trading cards, and other merchandise, as well as a few decent games. In 2003, the series proved that it could stand the test of time by returning to syndication and entertaining a new generation of Saturday-morning-cartoon-watching kiddies. Here’s where things went wrong. The show’s success launched a series of new games for the latest home console systems, but unlike the original side-scrollers of the 80’s and 90’s, these versions were nothing but an abomination to the brilliant graphic novel work of “TMNT” creators Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.
The third chapter of the current-gen story has everyone’s favorite amphibious brothers saving the day across three different episodes. Episode one deals mainly with an absurd battle between the turtles and an alien race of Triceratops, while the final two pitting the heroes against more formidable opponents – with episode three pitting the turtles against a much-improved Shredder. The fighting system is pretty much set in the same style as any other beat-‘em-up platformer, with a new upgrade system that allows the player to learn new combos by collecting crystals off of their defeated enemies. Hidden scrolls can also be found across a number of different levels and can then be equipped to increase things like attack strength and the number of ninja stars you can carry at a time.
The story used for the third game has been ripped straight out of the television show, and so a series of clips are used as you play from one level to the next. Unfortunately, CG footage is also used to fill in the gaps and is very disorienting to sit through after watching several animated sequences. It would have been a smart idea to employ the show’s writers and artists to produce all of the missing segments, but maybe it was too expensive to be bothered with. In fact, by the look of the final product, it’s pretty easy to tell that the developers weren’t too concerned with the game’s overall production value. With a title like this, Konami could have boxed an old copy of “Pong” and had it still sell pretty well as long as the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” logo was emblazoned on the front cover.
The latest installment of the “Turtles” gaming series, “TMNT 3: Mutant Nightmare,” only drags the franchise even further into the dark abyss of embarrassment with a lousy, been-there-done-that fighting system and a lack of gameplay options. The camera controls suck and the option to switch between different turtles is simply unavailable, but the worst aspect of the game has to be the A.I. system. Nine times out of ten, every enemy on screen attacks Player 1, while the rest of the turtles sit around and pick their noses. And if you’re ever running low on health and you need to take break from all of the fighting, well, you can’t. The other three turtles won’t attack unless you do. This, of course, isn’t a problem if you’re playing with a friend, but it completely hinders the progress of anyone playing by their lonesome self.
But hey, at least there’s one positive thing about playing through “Mutant Nightmare”; you unlock a much better game in the form of “Turtles in Time.” This is by far the best "TMNT" game ever created, and while playing through the vintage side-scroller proves to be a lot less fun on the Xbox than on the SNES, it’s still a blast. It's also the only reason to go out and buy - scratch that - rent “Mutant Nightmare.”