Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants Review – Better Left In The Sewers

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were synonymous with gaming in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, largely thanks to their influence over arcade brawlers. Games like 1989’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (also known as ’89 Arcade) and 1991’s Turtles in Time are time-honored classics that shaped the side-scrolling beat-‘em-up genre, and 2022’s Shredder’s Revenge demonstrated that the style is still viable in the modern landscape. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants clearly takes inspiration from those beloved games, but it falls spectacularly short of those acclaimed titles.

Originally released to arcades in 2017, Wrath of the Mutants takes a similar approach to gameplay as the original TMNT arcade games: You choose from Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael, each with distinct moves, as you slash and brawl through stages full of baddies. Based on the 2012 Nickelodeon cartoon, Wrath of the Mutants includes a ton of enemies for the Turtles to beat up in various locales; this home port adds three all-new stages and six new bosses. Unfortunately, no amount of Easter eggs and fanservice can compensate for its uninteresting gameplay.

Though the core concept is the same as the most beloved entries in the series, I never felt anything more than listlessness as I fought through the six extremely linear stages on offer. Each Turtle brandishes their signature weapon and a unique Turtle Power that clears the screen of enemies. These moves should feel empowering, but instead, they throw the action to a halt while a drawn-out animation plays; Leo spins to form a tornado that sucks up all the minions, while Raph drums on the ground, sending enemies flying.

But it all feels so routine as you fight through waves of the exact same enemies in tedious stages that require no strategy – you just go right and spam the attack button. You can also pick up power-ups that cause your character to spin on their shell or summon side characters to dispatch enemies, but with the base combat so uninteresting, I only enjoyed deploying these frequent special moves because they provided a quicker path through the long levels.

Brawling the seemingly endless screens of Foot and Krang minions found in each stage wouldn’t be so bad if the signature arcade unfairness wasn’t ever-present. TMNT Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants isn’t a tough game by any measure, but there are moments where you simply cannot avoid being hit. At nearly every phase, enemies attack you from off-screen, where you can’t see or reach them, and they frustratingly won’t stop attacking you nor come into view unless you go to the other side of the screen. Additionally, enemy projectiles are deadly accurate, and with the Turtles’ sluggish movement and no way to effectively dodge, you’re all but guaranteed to take hits.

These enemies don’t do a ton of damage, but it’s often death by a thousand papercuts, and since each hit briefly stuns you, your combos are constantly getting interrupted. The bosses, who often just repeat the same attacks over and over, are trials of patience rather than engaging challenges. These boss encounters typically bring slight variations on the same move sets, causing them to all play out similarly. Even the final fight against Shredder does little to differentiate itself; he just lumbers around the screen while you wail on him with little strategy required other than jumping when the game tells you to jump – another repeated convention in nearly every boss battle.

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Stage elements meant to break up the monotony serve as more frustration than diversity of experience. Trains speed past, Krang’s Android body shoots electricity at you, and explosive barrels litter the levels, but they add so little. In one instance, where a giant eyeball continually blasts lasers at you while you fight waves of enemies, your character is too slow to avoid getting zapped unless you’re just standing around waiting for it to broadcast where it’s firing. I should be excited to see these new challenges and twists emerge, but I met most of them with a shrug and others with annoyance.

Though seeing the 2012 animated series get some attention in 2024 is fun, the presentation also disappoints. The visuals are nothing special, and I’m not a fan of some of the character designs of this era, but they fit the show’s look well enough. It’s the audio that most irritates, as the Turtles obnoxiously scream the entire time and enemies repeatedly spout the same lines while generic action-oriented music loops in the background. After the first few levels, I was relieved to crank the volume down and listen to something else instead.

Beating the entire game takes less than two hours, but it still somehow manages to drag. You can return to the game’s six stages to try and get higher scores, but I had zero interest in doing so. The arcade games of yesteryear sometimes lacked depth, but they at least had a hook that stuck with you and kept you itching to return to pump more quarters into the cabinet. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants strives for the greatness of the influential arcade hits of the past but falls well short. Thanks to uninteresting and annoying gameplay, repetitive enemy and boss encounters, and grating audio design, Wrath of the Mutants is little more than a shell of the series’ glory years.

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