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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled (Xbox 360) artwork

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled (Xbox 360) review

"Something a lot of fans will appreciate is the ability to chase Krang and Shredder through time as a united team. On consoles, no more than two friends have ever been able to team up for the cause, but now you can gather three other buddies and really raise some shell! Both local and online play are allowed, with plenty of enthusiastic strangers just waiting to team up against evil at all times of the day, night and early morning."

Something is wrong and its name is Krang. Larger than the Statue of Liberty thanks to a powerful suit constructed to house his gooey core, the slimy alien menace has flown off with New York's greenest and most feminine landmark in a show of force and stupidity. What can an extra-terrestrial being really do with a useless statue, after all? Before long, a quartet of shelled heroes rise from the sewers to set things right. Their names are Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo and Donatello. Together they are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and together they will kick Krang's butt... if time permits.

Thus begins Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled, a long overdue remake of the classic arcade game first developed and released by Konami when the hero turtles were riding their first massive wave of popularity. The retooled re-release may be rather late to the party, but even so, there's only one word that comes to mind: "Cowabunga!"

If you remember playing Turtles in Time back in the day, you either had the good fortune to live near the right arcade cabinet or you played the home port. Featuring a $70 price tag, excellent animation, the familiar TMNT theme and even some jaw-dropping special effects, the console version of the game was exactly the sort of fare that fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhatten Project were craving as they moved into the 16-bit generation of gaming. It was a feast for the eyes that culminated in an unforgettable battle against Shredder that forced players to throw foot soldiers directly at the screen--an incredible spectacle at the time--before finally bringing true piece to the Big Apple.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled, despite being much newer and appearing on superior hardware, does not feature that spectacular confrontation. You can still throw foot soldiers directly at the screen if you like, but there's little reason to do so other than the temporary rush of nostalgia it might bring you. The final showdown against Shredder is depressingly bland as a result. Your spike-armored nemesis just walks around swinging a saber and looking menacing as you exchange blows and hope that your life meter outlasts his. He doesn't even bother sending bolts of lightning from his fingertips. Yawn...

Fortunately, just about everything else about the adventure up to that point rocks. Even weaknesses are turned to strengths. The original theme from the 80s cartoons is gone, for instance, but in its place is an infectious new soundtrack that should get your foot stomping in time with the beat even if you don't usually pay attention to such things. Another potential flaw (if only for purists), is the edgier artwork. Certainly it's in keeping with the recent animated efforts, but what about heart? Well, it all works out in the end. Shadows dance across the ground as the turtles lash against their enemies with all of the fury that you would expect from the heroic reptiles. Pitfalls blend in better now, as well, and the reactions as a turtle drops through a manhole or sends a rotted planking upward into its face feels more convincing (and painful). The design throughout is more like a comic book--which is how the reptiles began, anyway--and less like an outdated cartoon. It's time to let go of the past.

Aesthetics aren't the only change, though. Something a lot of fans will appreciate is the ability to chase Krang and Shredder through time as a united team. On consoles, no more than two friends have ever been able to team up for the cause, but now you can gather three other buddies and really raise some shell! Both local and online play are allowed, with plenty of enthusiastic strangers just waiting to team up against evil at all times of the day, night and early morning.

With that new functionality comes a string of mild irritants, though. One problem is that health pickups aren't shared. This leads to situations where four turtles are bashing their way through the mean streets of New York (or through the Wild West or a prehistoric jungle or even a pirate ship) and really working as a team, then one guy suddenly realizes that you're all about to reach a pizza. He stops helping and instead hugs the right side of the screen so that he can claim the goody for himself. Not only is he no longer providing assistance, but odds are significant that he's not even the one who most needs the grub. He just wants it because, well, that's how a lot of people play these games. You're definitely better off if you can form a party with trusted friends, but even if you can't and are stuck with the occasional scrub, it's possible to enjoy some really good rounds.

As far as difficulty goes, there are four settings. On the "Easy" level, you shouldn't have much trouble working through without the need to continue. "Normal" cranks things up a notch and also removes some of your stock of extra lives, but a couple of friends should find the challenge just about perfect as they bust their way through to the end. Things only grow more difficult from there.

Achievements are thankfully built more around enjoying the game than they are mastering its finest nuances. Though one is specific to the "Survival" mode (which as the name implies must be conquered without losing a life), most of the others reward you for simple things like finishing the game as each of the four turtles--each with its own variances in fighting style--or steering clear of freeze beams in one late stage. Not every objective is easily satisfied, but there's a healthy mix of simple and challenging that should reward folks at all skill levels.

Those achievements really are one of the things that lend the game its replay value. At its heart, Turtles in Time hasn't changed significantly from its previous version. Strip away the prettier visuals and really the biggest perk remaining is the multi-player mode. The adventure is too short to keep you busy for long if you're not ready to play through it multiple times, plus the enemies and gameplay are repetitive enough that you probably wouldn't care to be bothered without extra incentives in place. That's always been a fault of the genre, even when it was functioning at its peak, and it's certainly the case here.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled was never meant to appeal to the new breed of gamer that measures everything by an hours-long ruler, though, nor is it some sort of cure for whatever ails the genre. Instead, it's content to exist as precisely what it is: a pleasant throwback to olden days that we don't see nearly as often as we should in an industry fueled by the constant search for--and then shameless desecration of--the next big thing. Featuring plenty of the mindless gameplay that defined and entertained an entire generation of players that grew into this era's jaded gamer, the remake stumbles only infrequently and easily justifies the price of admission. Whether or not it will attract current fans of the revitalized show remains to be seen, but even if it doesn't, who cares? If only briefly, we can step through a time warp of our own and journey back to a day when the turtles were totally radical!

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Staff review by Jason Venter (August 06, 2009)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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zippdementia posted August 06, 2009:

A crushing review, Jason. When I read that Shredder no longer gets defeated by the bodies of his own foot soldiers, I nearly sobbed aloud.
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joseph_valencia posted August 06, 2009:

That boss battle existed only in the Super Nintendo port. The original arcade game, which "Re-Shelled" is based on, never had the Technodrome level.
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JANUS2 posted August 07, 2009:

I hate it when they set easy achievements for these old games. Sega are particularly guilty of this with nonsense challenges like "eat 200 fish in Ecco the Dolphin." They should be giving the hardcore fan a challenge.
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zippdementia posted September 14, 2009:

One thing you didn't mention, Jason, which really shocked me when I bought this today was that special attacks no longer drain health. Everything else I like about the game but that makes the incredibly powerful special attacks completely broken. Why would they do that?
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joseph_valencia posted September 14, 2009:

Wasn't the only useful desperation attack Michelangelo's? I don't remember the others being too nifty, and they're harder to execute than in Manhattan Project.

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