Disk Review: Ninjas: Time for hara-kiri!

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game isn't classy and isn't fun.

tmnt88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Although the heroes of this arcade game are named Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael after four Renaissance artists, it is neither classy nor art. It is, in fact, a waste of time with nothing that will challenge anyone over eight and nothing to interest anybody over 12, the age group for which it was designated because of the violent content. The four brothers are trained by a rat named Master Splinter - an expert in the Japanese martial art of ninjitsu - to become warriors. They emerge from their abode in New York's sewers to fight baseball bat-carrying punks, alien invaders and a variety of other bad guys, with each of the four ninjas demonstrating his own fighting style. The TMNT story began 23 years ago as a Mirage Studios comic book that was meant to parody the most popular comics of the era, but as the characters caught on, the developers made a fortune by licensing their images to makers of skateboards, toothpaste, Pez candy dispensers, cameras, hundreds of action toys, school supplies and even Pizza Hut pizza and Ralston-Purina green "turtle-flavored" Chex breakfast cereal. A comic strip by other authors continued for years and was followed by an American TV cartoon show, a live-action TV series and then four feature movies, the latest of which was released a month ago under the name TMNT. A quartet portraying the reptiles even put on a musical performance at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Now, with this computer game, TMNT has reached its nadir. The turtles are supposed to have different personalities: The blue-masked leader Leonardo is courageous, decisive and has a strong sense of justice; red-masked Raphael is supposed to be an aggressive, sarcastic type; Michelangelo, hiding behind an orange mask, is the funny, adventurous one who also reads comics and eats pizza; and purple-masked Donatello is described as a genius at inventions. But in the game, they are interchangeable and indistinguishable except for the different-colored masks. You begin with a mandatory training session that teaches you to jump, hang from ledges, kick, slash enemies with knives, climb up walls and master other skills. Then you are propelled through 16 action levels, which take only about six hours to complete. There is no multiplayer game. Reaching the end of each mission unlocks a challenge map, which isn't much of a challenge. It's impossible for your ninja to die; even if he falls into a chasm, he just pops right back, and if he is sick, just click on an icon to restore his health. Your enemies are constantly beaten up and slain. While there is no bloodshed, a red aura surrounds each human figure when felled, and then he evaporates. There isn't much variety in the combat, as you spend most of the time pressing the attack button; try holding it down for a couple of seconds and after release, running from one enemy to another and knocking them off. It's hard to imagine that the same software developers (Ubisoft's Montreal office) that made Prince of Persia could be responsible for this awful, pathetic game. Cut scenes appear as rapid-fire comic-book scenes and are pretty worthless. The graphics engine is poor, even pathetic. The turtles' bodies are rudimentary, and even their shells look like capes. The voice acting is old fashioned and downright awful, and canned exclamations such as "awright" and "Here's Johnny" - sounded with the exact tone and words in which Tonight show host Johnny Carson was introduced by Ed McMahon - are repeated so often you'll want to strangle the narrator. Some of the voiceovers include such complicated English words that they will mean nothing to Hebrew-speaking Israeli pre-teen boys who are the prime audience for this type of game. The replay value is very low, as the only variation from subsequent bouts with the game is to raise the number of points you've earned. It's time for these Japanese-style warriors and the entire TMNT franchise to commit hara-kiri.