The era of the coin-eating arcade machines may have passed, but that doesn't mean that the games are any less fun. There are still plenty of classic arcade titles, but among the ones that I remember most fondly is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. A classic beat-'em-up built around everyone's favorite mutant turtles, it's one of the simplest games. Shredder steals the Statue of Liberty for ill-defined reasons, and Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael head out to stop him by beating up every single robotic soldier in his army. It's pure side-scrolling beat-'em-up fun at its finest. TMNT: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled is simply an updated port of the game, and it features the same classic gameplay but has the addition of online play and improved graphics. It should give eager players a chance to relive the bygone arcade era while introducing new gamers to the long-lost fun.
The first thing that fans of the original Turtles in Time are going to notice is the complete HD makeover. Turtles in Time Re-Shelled has been completely redone from scratch, and the older sprite-based graphics are replaced by shiny new HD-friendly 3-D visuals. Everything has been redone, and it really makes the game look a lot smoother than the original version. Even the game's opening and ending cinematics were given a makeover, with a new and more detailed art style replacing the original simplistic animations. Fans of the original have no need to fear, though; the classic Turtles in Time gameplay has been left almost untouched.
The gameplay in Turtles in Time is fairly simple. You pick from one of the four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo or Raphael. Each has his own unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, Donatello is the most defensive of the turtles, with a long range and high defense stat in exchange for slower attack speed. Raphael is the fastest of the bunch but has low attack power and low defense. The differences between the turtles are fairly minor, however, and you can generally choose whoever you want and do fine. The basic gameplay is beat-'em-up arcade fun at its finest. Players have exactly three buttons that they need to know: attack, jump and special. The attack and jump buttons are rather self-explanatory. Pressing the attack button repeatedly can unleash a combo attack. If you're close to an enemy, you can sometimes grab him and slam him repeatedly into the ground or throw him off-screen for an instant kill. There isn't much platforming to do in the game, but jumping allows you to avoid enemy traps or hit airborne enemies with jump attacks. The special button allows you to perform a special move exclusive to the turtle you picked, which is great for clearing crowds of enemies but leaves you vulnerable for a moment.
The real shining aspect of the game is the strong level design. Each level is set in a new and unique location, often with various gimmicks, traps or twists to keep the players on their toes. While the turtles begin in their hometown of New York, one of Shredder's dastardly traps quickly sends them traveling through time. They go from the prehistoric age to the far-flung future, with each time providing its own dangers. In the prehistoric era, for example, you may have to watch out for collapsing caves or fire-breathing dinosaurs. In the age of the pirates, you'll be wandering along a rickety ship, where a misstep can send a plank slamming into your turtle's face. In the distant future, you'll have to contend with laser beams and ice fields. Enemies also grow more deadly as the levels progress. While you start out fighting basic robotic Foot Clan soldiers, by the end of the game, you'll be dealing with enemies armed with axes, laser guns, flamethrowers and kusarigama. For most beat-'em-ups, this would just mean that they hit harder, but the weapon-using enemies in Turtles in Time tend to have unique gimmicks. For example, flamethrowers can set the turtles on fire, stunning them and leaving them open to further attacks. The kusarigama reach vast areas of the screen, meaning that an enemy armed with them should be your first priority. The hardest moments of the game are the various boss fights, which take place against popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle foes like Krang, Leatherhead, Metal Head and, of course, Shredder. You and your friends will have to exploit the small holes in the bosses' patterns to defeat them.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-shelled has a number of gameplay modes available. Story mode is a classic arcade-style playthrough, where up to four players can go through the entire game together. This can be played either locally or over Xbox Live, so there should be no shortage of fellow turtles to kick shell with. The difficulty can be ratcheted up from Easy to Hardcore, with each difficulty giving you fewer lives to defeat foes with, as well as increasing the number of enemies you must defeat. For those seeking an extreme challenge, the game also offers a Survival mode, which means you have no additional lives so once you're dead, it's over. Finally, the game also offers a Quick-Play mode, which allows you to replay any level of your choice with a surplus of lives. This is a great way to brush up your skills on a particularly tough boss, or just replay your favorite level without having to go through the ones before it. Those seeking to prove their worth to the world can also compete on online leaderboards.Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled is a classic arcade brawler. It isn't a game that lasts for a long time, and it isn't particularly complex. Instead, it's built around replaying the game over and over, trying to finish by using as few lives as possible while improving your skills. The multiplayer is a blast, with up to four friends beating the living daylights out of Foot Clan ninjas and evil mutants, and there are plenty of challenging modes to make sure that even once you and your friends have completed the game, there is still plenty to master. Nostalgic fans of the TMNT or those looking for some old-fashioned arcade fun should make sure to grab Turtles in Time Re-Shelled when it hits the Xbox Live Arcade service early next month.
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