The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. The new cartoon has been a largely successful means of introducing a newer, younger audience to the heroes in a half-shell, but the game doesn't follow the same path. TMNT: Out of the Shadows is inspired by the comic books more than anything else, and it represents a slightly more mature take on the franchise than what has been seen in recent years. Rather than riding on the coattails of an existing pillar of the franchise, the game is in its own stand-alone universe. The overall design of the turtles gives them a more mature and somewhat menacing look as opposed to their rounded, almost cheery look in the most recent cartoon.
That's not to say that the underlying aspects of the team have changed. They're still mutated turtles trained in the art of ninjitsu, and they certainly eat pizza and fight their stable of powerful enemies. In the presentation we played at E3 2013, we fought off a few groups of street thugs before making our way into a warehouse to fight foot soldiers and mousers. Near the end, we saw Baxter Stockman descend an elevator, and the demo ended shortly thereafter with a massive three-headed hydra mouser menacing the screen.
While the game has more open segments in which you leap from rooftop to rooftop, the more entertaining parts are when you are brawling with enemies. Each turtle has a different move set, which is performed with controller combinations such as holding the right trigger and moving the right thumbstick a quarter-turn. Actual combat is a frenzied affair, and blocks must be performed with the proper timing to be successful and/or counter the enemy's attack. As you do damage, you gain power that you can unleash as Turtle Knockout moves, which do massive damage to enemies.
As enemies are killed, your turtles gain experience and increase levels. Gaining levels grants action points to spend on your choice of turtle, improving them in ways such as unlocking new moves, making their taunts have extra effects, or simply boosting their stats. These ability points form a global pool, so it's possible to spread them out among all turtles or splurge on one.
Your other turtles fight alongside you in combat, so there's still a benefit to amping them up even if you don't use that turtle very often. You can switch the active turtle with the d-pad at pretty much any time, and if one falls in combat, you are automatically prompted to do so. Of course, your friends can take control of the turtles instead, and up to four players can play the game cooperatively either on the same system, via system link, or over Xbox Live.
TMNT: Out of the Shadows is slated to come out this summer, and it is certainly worth a look. While the quality of games in the franchise can vary greatly, Out of the Shadows has found a sweet spot to occupy. The combat is shaping up to be a lot of fun, and the new take on the turtles really works. As with many other downloadable titles, the game will be playable via a demo over PlayStation Network and Xbox Live, so it won't be long before franchise fans can check it out.
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