This review will be accepted in two different ways, by two different camps. The first group will recognize the title as being from the original animated series theme song. The second camp will be more familiar with the 2003 revival of the "world's most fearsome fighting team." This game TMNT 3: Mutant Nightmare is the third console game based on this new series. After hearing about the rebirth of the series, I watched several episodes out of nostalgia for the original. It took a while to get accustomed to the new voices and animation style. But in the end, the characterizations were extremely similar. Raphael was still "cool, but rude," and Michelangelo was still "a party dude."
A brilliant writer for this site coined the perfect genre name for this type of title. Mutant Nightmare is a "button masher." The basic gameplay is an action/RPG in the vein of Baldur's Gate and X-Men Legends. Four players can participate simultaneously as all four turtles are always onscreen. If fewer players are present, the computer will control the remaining turtles. The controls are simple with each turtle having a weak and strong attack, jump, block, and shuriken attack. Stringing strong and weak attacks together results in combos. Furthermore, each turtle builds up a ougi meter that is used to unleash special moves. If there are computer controlled turtles, the control pad allows you to issue limited commands to your group such as attacking a particular target or regrouping. The turtles can perform a double jump, which bolsters the coolness factor of any game in this reviewer's eyes.
There are three acts to Mutant Nightmare, each with its own story arc. Each act is divided up into numerous short missions. The goal of most missions is to fight through multiple waves of bad guys as you make your way from the beginning of the zone to its end. Boss fights occur at key intervals throughout the act. If that was the end of the story on the missions, this game would be pretty monotonous, but it isn't. Some stages require you to escort a character through dangerous territory. The NPC will have a life meter, and you must protect them from the bad guys. If the NPC stayed by your side, these missions would be fairly simple. But the character has a tendency to wander off, causing you to constantly save them from their certain demise. Another type of mission places you in the controls of various vehicles. The game steers you through the stage as you bombard the enemies that come across your path. A final mission scenario is similar to an arcade shooter. The four turtles stand stationary at the bottom of the screen, and you control a shuriken crosshair. The enemies appear in front of you in old school arcade fashion, and you must take them down. This mission variety makes the game a lot more enjoyable.
The RPG elements of the game do not contain as much depth as other examples of the genre. Throughout the stages, you collect crystals that act as the experience or currency for the game. In between the missions, you use these crystals to purchase new skills for the turtles. These skills range from new combos to better special attacks to more shuriken storage. Within the stages, you can also find ninja scrolls that improve certain stats once they are equipped. I am always a big fan of customization elements in games, but the attempt here doesn't really go into enough depth. To succeed in this game, you pretty much just have to mash the buttons as fast as you can.
There are several different graphical styles portrayed in Mutant Nightmare. The gameplay graphics look good and flow smoothly. These graphics are done in a similar style to the animated series, only in three dimensions. While they won't win any awards for detail, the graphics are solid throughout. In between the missions, there are cut scenes that help advance the story. These FMVs are done in two different formats. The first style is animation that could be straight out of the tv show. The second style is a different form of 3D CGI from the gameplay graphics, but still similar to the character design from the series. Overall the graphics in all its formats look good.
The game music accomplishes one of the goals of the classic Hollywood film score in that it is unobtrusive. The only theme that really stood out in my mind is the one from the menu screen as you spend a fair amount of time there upgrading the turtles. The theme is a repetitious, bouncing, synth melody. The other side of the sound design aspect is the voice acting. All of the principal voice actors from the new series are present in the game. As they do a fine job in the series, their performance is good for the game. During the missions, each turtle chatters constantly as they attack others and get nailed themselves. The only time the voice acting slips is during the CGI cut scenes. The synchronization is just slightly off. Again, overall the sound design of the game is solid.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare is simply a fun game. It doesn't bring anything revolutionary to the table, but it is very entertaining. The Ninja Turtles are a beloved franchise, and it was fun to reenter their world. While there isn't great variety in the missions, the game does have some cool little breaks that let it avoid monotony. Also, it would have been nice if there were more depth to the RPG elements. There are some unlockables such as videos and arenas where you just beat up wave after wave of enemies. These arenas also allow you to collect more crystals to further improve your turtles. In the end though, the game is a button masher. But I did think it was "a shell of a time."