You can't really blame Konami for churning out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games on the frequent basis that it does. It's a highly visible license based on a highly popular Saturday morning cartoon series, and, despite the fact that each and every one of the games produced for this console generation has peaked at middling levels or bottomed out in the dregs of action gaming, these games continue to sell, and sell well. So, it is with little surprise that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare follows precisely the same formula that the last couple of games have. It picks up during the third season of the TV show, interspersing TV footage into the game between missions and effectively trying to play out like an interactive version of the show. It also contains the same warmed-over gameplay engine, with just a few tweaks here and there to prevent it from being a straight carbon copy. To its credit, Mutant Nightmare is a touch better than the last game, Battle Nexus, in that it doesn't force-feed you a gaggle of terribly clunky platforming sequences to try to keep things interesting. But beyond that meager distinction, this still isn't a very enjoyable game.
Mutant Nightmare is every bit the predictable Turtles sequel that you've come to expect from this generally mediocre series.
Mutant Nightmare is very much a simplistic beat-'em-up, with each of the four turtles, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael, acting as the playable characters. They've got their respective ninja weapons, as well as some throwing stars and a few special abilities that manifest themselves from time to time. The big new ability in Mutant Nightmare is the ultimate turtle mode, a special state that each turtle can enact after collecting a number of hidden scrolls. It's basically a form of invincibility, making your chosen turtle tougher, and making it much easier to blow through every enemy in sight in a timely fashion. There is also something of a character-upgrade system to mess around with. Beating enemies awards you collectable crystals that you can use in between missions to purchase new combos and abilities. The ultimate turtle mode and the upgrades are a welcome change to an otherwise banal gameplay system. Unfortunately, neither is fleshed out enough to really make an impact over the long haul.
Mutant Nightmare retains the notion of using all four turtles in battle, but it does away with that obnoxious character-switching system from Battle Nexus. All four turtles are onscreen at once in this game, and the ones not controlled by players are dealt with via artificial intelligence. This is mostly a blessing, as the AI partners are generally pretty good about dispatching the enemies in the area. The curse portion of the equation is twofold. For starters, your teammates do have the innate tendency to get hung up in parts of the environment. Whether they're stuck on walls, cars, or whatnot, it's annoying.
However, that annoyance is circumvented by the other problem, which is that the game just isn't very hard at all, and having multiple guys working right alongside you to beat up the bad guys just makes it even easier. You'll frequently find yourself blowing through a stage in a matter of a few minutes, and the combat itself just isn't good enough to make that fun. Even the few cooperative attacks you can pull off ultimately seem pointless, given how easy it is to just clear the area the normal way. You'll often be down to the last one or two enemies by the time you actually get a team attack pulled off. In the instances where the game actually presents some measure of challenge, it's not any better. These bits are just frustrating gang-ups by groups of enemies with long range weapons that do stupid amounts of damage simply because of how many of them are shooting you at once. So, essentially, you'll either blaze through a stage ridiculously quickly, or get stuck trying to knock off a group of bad guys that shoot from a distance. Not fun.