Think of Ubisoft's first attempt at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game as Prince of Persia for the kiddie set. Based on the upcoming CG Turtles movie, TMNT earns this descriptor because it plays a whole bunch like developer Ubisoft Montreal's most recent Prince of Persia games, relying heavily on platforming over fighting. In this case, Montreal has lessened the difficulty of the various jump puzzles that Price of Persia is so well known for (seemingly to make it playable for the younger audience that's likely to latch onto the film), yet the game is still far more frustrating than it ought to be, due to a faulty camera system and sometimes unreasonable controls. Toss in that the combat is only slightly more complex than the legal-aged TMNT arcade beat-'em-up Konami and Ubi recently rereleased on the Xbox Live Arcade, and what you've got is a game that doesn't properly suit any individual audience.
The platforming sections take up the bulk of the game, and they'd be pretty cool if it weren't for that pesky camera.
Since the TMNT movie isn't out yet, it's impossible to gauge exactly how much the game has in common with it. Suffice it to say, it features all the principal characters (though seemingly none of the film's celebrity voice talent) and touches on some of the same basic themes as the film. The whole game is told through a disjointed form of flashback narration, with the titular Turtles each chiming in at random intervals to explain some chunk of the story in the past tense (usually skipping over details that might actually make the whole thing make sense). The dialogue and voice acting is fine for what it is, but as far as providing a satisfying Turtles tale, you're out of luck here.
If you're more accustomed to Konami's last few attempts at the Turtles license, you're in for an awakening with TMNT. In some ways, it's a good awakening, in the sense that this game isn't altogether terrible and actually has its fun moments. Those fun moments come from the hop-happy platforming sequences that make up roughly two-thirds of the gameplay. Each stage is laid out in such a fashion as to force you to jump, double jump, wall jump, wall run, flip, and monkey bar your way through. Some of the stages are quite elaborate, relying on a lot of quickly timed movements and jumps that are reminiscent of what the recent Prince of Persia games have been all about. Some areas are built for specific Turtles to navigate, like walls that Raphael can climb using his sai and longer jumps that require Michelangelo to use his nunchakus like helicopter blades to float over. All told, there's a surprising amount of intricacy to the level designs in TMNT. Of course, the relative difficulty of these levels has been scaled back significantly, and none of the stages take more than 10 or 15 minutes to blow through.
It was good of the developers to scale the difficulty back, as this is clearly a game aimed at a younger audience. The problem is that they didn't quite scale it back enough. The main frustrations with the platforming sequences stem from the fixed camera the game uses. Because of the way it angles shots, it sometimes makes it impossible to properly judge the distance of a jump, leaving you to guesstimate and trial-and-error your way through certain sections. There are also times where the controls can get away from you. You're jumping around so quickly and so often that you may find yourself instinctively pressing the jump button too many times, ultimately overshooting your goal. Frustrations like this are palpable enough to the standard gaming audience, let alone younger players.
On the flip side, the combat mechanics have been scaled back to the point of making them incredibly dull. You really only have one main attack button, as well as a jump-kick button that operates independently of the primary combo system. Each Turtle only has one combo to speak of. It's typically a lengthy combo, but it's the same combo again and again. There are special tag-team moves that come into play from time to time, where by holding down a button, you can call in a fellow Turtle to pull off some flip-happy, electrifying attack that takes out a bunch of bad guys at once. This is basically the game's way of making up for the fact that there are no computer-controlled Turtles onscreen with you while you play, and it's not an altogether bad methodology. The problem with it mostly stems from the enemies you fight being so utterly inept. Throughout the game, you fight wave after wave of pacifist thugs and ninjas who seem content to just swipe in your general direction from time to time. All you've got to do is mash endlessly on the attack buttons and pull together the occasional tag-team move, and you're pretty much never going to die.