Here is a game that brings back a lot of memories more from the craze of the time rather than its game play. The Turtles ruled supreme towards the end of the 90’s everything from lunchboxes, bed covers, cartoons, bubble bath, action figures, coin collections and even a decent movie. Yes I’m putting myself into the camp of those who loved the movie. Even today I feel it holds up quite well as a dark film that surpasses all of its light hearted sequels and it wasn’t until the recent CGI effort that we were treated to something on par with the original.
Umpteen years later and faced with a rose tinted view I came across a copy on a shelf in my local Gamestation. For a couple of quid I didn’t think I could go wrong. When I got home I was annoyed to find that the game refused to load and I had to clean it several times with vast amounts of ethanol before it fired up, the cotton bud I used turning pitch black with years of filth from the contacts. The Turtles game was an original pack in cartridge with some NES consoles and Christmas of that year (1989) it was the game every one wanted and they were certainly the Pokémon craze of their day. But the main concern was whether or not the game is actually worth playing!
My first irk was the lack of recognisable theme tune on the title screen. I can still clearly remember the music from the cartoon and was surprised it hadn’t been repeated here. Instead we are treated to a rather dull melody that wouldn’t seem out of place in any standard action platformer. However this is the Turtles game and they deserve a decent legacy!
On starting the game you are given the choice of the 4 main characters Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael each having their trademarks weapons with all having their own different reach and strength. My first choice was Leonardo mainly because he was always my favourite Turtle and who doesn’t like swords! The game drops you into the middle of a top down view map with your Turtle of choice taking centre stage. You can walk around the map and visit different buildings but right next to where you start is a small, open manhole. Expecting to be dropped into the Turtles home I ventured inside.
Instead of hanging out with the rest of the Turtles I was faced with a side on sewer platform section with numerous enemies flying around. They are all quite easy to kill and a quick hit from Leo’s Katana soon puts them down. After scrolling for a few screens I spy a ladder leading out of the sewers and clambering up leads me directly onto the map in a different part of town. This is pretty much the main stay of what the game is about travelling through the sewers, visiting buildings trying to hunt down a mission objective, in the first mission it’s to save the yellow banana coated April, which was bad taste even back in the 80’s, from a pig like creature called Rock Steady.
Controls wise it can’t be faulted, each Turtle responds well and despite the flickering enemies (this is the UK edition so maybe the US one doesn’t suffer from this) its very playable and I can understand why it was so popular back in the day. You effectively have 4 lives to complete each mission as every time a Turtle keels over you get to choose another one and from what I saw, continues were plentiful. Something you will no doubt need when you reach the underwater dam sections. Each consists of swimming through various electrified tunnels to defuse a number of bombs. Not the greatest of design decision as the time limit is quite strict and the number large.
From what I can tell this was made by Palcom (who were actually a company created by Konami to cheat Nintendo’s cart licensing rules and release more games than they were allowed) and it’s not a bad effort all told. However I still feel it could do with a bit of tweaking in places. The collision detection can be slightly dodgy at times, the Turtle’s can’t swim in the sewers but they can in the dam, lower difficulty when it comes to bomb disposal and more recognisable characters! None of the enemies (besides the few bosses) are from the cartoon show that I remember and most of the boss fights are a bit easy. With the wealth of baddies on offer in the cartoon you would think they could have made a much better effort. Not bad but I just wish they’d gone on to make a similar but improved sequel. I’m still in 2 minds about this, compared to the likes of Darkwing Duck and Ducktales it just doesn’t have enough going for it, certainly one worth picking up from the top of a bargain bin though.
20 years on the Turtles aren’t Teenagers anymore and more green skinned geriatrics.