reviews\ Nov 15, 2005 at 7:00 pm

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare - NDS - Review

Back in the day when the Nintendo Entertainment System was at the top of its game, there was a little game called Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles that made fans of the comic book (and later the Saturday morning cartoon) snatch it up right away. Well, that’s how it was for this Turtles' fan and it was everything we could ever ask from a 2-D side-scrolling action game. Years later, though, there really hasn’t been a game that truly delivered the same satisfying action of the NES original. Many years and various platforms later, our favorite mutated heroes are back with Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare for the Nintendo DS.

Mutant Nightmare, much like the console version, revolves around a battle to unlock the secrets of an otherworldly technology known as Trans-Technology. As a result a scientist trapped in the body of a robot known as Fugitoid escapes to Earth only to find that the greedy Federation and the dinosaur-like Triceratons are hot on his trail. Little does the enemy know, however, that Fugitoid is a friend of the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and their master Splinter. Along with close friends Casey Jones, April O’Neil and even the conflicted Karai they come to their robotic friend’s aid. Unfortunately Shredder is back and the mysterious mutant-obsessed Bishop has allied himself with the Federation. Man, isn’t anything easy for our teenaged friends?


Like the classic 2-D action game that lit up our old Nintendo systems, Mutant Nightmare is a side-scrolling action game that, played on your own, has you picking from any of the four turtles. In case you forgot, they’re all named after famous artists and each specializes in different weaponry and fighting styles. Leonardo, for example, is the master of the katana (the sword) and is the most versatile of the bunch. Then there’s Raphael, who is an expert with the Sai and stronger than the other turtles. Finally there’s Michelangelo, who favors the nunchaku, and is acrobatic while Donatello uses a Bo Staff that has a long reach. Together they’re a force to be reckoned with but alone you’ll have to pick the turtle that best suits the given level.

Speaking of levels the game throws 40-something levels that are pretty lengthy and take you through the sewers of New York and various other locales that are true to the new cartoons. The bulk of the action happens in the top screen, allowing your turtle to unleash four different attacks (dash, jump, charge and special attacks). On top of that, of course, are the specialized fighting styles. For example, Raphael can push certain obstacles while Michelangelo can pull off a skateboard attack. The specialty styles add plenty of bang and you’ll need it going up against the Federation troops, the Triceratons and the different bosses.


As far as the level design goes, however, Mutant Nightmare is as linear as they come. You’re not forced to continue the path but if you want to get to the next stage you’ll have to beat all the enemies that appear when the exclamation mark appears on the screen. The Federation has the numbers and there are some of them that lob grenades. Meanwhile the Triceratons have a bull charge attack that’s pretty unstoppable and the big dinos can drive and fire guns. Combat is the weakest aspect of the game seeing as by the fifth level you’ll have fought waves of similar enemies again and again. Occasionally the game tosses in friends that aid you. At one point April appears on a hover ship and that’s when the game turns into a side-scrolling shoot ‘um up. If it wasn’t for these moments the game would have been really dull.

The good news is that the touch screen is utilized in this game but the bad news is that it’s not utilized enough or is used in an interesting way. There are moments throughout the game that you’ll have to open puzzles with the touch of the screen. The puzzles usually involve a valve that needs to be turned so the two arrowheads meet. Some of them are timed, making things a bit more challenging but as far as puzzles are concerned you won’t break a sweat solving these. The touch screen is also used when your turtle needs a helping hand from a turtle with the necessary ability to get you through a hard-to-reach area. When the time comes, a picture of the corresponding turtle will appear and all you have to do is tap it. Good stuff but not enough of it make you think you’re getting a workout out of your Nintendo DS.

The game’s saving grace is the ability to play the game’s Story mode or the game’s Battle Mode (that has you collecting a number of crystals before the time runs out) with up to three friends taking the role of the other turtles. Using the wireless connection and their own copies of the game, your buddies can help you take on the onslaught and boss battles a lot easier. Really, this one was meant to be played with friends.


As for the game’s graphics, Mutant Nightmare would have been a good-looking game if this was a GameBoy Advance. The fact that it isn’t makes the game less charming and even more uninteresting. For one thing, the Turtles look pretty average and that’s really too bad since the environments look decent and so do some of the visual effects. There’s not even sharpness to the textures like most Nintendo DS games. This really could have looked a lot better.

The sound is also a bit of a disappointment, although the new cartoon’s theme sound is transferred beautifully at the start of the game. Much of the game’s tunes come straight from the cartoon as well, although unlike the opening theme it’s more tinny like the NES original. Top that off with one or two voice clips and passable sound effects and you have a game that sounds as good as it looks.

In the end, Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles 3: Mutant Nightmare is merely just a so-so experience that has its share of good and not-so good moments. It’s a true successor to the awesome NES original in its style and gameplay features but with a decent Nintendo DS twist that, sadly enough, is brought down by its repetitive battles. If it’s a great Turtles game you’re looking for this isn’t it but if you’re a fan of the first game or really like the cartoon then you might want to rent this one first.

Review Scoring Details for Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles: Mutant Nightmare

Gameplay: 6.2
Anyone who remembers the old NES Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles will revert back to that kid who enjoyed what was quite possibly the best Ninja Turtles game. The gameplay mechanics scream old-school 2-D scrolling action and that’s not a bad thing. However, the enemies are dull and fighting quickly becomes repetitive. Too bad the touch screen is reduced to a few touch puzzles.

Graphics: 5.8
It looks like a decent Game Boy Advance game and that’s a big disappoint seeing as the DS is capable of displaying better visuals than this. Our favorite Turtles just look Ok but their attack animations lack variety. The environments are rendered nicely enough, though.

Sound: 5.9
The cartoon theme song plays at the beginning of the game and there’s some familiar tunes to boot. There’s very minimal voice clips and the rest is just blips and beeps that would feel right at home on the GBA. It’s not bad but it’s not great either.

Difficulty: Medium
Darn are those Triceratons tough and even more so when they’re blasting you in the aerial combat segments. The Federation troops aren’t the brightest bunch but they can gang up on you. As for the puzzles, they’re not hard to figure out but the timed ones can give you a bit of a challenge.

Concept: 7.5
I love the whopping 40-something missions that are not only bountiful but also try to break things up a bit with the introduction of friends and boss battles. The game also plays even better when you’re playing co-op with a friend. I just wish the battles weren’t so repetitive and the touch screen utilized a little more.

Multiplayer: 6.9
This game was meant to be shared and with a wireless connection you can have up to four friends assuming the role of their favorite Turtle. Of course your friends will have to own a copy of the game and their own DS, of course. Other than that, it makes taking care of the wave of enemies you face a lot more fun.

Overall: 6.0
Mutant Nightmare manages to capture the old-school feel of the NES original and that’s a great thing but it also lacks a number of things that could have made this game far less frustrating. It’s abundance of levels is something to cheer about, though, and if you can get past the repetitive battles, weak visuals and lack of innovative use for the DS touch screen, a rental is definitely in order.

Above Average

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