By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service
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Either Ubisoft is running out of ideas or they were so busy working on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game they didn't realize they plagiarized their own material.
Based on the movie of the same name, TMNT offers virtually the same game play as found in the popular Prince of Persia series, also from the Montreal-based studio, be it the acrobatic fighting and fancy swordplay or dramatic slow-motion sequences and the ability to run along walls.
In TMNT, you can play as one of the four fighting turtles -- Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo -- each of whom has his own unique skill and weapon. Raphael, for example, can use his twin Sai weapons to climb up walls, even up the side of brick buildings. Donatello, however, can fight off baddies with his bo staff and also use it to vault over large crevices below New York City's surface. At times, the turtles can work together during combat sequences, such as one spinning the other around like a helicopter blade to take down enemies, or turtles can tag-team to access hard-to-reach areas by combining their abilities.
But it's all deja vu for Prince of Persia owners because of the same acrobatic moves -- right down to the pole swinging, horizontal wall running and jumping between two close vertical surfaces in order to reach the top. While less violent than the Prince games, the fighting maneuvers and weapons are also too familiar in TMNT.
Another problem with this game is the enemy artificial intelligence (A.I.) -- or rather, lack thereof -- that makes the game too easy and monotonous, even when 10 enemies appear on-screen at the same time. The somewhat tougher boss characters you'll face from time to time can also be beaten with little effort. Granted, TMNT is more for kids than adults, but a game that costs up to $50 should offer some degree of challenge and replayability.
To be fair, the game isn't without merit: The environments are attractive -- especially in the Xbox 360 version -- and they're designed in an interesting fashion; the voice work is top-notch; and you can unlock extra levels by playing well. You can also collect coins through the levels, which can be used to buy goodies such as TMNT artwork and videos.
Because of its unoriginal game play and boring fighting sequences, TMNT is at best a weekend rental for young fans of the movie. Let's hope Ubisoft Montreal's next video game -- Assassin's Creed -- is deserving of the respect earned by this world-class studio with its unique properties such as Splinter Cell, Prince of Persia and Rainbow Six.
Nunchuck-swinging Michaelangelo fights off bad guys in Ubisoft's lackluster "TMNT" videogame.
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