Retro Sunday: TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-shelled // PSN

January 3, 2010

It can be explained by one of two things. Its either rose-tinted spectacles or a bungled attempt at a remake; either way, a playthrough of TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-shelled, an high-def update to the original 1991 arcade game, gnawed away at my patience so much that finishing it became more a war of attrition than an fun exercise, even despite its short length.

Its a shame that this remake, by Ubisoft Singapore, failed to reignite my love for this title. Bizarrely, playing the original is one of my fondest videogaming memories – I encountered it in an arcade in a fast food joint while holidaying with my parents in Florida at the ripe old age of 10, and I sank quarter after quarter (of my Dad’s money) into it. The central premise of fighting through various stages in time captured my imagination, so much so that when I read that it was to be released for the SNES, I could hardly contain my excitement.

The remake (cutely titled Re-shelled) does look the part. The graphics are clean and bright, and animations are fluid and now cater for full 3D movement to allow play with an analogue stick; but there is a nagging feeling that everything feels like it is made out of playdoh, as if textures and shadows are missing.

With the pros out of the way, we can now turn our attention to the cons. TMNT: Turtles In Time Re-shelled is a pointed reminder of why the side-scrolling beat-’em-up genre is now defunct; a relic of videogaming history which counted Golden Axe and Streets Of Rage as its crowning achievements. In an age of increasingly sophisticated gameplay, an hour-long mashing of two buttons doesn’t cut it anymore, remastered or no. Perhaps if the original had been preserved and presented as is, then it could possibly work, but the contrast between the gameplay mechanics and the visuals is too jarring to be pulled off.

The game also feels cheap. Some attacks seem impossible to avoid, and the boss battles – skirmishes with well-known characters from the Turtles’ universe such as Krang, Tokka and Rahzar (from the second instalment of the original films) and Shredder – are long-winded affairs, where their health bars decrease at an agonising rate, whereas one hit from them decimates your own. Most enemies are different coloured versions of the Foot Soldiers from the cartoon series, sometimes carrying special weapons, and only occasionally augmented by different enemy types when the Turtles are transported to extreme time eras, such as the prehistoric stage or the one set on a ‘starbase’ in the distant future. Throw in an over-abundance of rage-inducing traps strewn across the floor of most levels, and you have a recipe for frustration; a wearisome tug of war between hitting and being hit that only ends when the final credits roll.

Whether the original game feels so poor after all these years is another argument, but due to the experience presented here, it will be a long time before I can muster up the enthusiasm to find out. My lesson is learned – Retro Sunday from henceforth is reserved for the original games themselves, preserved as they are as unique fossils; not dug up, scrubbed clean and presented in a shiny new cabinet.

Avoid.

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