With remixes and remakes flooding the market, it was only a matter of time before the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reemerged. Turtles in Time Re-Shelled gives the classic beat 'em up the HD treatment. Is it enough to elicit an ear-piercing cowabunga, or does it leave you feeling shell-shocked?
True to its source material, Re-Shelled doesn't deviate from what you'd expect from a strict side-scrolling beat 'em up. You won't encounter any back-tracking, alternate pathways, or multi-tiered stages. Outside of a few simple foreground objects, there's not much in terms of interactivity. The focus is squarely on combat, and the game doesn't pull any punches.
There are three modes available: story, quickplay, and survival. The latter two are variations on story mode; quickplay lets you jump into any stage you've already completed, and survival challenges you with getting as far as you can with a single life.
The story follows the turtles through eight stages across time in their attempt to recover the statue of Liberty, stolen by their arch-nemesis Shredder. The various locations house a sea of multi-colored foot soldiers, rock warriors, high-strung robots, and several boss battles.
Re-Shelled's supports up to four players simultaneously, both online and off. Players choose from four fairly distinct turtles: Leonardo is a well-balanced fighter; Donatello is slow but has great reach; and Raphael and Michelangelo are speedy, but have limited range. With no unlockables to speak of, what you see is what you get.
Counter to its arcade roots, you can't invite friends to join you in a session that's already in progress, online or off. And with three nearly identical modes to choose from, the aging beat 'em up formula loses its luster quickly. Online play and leaderboards help alleviate the monotony, but you'll find yourself getting bored with these re-skinned turtles after a few short play sessions.
When it comes to combat, Re-Shelled is all about simplicity. You attack using a single button, which triggers a single combo. You can hurl enemies at the screen for an amusing effect, or pound them against the ground, but this feels more accidental than anything. You can also leap and attack from the air, or use the turtles' weak specials, but the most effective approach by far is to simply mash on the attack button ad nauseam.
There's no shortage of enemy fodder. Foot soldiers abound, and they tend to loiter like punching bags waiting to be attacked. They only pose a threat in large numbers, making things difficult for solo outings since they have the tendency to dog pile on your position. It's even more frustrating when your attack animations are interrupted, which leaves you vulnerable to back attacks. Outside of enemies, stages are also plagued with numerous traps and hazards, which often make it difficult to simply walk (or ride) without taking cheap hits.
Boss battles can go either way. Facing off against Shredder, or Krang's flying saucer, is an exercise in frustration due to their inconsistent, and powerful attacks. Meanwhile, other bosses fall into easily exploitable patterns.
The HD makeover has more in common with the animated film than the cartoon, providing a darker motif that inadvertently axes some of the old comedic moments. The HD visuals serve strictly as eye candy, offering a few chuckle-worthy instances, like when you're flattened by a wrecking ball. But you won't be able to shake the feeling that it feels like a collagen facemask over an aging franchise.
Facial expressions are animated well, and you'll even see bosses cringe during blows, but the visuals do little to masquerade the nearly intolerable sounds. The turtles provide distinctive vocals, but their boisterous cries of pain, specifically about their toes or nose, aren't funny, only annoying. Enemies also appear to be made of wet sponges. Land a blow, and you hear a squishy noise, even on bosses.
Let's face it, nostalgia is a powerful driving force, and believe us, we have many fond memories of losing our quarters in the arcade to the turtles. The HD visuals in Re-Shelled are a nice touch, but the aging formula, coupled with too few options and modes, makes for a repetitive and lackluster trip down memory lane. There simply isn't enough here to make you want to come back more than once or twice.
Reviewed on Microsoft Xbox 360.