Friday, September 25, 2009

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up (Wii) Review

A busy work week concludes here at SuperPhillip Central with a brand-new review just for you! (And everyone else reading SPC.) Tonight we're taking a look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up for Wii (also available on the PS2).

Get Ready to Kick Shell

It's intriguing to me that there haven't been more copycats when it comes to Super Smash Bros. It's an extremely popular series that sells very well. Perhaps someone at Ubisoft heard my thoughts because Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up is exactly that-- a copycat. Whereas Smash Bros. focused on the likes of Mario and Link, Smash Up takes the fighting to the sewers with Leo, Raph, and all of the TMNT gang. Is Smash Up a smashing success, or should it have its license to brawl revoked?

There's a decent amount of modes available in Smash Up. Arcade mode is a carbon-copy of Super Smash Bros' Classic mode. In this mode the story, told with comic book style black and white cut-scenes, tells the tale of a tournament being run by Master Splinter. The winner gets to choose one item from his collection. Nothing astronomical here, but it works. What follows is match after match as you take on opponents 1-on-1 or up against three other opponents. Survival mode pits players against 100 characters in succession with the goal to eliminate and endure. Mission mode is probably where most of your single-player time will accumulate. There's fifty-one challenges in all each with their own rules for winning. Some will have you protecting a character for a set period of time while others will have you collecting pizzas, taking out ten enemies as a specific character, being forced to take your opponent out via a stage hazard, and many more. Some of these challenges even on the easiest mode can be damned difficult to accomplish-- almost frustratingly so. To round out the package, there's six bonus mini-games from dodging kunai for 90 seconds to reaching the goal before the clock runs out.

Cut-scenes like this bookend the arcade mode.

Battle royal is where the party really gets started, and you'll want to play this mode if you want to unlock everything there is to see in the game. Up to four players, human or CPU, can duke it out against each other. You can select between last man-- er.. turtle standing, timed matches, and tag-team duels. You can set the time, how many lives each character has, how much easily each combatant's health bar goes down, and whether or not the game picks the stage for you or not. Locally, the game is a blast to play, and it's perfect for pick-up-and-play sessions with friends and family.

Of course, if local multiplayer isn't a possibility for you, you can always check out the online modes. You can play with friends via friend code in lag-free matches, or you can hop online and take on up to three other strangers. You just select a character and a stage you hope to play on. The game will randomly choose the stage from all four fighters. While you wait for your opponents you're placed in a training room where you can dish your frustrations out on an AI dummy. Once everything is ready, you're immediately thrown into battle. As said before, playing with friends is pretty much lag-free, but with strangers it really depends on the connection of all players. I've had some games so smoothly, but most featured input-lag throughout the entire bout. This meant holding the control stick to move right, and one second later my character would finally move. Aside from traditional jump-right-in modes, you can also build trophies and start tournaments with the winner receiving said trophy for their collection. A very cool addition indeed.

Four player mayhem!

While Smash Up is a blatant Smash Bros. clone, the idea behind eliminating your opponents is different. Smash Bros. had you knocking your unsuspecting opponents out of the playing area once their damage was high enough. In Smash Up, the game uses a traditional health bar. As a player is attacked, his or her bar will go down. Gobbling up pizza will replenish health. Fully-cooked pizzas aren't the only items in play during battle. Different colored orbs drop into the arena just waiting to be picked up. These items have different effects. Some create a whirlwind around the player who acquires the item, damaging anyone that gets in the character's path. There's guard-breaking kunai blades that damage and stun a hit opponent, bombs that bounce around, exploding on contact, a dangerous fire-breathing item similar to Smash's fire flower, and many others.

Many stages have destructible objects on them.

Super Smash Bros. is known for the simplicity of its controls. Smash Up once again follows the proverbial leader in this regard as well. One button is used for strong attacks while another is used for weak attacks. These buttons are used in conjunction with the directional pad or analog stick for different attacks (e.g. Up and A, Down and B, etc). Unlike Smash, these B moves aren't special moves whatsoever. Instead they're just stronger melee attacks. Most moves can be blocked, so if your opponent stays in a guard stance, you can grab them and do one of many grab attacks. Characters also have the ability to jump off walls and attack foes for some high damage. However, not all is well here. Falling down takes some time to recuperate which can be very vexing and waggling the analog stick to wake up from being dazed is also annoying after repeated usage. Aside from those couple caveats, the controls themselves work well, and they feel great, too. You can select from one of four control schemes: Wii remote by its lonesome, Wii remote and nunchuk, Classic or Gamecube controller.

Give me a home where the buffalo stampede your ass.

When you start Smash Up you are limited to one of seven characters to select from: Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Splinter, April O'Neil and Casey Jones. As you complete the arcade mode, finish up mission mode, and take part in numerous battle royals, you'll unlock more characters to your arsenal. There's sixteen in all. Unfortunately, for a game that is all about celebrating the Turtles' twenty-fifth anniversary, you'd be hard-pressed to figure that out by looking at the roster. Instead of using characters from comics past and present, the majority of characters are from the more recent Turtles episodic series down to the voice work and character design. There's no Bebop, no Rocksteady, no Leatherhead, no Triceraton, no Slash, no Rat King, no Baxter Stockman-- you get the idea. What's even more questionable about the roster is the inclusion of not just one but three different Rabbids (from Rayman Raving Rabbids) as unlockable characters. Sorry if I spoiled it for you. Not only is three overkill, but there's plenty of other characters in the Turtles universe to choose from. While the roster is acceptable, it will very much be disappointing to those expecting their favorite characters to show up and don't. As for each character, they have an alternate costume that can be unlocked from doing certain in-game tasks or via promotional code from Ubisoft. Don't like ninja April O'Neil? Then switch her out into her street clothes instead.

Moving away from characters to focusing on the stages, there are fourteen stages in all to do battle on. About half of them need to be unlocked. The stages are surprisingly well-designed and fun to play on. Some arenas have multiple areas to them. For instance, the sewer stage has two parts. The second part is accessed by flooding the first area and washing away everyone into the second area. Some stages are just your typical multi-platform arena with nothing in the way of environmental hazards while others like the jungle have bee hives, breakable platforms, and crocodiles that tend to pop up and take a bite out of anyone not paying attention. There really isn't a stinker in the bunch which I can't even say about Smash Bros. Brawl. If you like great arenas in your brawlers, you'll dig Smash Up in this regard.

This ain't no pleasure cruise.

When it comes to presentation, Smash Up isn't a poor looker by any means. Yes, it uses an engine from the Playstation 2 era, but it still looks good. The frame rate is steady, and the cast of characters are modeled well and appear nice. Each character is voiced by their 2003 cartoon counterpart, and a lot of lines of dialogue from simple moans and groans to victory taunts are a nice touch overall. The soundtrack is shockingly good with plenty of rock and memorable tracks.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash Up is an obvious attempt to leap on the success of Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The game doesn't try to hide this fact at all with its constant use of the word brawl in advertisements and on the back of the box. However, those expecting Brawl 2.0 will find themselves disappointed with Ubisoft's offering. If you're a fan of the Turtles and a fan of Smash Bros, Smash Up is a no-brainer, really. If you're one or the other and not both, a rental may be best at first. While the end roster may be underwhelming and the depth may not be of Brawl-levels, the gameplay mechanics are fun enough and the action is enjoyable enough for anyone to give Smash Up a whirl.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.75/10]

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