The last time I experienced some real 'Turtle Power' was from the wicked NES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II. Beyond a doubt, that game was one of the best brawlers of that generation and a game that I didn't mind finishing over and over again in co-op mode. It was simple and it was fun. After that things went pretty much downhill for the heroes with bad movies, bad TV shows, bad comics, and most importantly bad games.
Thanks to John Woo's much needed revival of the franchise through the spanking new movie that makes the Ninja Turtles live up to their title for the first time, the franchise may have not yet lost it's steam. Unfortunately I can't say the same about their new PSP game.
Unlike the home console versions, the PSP and the Nintendo DS editions of the new TMNT game are completely different. While the console version gives you total control of the action, be it fighting or doing acrobatics around the city, the handheld edition makes it more of a twitch-based button pressing frenzy with few and un-gratifying action sequences. Allow me to explain.
The game sticks to the movie storyline with little deviation here and there for the sake of the game. Weird thing though, the story of the movie, which could have easily been told via the film's gorgeous cut-scenes was instead told by using still images from the movie and text. A very unnecessary cut-back.
The main element of the gameplay is getting from one part of the city to another through a series of jumps. The direction towards which you jump is associated with the four buttons on the PSP's face (Circle, Triangle, X and Square), and it's all about pressing the right button at the right time. Though not entirely a fair comparison, but the gameplay could be associated to what you get from music-based games where you have to press the button indicated on the screen to progress... only this one's a lot more simplified.
Of course there are tricky parts where you have to hold down the X button for a bit before you get the indication to move ahead, or parts where you're quickly stepping over glass rooftops, where you'd need to speed up or fall right through. You are also rewarded for doing the jumps at a quick and steady pace with Master Speed and Ninja Speed. The weird thing is that there are no benefits to this reward, in fact things get a little tougher as the gameplay gains speed with the jump puzzles remain the same. I think things could have been a lot better if these rewards would instead allow you to skip some the jumps in between and just allow you to cover long distances with your leaps instead.
The action, as I hinted above, gives you little to look forward to. The controls are minimal and simplistic, with a few goodies like pressing the Circle button to dodge a boss attack or to do a finishing move, but it seems very loosely implemented. In fact, I finished a majority of my boss fights by just cornering the boss and mashing on the X button for continuous hits. Yes, its that simple.
Graphically the game is not too bad to look at, but it's not exactly what I'd call 'eye-candy'. Still, the animations are pretty much true to what's required and the the game runs at a rock-steady framerate, which is extremely essential in a game like this. I'll give the PSP port an extra half point for not including the annoying Turtle catch phrases like "Cowabunga" and "Shell Shocked", as in the home console version of the game.
When you come to think of it, there are very few sounds in the game to begin with. Not that I ever felt the need for additional sound effect, but at least the speech in the cut-scenes would have been better with real voice-overs instead of text.
In all, the PSP version of the new TMNT game isn't all that bad, it's gameplay is just suited for a much younger audience. You can probably finish the game in 3 to 4 hours and there's little to go back for. The game is good fun in short bursts, but if you are looking for a better interactive experience with the Ninja Turtles, I'd suggest looking for that TMNT II game for NES instead.