Despite what you may have thought, feared (or even hoped) Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles is actually jolly good. There. I've said it. (The rest should be easy.)
It's very, very (very) colourful for a start (but you've no doubt spotted that from the screenshots), very well put together, and if the simple gameplay seems more reminiscent of a console game than a classic Speccy product, well, that's probably ideal for the younger Spec-chum they're aiming at here. Put any prejudices you might have aside - if you ignore the Turtles, you're actually ignoring a rather snazzy piece of Speccy programming.
Okay, so you've bought the game and loaded it up. What's the first thing to strike you? Well, its the graphics, isn't it? They really are very (very) pretty indeed. The turtles themselves are green and yellow and look exactly how you think they should (unlike many licenced characters depicted on the Speccy who end up looking like, well, anyone). They can't do that many fighting moves, it has to be said - there's no crouch or duck for instance - but what they can do (attack with whatever that turtle's particular weapon is, jump by curling up into a spinning shell) works very well indeed. Even when they're climbing up ladders - normally a graphical disaster in most games - it all looks okay, possibly because they're such cartoony characters and so easy to animate.
In fact the whole thing looks very much like a cartoon - the baddies aren't the ninja assassins of the upcoming film or original comics, but big, bright and colourful monsters like in the TV show. The first level features giant jumping eyeballs, mutant flies, some sort of fiery yellow characters who look like they're made out of lava and a purple Tasmanian Devil-shaped end-of-level chappie who's an absolute bast to kill.
In fact, they're all very reminiscent of the colourful mutants from Dan Dare III - no surprise when you realise the Speccy Turtles has actually been done by the same programmers. These are the guys (Dave 'Code' Perry and Nick 'Graphics' Bruty, both of whom freelance for Probe) who've been responsible for a goodly number of the really bright and colour-packed Speccy games of recent years. Including Savage, Tintin On The Moon and their more personal project, Extreme (which is reviewed this ish). From these results I'd say they were an ideal choice for the Turtles - you can't imagine the 'heroes in a half shell' (whatever that's meant to mean) looking any better on the Speccy.
As is perhaps fitting with such cartoony characters. gameplay is on the same simple (but very well thought-out) sort of level as cutsie arcade games like Super Mario Brothers. This really does come across as the sort of thing you might play on a Nintendo or Sega console - lots of platforms, lots of baddies, lots of collectable extra energy doobries (in this case bits of pizza) and even backgrounds built up largely of massive bricks. Perhaps it's got a bit more of a beat-'em-up emphasis than many similar games, but then that's only fitting considering the fact that the turtles are meant to be (whisper it) ninjas and everything.
So what do you have to do? Well, our heroes must take part in a series of missions, most of which consist of some running around on a big overhead-view street map (on which each Turtle is the tiniest green speck) before popping down one of many available sewer entrances. Suddenly you find yourself in a split-level platform-and-ladders environment (the cleanest, driest and - it must be said - reddest sewer I've ever seen in my life).
As you were no doubt hoping, this is packed with baddies to duff up, and isn't likely to be particularly long - reach the end and one of two things happens. Either a) you reach a ladder to the outside world (indicating that you've been down the wrong entrance and should search around for the right one) or b) you come across your objective.
In the first mission, for instance, your job is to try and rescue your girlie reporter friend April O'Neil from the minions of the evil Shredder. It won't take that long to come across her (she's down the sewer entrance nearest the end of the dock) but oh no! Just as you find her this purple devil thing attacks (and he's much harder to beat than most of Shredder's, erm, 'men'), Beat him (if you can) and by the time you get back to where April was it's too late - the rest of Shredder's hench-things have come along and whisked her away! (Time to move onto the second mission, methinks.)
And so it goes on. Later levels not only see you having to do a lot more searching around on the surface (where you've got to avoid tiny hazards like men and oddly trucks) before you can find the right platform-and-ladders bit to enter, they also feature longer and more complicated platform bits. One mission (set in a warehouse) sees you running around on a series of conveyor belts, while another has you actually swimming through a network of underwater tunnels, trying to defuse bombs which are set to blow up the Hudson River (or something)! This is slightly less successful than the platform levels (mainly because the turtle sprite looks rather ridiculous in swimming mode) but it's quite well done nonetheless.
What else is there to be said? Well - though it's not really got all that much to do with the game - it's rather strange that considering how cuddly and friendly they've made all the turtles, they've left them with all their various bits of martial arts weaponry. The Image Works packaging cleverly 'forgets' to show Raphael's Sai (a sort of big knife with hand guards) or Michaelangelo's Nunchukus (those things with two bits of wood joined with a chain) - the two most obviously ninja-like weapons - though it's perfectly happy to depict the more normal sword and stick. (Presumably these are less likely to put mums off buying the game.) All four oriental weapons still appear quite distinctly in the gameplay however - and worse too. Take the shurikens (those throwing star thingies) which you can collect - they're rather brutal for a cartoon game, aren't they?
Anyway, enough of that. What else is there to say? Well, I've not yet pointed out (or not properly anyway) that extra energy can of course be got from pieces of pizza left lying around the sewers (yuck!) while ropes (for climbing from building to building), missiles, temporary invulnerability and other collectables are to be found dotted around the place. Each time a turtle dies he actually 'gets captured' and you get to pick another one to continue the mission - not impossible that you may come across the captured one and rescue him a bit later however.
You want more? Well, how about the bit where you're invited to 'party down in the party wagon', which apparently involves firing missiles from a modified VW Microbus at the Foot Clan (Shredder's lot)? Sounds good. though unfortunately I haven't got to that bit yet.
So what's the verdict? Well, for me Turtles has been a very pleasant surprise. Rumours had been circulating around the industry for ages that the game was really bad - apparently the American Nintendo and Amiga versions are absolutely terrible or something, and this game is based on them - but no, Probe have modified it rather a lot, and the finished Speccy thing only bears them a slight resemblance. In fact, its really rather nifty. Don't expect the most in-depth game of all time - but for what it is, it's more or less perfect. I think it's excellent fun. Hurrah! (There you go - an entire Turtles review, and not one mention of the dreaded word "Cowabunga!") Oops!
A jolly colourful platform-and-ladders romp - simple but fast and very professionally put together.
Our four chums looking rather mean at the side here - we're controlling Raphael at the moment.
And here's the chap himself, just about to gobble up a slice of pizza. (Yum yum.)Points and (not particularly high) high score, would you believe?Hot dog, jumping frog - one of Shredder's bizarre mutant henchmen appears to be an oversized toad.Energy level is low, which doesn't bode well - we're going to have to fight one of the rather tough purple beasties in a moment.
Hmm. Not much you can say about this one. It's Shredder. And he's waiting for us. (Eeek!)
One of the above ground maps - note the squidgy little turtle at the bottom.
Here's Mike in a sort of warehouse, complete with conveyor belt and icky big spider. Shoo!
The eyes have it! Donatello (neat isn't it, how you can tell each turtle by the colour of his head band) makes a new friend.
One of our heroes (can't tell which, I'm afraid) curls up into a ball to jump over the eyeballs.
An underwater bit from Level Three - avoid the electric thingies and turn off the compiters (or something).