In 1991, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Back From The Sewers was released on the Nintendo Gameboy. I was eight years old, and this little game for the Nintendo’s flagship handheld, is probably the best game in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ vast (yet somewhat lacking) video game library. I had a whole thing planned out where I was going to express my love for this game. I was going to regale you with tales of a young boy trying desperately find just the right light while trying to play a Gameboy while sitting in the backseat of my mother’s car. I was going to express my love for the many ways this little game so perfectly captures the aesthetic and feel of the ’87 cartoon that I love so much…but then I thought “nah, let’s just get on with the review”.
Gameplay: I’m not here to rip apart any game that is coming out today by unfairly comparing them to a early 90’s-era handheld game, because that would be a waste of time. Back From the Sewer is an action beat-em-up that sees one of the four iconic heroes in a half-shell walking from left to right and obliterating the opposition in one (sometimes two) hit. While the simplicity of gameplay may be par for the course of early nineties gaming, it’s also refreshing and incredibly comforting to play a game that is so simple. When you have walking simulators released today with a sixty dollar price tag, or massively competitive online multi-player experiences that double as gambling simulators, there is a problem that only a side-scrolling beat-em-up can fix.
Design: I am a hugely biased fan when it comes to the TMNT. I absolutely love the 80’s cartoon. That’s where my admiration for the Turtles started and that is where it will always come back to. I know that this game isn’t trying to capture anything so much as it is trying to keep up with what is popular, but the fact that this tiny handheld game captured the look and feel of the 80’s-era Turtles better than any other game released at the time (yeah, I said it) makes this game worth a replay. The character design, while simple, is incredibly detailed. It’s never a question as to what character you’re looking at. Whether it’s a Foot Soldier or the mighty Krang, the game never becomes a cluttered mess of green pixels. While you will rely what weapon is being used to discern which Turtle you’re looking at, this game perfectly captures the look and feel of the 80’s cartoon. A feat that had to be a huge undertaking given the console this game was released for.
Controls/Music: There is very little to say about this game in terms of how it feels when controlling your chosen Turtle. You move him with the directional buttons, press “B” to attack and “A” to jump. The controls are tight and if you ever find yourself finding the combat slightly bland, switch it up by sweeping a Foot Soldier’s leg or jump kicking across the screen. The music, composed by Tsuyoshi Sekito and Yuko Kurahashi, is a huge reason as to why I love this game so much. Usually, when you hear the phrase “earworm” it’s used as a negative, but the tracks found within this game, while adapting very little music from the ’87 cartoon, feel like Turtles songs. Particularly from that 80’s and 90’s time period. The songs are slightly pop-y and lot of fun to recite in your head while driving or perusing the internet.
Final Thoughts: I cannot express how much I love this game. I won’t deny that there’s probably a bit of nostalgia behind my words here, but the gameplay, controls and music are all solid. It’s merely a question as to what you wan out of a Turtles game. I know that one day we’ll get that amazing, Arkham City-inspired Turtles game, but until that day comes, Back From the Sewers will remain (arguably) the best Turtles game.
Before I go, here’s a list of everything I love about the game that I could fit into the review…
-Rex-1 as a prison guard
-The way the Turtles stare at you when you don’t move
-The fact that Krang is the final boss (when does that ever happen!?)
-Shredder throwing lightning at you
-FRIGGIN’ PIZZA ALIENS!!!!
-Skateboarding across the George Washington bridge
-Rescuing Splinter and April…again…
-Finally, the Technodrome is so flipping huge that you only see it’s front wheel (see how it’s done first Turtles game on the NES)
-Oh, and this pause screen…