TMNT Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants review

Well, this is neat. As the name suggests, Wrath of the Mutants is the rarest of things – a genuine arcade conversion. With most modern arcade games being ticket redemption machines, this is something seldom seen. In fact, the last arcade conversion we can recall was Raw Thrill’s own Cruis’n’ Blast on Switch back in 2021. This is also based on an older iteration of TMNT, harking back to the series from 2012-2017. It’s essentially breaking franchise continuity (we’ve had two different iterations of the Turtles since) and could even be considered nostalgic for a select few – those who grew up with 2012’s Turtles are probably in their late teens.

Originally hitting sticky-floored arcades in 2017, Wrath of the Mutants is a straightforward side-scrolling brawler, albeit one with a couple of modern touches. These include a level select screen, with the final stage only unlocking after the rest are beaten, and the ability to switch Turtles between stages – which goes some way to preventing tedium (and arguments amongst those who pick favourites.) There’s a gimmick here too, although that’s pushing the definition somewhat. After filling a gauge, an action pausing ‘Turtle Power’ attack can be performed that wipes out all enemies on screen. Leo conjures a tornado, while Donnie can summon lightning, and so forth. They’re clearly intended to add some extra instant gratification (more enemies even show up mere moments before launching an attack) but after a while these animations start to irritate, especially when multiple players are performing ‘specials’ frequently.

Easy and normal modes are available from the outset, with a hard mode unlocking once the normal mode is beaten. Normal mode grants two continues per stage, along with a handful of lives – usually enough to make it to the boss relatively unscathed. I never felt like I had to keep an eye on my health gauge or use power-ups sparingly.

The combat system itself is basic, with each character having a standard attack, a jump kick, and a spin move performed by pressing both buttons. A combo meter is present, although it isn’t tied into the action meaningfully; it simply exists. Throwable items are commonly found, along with explosive barrels – which enemies are oddly drawn to before they explode.

The six stages are set across predictable locations (the sewers, city streets, Dimension X, etc) while distractions, such as vehicle sections, are few and far between. The cheeky nods to Konami’s ‘90s TMNT games may please older gamers, though. Each level lasts 8-10 minutes, culminating in a playtime of under an hour, and each has two bosses – six of which are new to this re-release.

Bosses hit the dirt quickly (there’s even a warning informing when to jump) but it’s easy to imagine TMNT fans still being excited to see which villains made the cut. Because this is based on the 2012 series, we get to reacquaint with the slender jive-talking Bebop and Russian-sounding Rocksteady once again. Incidentally, the show’s cast performed all the vocal work, which will please fans likewise, especially with the Turtles being such a talkative bunch.

Visually, it’s a little angular – with perhaps the show’s chiselled aesthetic to blame – yet far from crude with the occasional flourish such as appealing fire and smoke effects.  

TMNT Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants isn’t a particularly deep or nuanced experience, based around instant gratification and accessibility for younger gamers, while cramming in a few references for fans to spot. If you’re expecting something on par with TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment – this is a thoroughly arcade-like experience and all that it entails. It’s far better than the tie-in Activision released in 2013 based on the same series, and moderately entertaining while it lasts. High score chasers may want to stick around, while achievement/trophy hunters will need to play through it a few times. Everyone else will blast through this in an afternoon, even with the new content. The thought was there, at the very least.

TMNT Arcade: Wrath of the Mutants is published by GameMill and out 23rd April on all formats both digitally and at retail. Developed by Raw Thrills and Cradle Games.