You might be interested to learn that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We were more interested to learn that when the turtles' first film came out in 1990, kids in Great Britain all wanted a real pet turtle but then – when they found out they bite and carry salmonella – decided to flush them down the toilet, meaning that red-ear slider turtles are now among the top 100 invasive species in our ecosystem today. Won't cartoonists think of the consequences of their drawings?
Anyway, as a result of this exciting anniversary, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Tribunal has emerged on mobile phone. It features our four ninja fighting turtles, as you'd expect. It's also an RPG, which means it's not exactly a nunchuck-flying frenzy of excitement. In pretty much equal measures it's got story, trudging about talking to characters and turn-based battling. This fighting, though, provides much of the gameplay, so we'll begin with an explanation of how it all works.
Battles in TMNT: Ninja Tribunal aren't exactly random. As you wander about the land of the Ninja Tribunal, trying to upgrade your skills in order to battle some generic ancient evil threat, enemies roam around you. These enemies can usually be avoided if you nip around them, but run into one and you're forced into a battle screen.
As with most turn-based battling systems, your protagonists are lined up opposite their enemies and – upon your turn –you select a combat option for each one. To begin with, these options consist of a basic attack, defend, wait and flee, but – as your turtles level up and learn new skills – you soon get the option to use chi, and the various different attack and heal skills it allows. When a turtle's chi runs dry, he can't pull off any special moves, but you can choose to have him concentrate in order to build it back up.
There's nothing wrong with this fighting system and there's a fair amount of variety in the types of enemies you fight. It's just not particularly exciting. In areas where enemies are difficult to dodge, you can end up against one after another and if you lose a battle, you're set back at the start of that area where you might well have to go up against them all a second time. Fights certainly pick up, though, once you have access to moves that let you target multiple targets – just be prepared to slog through a lot of battles where you're repeatedly selecting 'attack' then highlighting an enemy for the whole thing.
The game is huge, but it's neatly divided into smaller sections throughout, which means there's little danger of getting lost or forgetting what you're meant to be doing. Your hand is instead held through one screen after another of challenges.
It all looks very smart though with detailed top-down visuals. A special mention has to go to the camera work, which is (probably unintentionally) hilarious. At certain points in the game, such as when you win a fight, it zooms in with wobbly amateur velocity, usually ending up on Donatello's big pixelated foot or something similar. Not so amusing is the camera during the game when it decides to go super sensitive and zoom halfway up the map when you've just chosen to take one step in that direction. That's enough to set off motion sickness in more sensitive players.
There's not much here that stands TMNT: Ninja Tribunal out from any other mobile RPGs. There are few clever puzzles or item using. Instead, the focus is on fighting, and that's fairly dull. Fans of the turtles will get most out of it, but really this is a just-above average offering with nothing in particular to commend it on.