The most common revenue model in mobile gaming is the free-to-play (F2P) model. The base game is free to play with certain features or unlockable content placed behind some sort of pay wall. TMNT Legends is another release in a long, long list of F2P games that focus on a single franchise where you collect characters to build a team and do battle through various modes against AI and limited PvP opponents. While many of these rely on that desire to “collect them all” or to max out your favorite characters’ abilities, some simply throw mountains of unlockable content and let you decide what interests you and what might drive you to invest some money into the experience.
TMNT Legends is the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game to fit into the F2P/collect your heroes model on mobile games. Published by Ludia on iOS, Android, and Kindle Fire, TMNT Legends sports some solid presentation, and it does a great job working with the TMNT franchise. You can collect variations of the Ninja Turtles from the original comic book, the ’80s cartoon, movie iterations, the current Nickelodeon run, and even some additional oddball variants. Villains and sidekick types are generally pulled from the Nickelodeon run, but there’s always opportunity for Ludia to add in characters as time goes on. Still, what’s there from the beginning is strong enough to get collectors hooked.
The gameplay, as with most of these F2P collect-a-hero tends to be, is pretty simple. You start out with Leonardo and Karai, and you immediately can jump in and start playing missions. Missions consist of fighting waves of opponents in a turn-based style (think classic Final Fantasy), occasionally ending in a boss encounter in the final wave. All characters and enemies have a color associated with them, and certain colors are stronger or weaker against others. Characters have a basic attack and special moves that will unlock as the character levels up. There are challenge-style levels, timed tournaments, a campaign mode, and special events that come and go. Gameplay is the same across these events, but you’ll see different types of enemies or different graphical themes. Strategy is fairly light, but that’s par for the course for this style of game. Even so, recognized tier lists for how effective certain characters are in the game’s meta have begun to emerge.
Graphically they’ve done a great job. The characters look great, and they are animated well. Watching Donatello spin his bo staff and smack around enemies is always satisfying. Stage backgrounds range from fairly basic back alleys to hyper-stylized environments (including a black and white world from the original comic book). Menus looks nice, and there are plenty of satisfying particle effects to make unlocking stuff feel fun.
Sounds and music are pretty basic, but they get the job done ok. You wouldn’t expect a major sound investment in a game like this, but what we get is totally passable. As it’s a mobile game, you’ll often find yourself playing with the sound real low or off anyway.
Technically, it runs smoothly on a variety of devices, but it’s prone to hard crashes, particularly in the campaign mode. Obviously these are bugs that will need to be addressed by the developer, but they’ve been part of the experience for a while now. If they can get the bugs squashed, there really aren’t any outstanding performance issues worth talking about aside from the occasional drop in network connectivity which is common in many mobile games.
The real bummer with TMNT Legends, however, is how aggressive they are at trying to monetize your experience. You can pay to speed progress up, to unlock characters more quickly, to evolve characters more quickly, or a whole host of other things. There’s even a $9.99/month subscription plan to get unlockable content delivered more quickly to you. All these things are somewhat standard, but it’s the pricing model that is wildly askew. Blind chance packs cost anywhere from $9.99 up to $69.99 currently in the store. Even at $69.99, you’re only guaranteed a single character, and it might be a duplicate. That price model is absolutely insane, given that a full-scale console/PC game costs less than that brand new. Hopefully after the shine wears off from the initial release we’ll see some reasonable pricing on the character packs and other sorts of microtransactions. As it stands now, there’s almost nothing worth the asking price in TMNT Legends.
If you can be patient and progress through the game without spending money, TMNT Legends is a fun time waster to be played in 10 minute spurts a couple of times a day. There are timed rewards that are worth opening up the app to collect, and you might as well do a mission or two at that time. If you’re a hardcore TMNT fan, either from the ’80s or today, there’s a lot of appeal for collecting the characters. I just would really like to see some deepening of the game’s strategy, especially for the prices Ludia asks for paid content.
TMNT Legends is worth a try for some mindless turn-based combat fun, but do try to avoid sinking too much money into the experience. Like most of these collection games, when you reach the end of the line for unlocking stuff, you generally are pretty burnt out and ready to move on. Here’s hoping that the game evolves with time.