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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate takes the right lessons from Hades

Since the arcade days, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been synonymous with one video game genre: beat-em-ups. Even when developers take a new stab at the IP, we tend to see the turtles in 2D side-scrolling action that calls back to retro classics like Turtles in Time — just look at last year’s Shredder’s Revenge. Developer Super Evil Megacorp is changing that trend, though, with its latest game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate.

The Apple Arcade exclusive mobile title, which surprise-launched today, puts the turtles in a top-down roguelite that draws inspiration from Hades. It’s an entirely different approach for the franchise, but one that feels spiritually linked to its rich gaming history. It’s still an action game that supports four-player co-op, and there’s certainly no shortage of robots and ninjas to beat up. That makes for something that feels like a logical evolution of the turtles’ gaming careers, as well as a step forward for the roguelite genre.

Ahead of its surprise release, I tried my hand at a run. What I found in that time is a surprisingly deep mobile roguelite that lets players make several decisions during a run, includes some firm progression hooks, and goes all-in on narrative with a story that unfolds whether you win or fail. It’s a promising new addition to both the Turtles video game career and the Apple Arcade library.

Cowabunga!

At first glance, the comparisons to Hades are unmistakable. Splintered Fate has a very similar tilted top-down perspective as that game, has a similarly colorful art style, and even drops into momentary slow motion when the last enemy in a room is killed. The developers at Super Evil Megacorp weren’t shy about that comparison, noting that Hades was a direct inspiration for the title. Developers on hand at the press event also cited games like Returnal and Dead Cells as touchstones for the project.

Despite the inspirations, Super Evil Megacorp wanted to make sure its game was adding to the genre rather than borrowing from it. That starts with the use of the Turtles IP. Splintered Fate has a strong narrative focus, with a story co-written with Tom Waltz, one of the writers behind the series’ IDW comics. In the story, Splinter goes missing and it’s up to the brothers to find him. The team refers to the story as an “evolving narrative,” as more pieces of the mystery are layered in between runs regardless of whether or not players are successful. That’s another area where the team invokes Hades and its similar approach to storytelling.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles battle rats in TMNT: Splintered Fate.
Super Evil Megacorp

The game itself will look familiar to fans of the genre. Players choose a turtle and jump into a roguelite run where they have to clear room after room of enemies, gaining power-ups and currency along the way. It can be played with up to four players cooperatively, and the turtles are designed around that idea. Donatello, for instance, is a bit of a tank who can take a lot of hits while delivering slow, heavy attacks.

For my run, I’d choose Raphael, a fast offense character with some unique abilities. In addition to his basic slash, I could press one button to deliver a special flurry of slashes and another to shoot out multiple chains and drag enemies toward me (those special abilities operate on a short cooldown). With no tutorial necessary, I got the hang of the action fast. Each arena battle is quick-paced, as I dash away from ninja slashes. It’s not the deepest combat system when playing solo, but I can see how each turtle’s special powers could synergize in co-op.

While runs aren’t entirely procedurally generated, a lot can change between them. Room layouts can change, different weather can hit stages, and mini-bosses shuffle around each time. Each biome — there are four at launch — culminates in a boss fight with some familiar foes. At the end of the first level, I’d go head to head with Leatherhead, who I’d have to evade as he slid across the sewer arena. I’d eventually fall to the boss of the second stage, Karai, who throws knives in a “bullet hell” fashion.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fight Leatherface in TMNT: Splintered Fate.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Death wasn’t too much of a setback, though, thanks to some permanent progression hooks. After each run, collected resources can be spent to buff every character’s stats as well as unlock some character-specific perks. There’s a fair amount of progression within each run too, as I get the ability to choose a perk or currency each time I clear a room. During my run, I’d heavily buff up my dash and water damage, as well as reduce my cooldowns and increase my max health (with pizza, obviously). At first glance, it seems like character abilities remain somewhat static, which has me wondering about its longevity. Even so, there’s enough decision-making and progression here that should help build some gradual power growth each run.

While I only got a short run in, I’m already eager to jump back in and see how much further the roguelite goes. The combat is satisfyingly quick-paced and I already get the sense that completing a run won’t be an overly monumental task. I’m particularly excited, though, to see more of its writing, as the slice I played was already filled with TMNT lore and the gang’s signature humor. All of that makes Splintered Fate feel like an evolution of the franchise’s beat-em-up roots without throwing away what makes the characters so radical.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Splintered Fate is available on Apple devices exclusively via Apple Arcade.

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Giovanni Colantonio
Giovanni is a writer and video producer focusing on happenings in the video game industry. He has contributed stories to…
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