The turtles have forever been engraved upon my soul as a staple of a child’s media diet. Whether you encountered them in live-action from the past or their current digitized form, whether it was from the insanely difficult swimming level on the NES or the recently revived side-scrolling brawler, our half-shelled heroes will persist for what seems like forever. Having heard some rather disappointing reviews of the Turtles in Time update, I chose to relive my Super Smash Bros. days and picked up Smash-Up. Since my roommates and I have a few quarrels that words alone cannot settle, I knew it was time to bust out the sacred due process we have adhered to since college: 4 lives, no items, random stage, 1 round only. When democracy failed, Smash Bros. was there.
Imagine my excitement, then, when I heard Smash-Up was as close to a shameless copycat to Brawl as it gets. I figured Ubisoft chose to live by the “don’t fix what isn’t broken” philosophy when building Smash-Up, but I hadn’t a clue as to how devout they truly were. This game is without a doubt Brawl in turtle clothing, which is both a blessing and a curse. Character selection, stage entrances, button interfaces, even some of their damn smash attacks look like copies of those from the Brawl Universe (veteran players will know exactly who Leonardo is ripping off his moves from). Although there are some noteworthy differences that set the turtles apart from their forerunners, the mechanic is still 96% the same, which unfortunately tarnishes the unique components a little bit. Being a former fan of Samus and Lucario, the addition of leaping off walls for impressive attacks was something I heartily welcomed. But off-the-wall tactics aside, the battles are pretty much the same—knock your opponent out of the stage’s invisible border, or dish out enough damage that the character finally collapses (very similar to the HP challenges from Melee and Brawl).
The disappointment sets in after the 2nd or 3rd day of play when you ultimately realize, “Wait a minute, I bought this game already”. Sadly, I regret to inform you that you did, and the first game is better in just about every way. Smash-Up had the potential of reaching back into an impressive library of songs, characters, settings and match-ups that would have any Turtle fan leaping out of their favorite turtles’ headband, but almost none of them are utilized at all. There is a stage that kinda resembles the rooftop battle from the CG movie, but nothing else appears to throw back to the classics: Where is the train station home from Turtles 2 and 3? Why are there no ooze collectibles? Where the hell is Vanilla Ice’s remix?
Copying a successful title isn’t a mortal sin, even if it’s completely obvious from top to bottom. But when it becomes apparent to most gamers that not only did you not do anything truly original, but the parts you did copy aren’t even as good as the original, you can’t be upset if the community feels cheated–Especially when you had virtually every chance to make your game into it’s own unique Brawler. In the end, Smash-Up‘s verdict isn’t about what it is; it’s about what it could have been.
See you in the next level,