Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection features 13 nostalgia-inducing games, each of which serves as the perfect reminder of why many of us love 1990s platformers. It’s a worthy purchase for TMNT fans or even just those of you that are after a challenge
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In fact, I think Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo are part of why I love pizza so much – especially Mikey, that nunchuck-loving turtle is a sucker for pepperoni pizza, a quality I share.
So, it’s unsurprising that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, as not only do I get to enjoy one adventure with my favourite butt-kicking turtles, but 13 of them. Yes, this bundle of games features Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES and arcade), TMNTII: The Arcade Game, TMNT: Fall of the Footclan, TMNT: Turtles in Time, TMNTIII: The Manhattan Project, and more. It’s also worth noting that these games originate from various platforms, such as arcade, SNES, NES, Sega Genesis, and Game Boy.
As The Cowabunga Collection features so many titles, I’m not going to break down each individual game, otherwise, I’d be here until Christmas. Instead, I intend to give an overview and individual mentions where necessary. However, I can say straight off the bat that each game is a treat. There’s not a single dud in sight.
They each do exactly what they set out to do. I played a couple of these games back in the day, but not all of them. Yet, within seconds of playing a title that’s new to me, I could tell I was in for a fun time full of action, great side-scrolling, and intense platforming that’s sure to test all of my non-existent skills. I like platformers, but I’m not going to kid myself and say I’m a pro at them. Horror, action, RPGs, and shooters are my specialities.
One of the best things about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection is the variety of stories on offer, each of which features recognisable characters on top of the various gameplay elements. This goes beyond different environments and genres. I’m talking about being able to kick butt while riding a skateboard. It’s things like this that help to keep games entertaining, especially when you have 13 of them to work through.
Of course, it goes without saying that each individual title features Leo, Raph, Donnie, and Mikey (what sort of a TMNT game would it be without the titular turtles?). However, each game requires you to choose who you want to go on the adventure with – a choice that never gets any easier. You see, for me, it’s all about Mikey character-wise, he’s my pizza-loving pal, but I also have a soft spot for Donnie, and he hits people with a stick.
Therefore, I tend to swap between the two as I progress through the different games, though some titles, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, do allow you to play as all four characters, for as soon as you run out of lives with your first choice, you take control of one of his brothers, and this goes on until you suffer defeat with all of them. Or, of course, if you complete the game and save the day, that’s certainly the better ending.
Naturally, each game sees you face off with plenty of enemies, so many in fact that it feels as though there’s no end to them. Then, as you approach the end of individual levels, you’re met with some tough minibosses (yes, you have to go through a few duds before you’re worthy enough to face the likes of Shredder). I’m yet to succumb to boredom, though. The constant action is a treat, keeping you on the edge of your seat.
However, completing even one title from The Cowabunga Collection is no easy feat. Those of you that grew up in the late 1980s through the 1990s with arcade machines, the NES, SNES, and Sega consoles can no doubt remember the notorious difficulty of games for that time. This a sentiment that’s especially true for platformers, a genre that TMNT games helped to epitomise back then.
But, if platformers aren’t your forte, that’s okay, as TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection features some fighting games too, each of which is a fun time. Sure, I’m a Mortal Kombat girl, and I own the original games, but I’d argue that the 1990s TMNT: Tournament Fighters titles are worthy rivals. They tick all the right boxes for the genre, and offer a form of stress release after you get your butt kicked over and over again in the numerous platformers on offer.
Though, if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a butt-whooping repeatedly, but want to see how the game plays out, you can do so through the auto-game feature. Each title has a ‘watch’ option, in which you get to see a full, near-perfect playthrough of the adventure. To be honest, I think this is a neat feature, and it’s one I take full advantage of when I enter the never-ending cycle of death.
In terms of controls, I have no issues with The Cowabunga Collection, as they’re simple, mapped in a similar fashion to the original games, and are responsive. Better still, the controls are met with fun graphics that stay true to the original games. It feels as though I’m a child again on a Sunday afternoon. It’s raining, I’ve got some snacks, and my mum is just happy that I’m not making trouble. Yes, those were the days.
I have a lot of praise for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection, but there’s one main complaint I have, though it’s more to do with the times that the original titles are from. Repeating soundtracks. I love the music in these games, but they’re on a constant loop that I don’t enjoy. As I say, this is more to do with the time the original titles are from, and if anything, I respect that this collection is true to the source material. But that doesn’t mean I can’t think the repeating tunes are irritating after a while.
Having said that, the sound design is excellent, and the music does induce a wave of nostalgia that I enjoy. It’s a double-edged sword for sure. However, I refuse to let the never-ending stream of the TMNT theme tune hinder what I consider to be a highly enjoyable series of games that any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan is bound to enjoy.
Finally, I know you all must be curious about how The Cowabunga Collection runs on Switch, and it fills me with joy to say that there are no performance issues, not that I can see, at least. Each title runs as smooth as butter, is a welcoming experience, and takes you right back to the 90s in the best way possible. Not only that, but the game works perfectly handheld as well, so you really can take the turtles with you wherever you go.
On the whole, I consider Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Cowabunga Collection to be a must-own for not just TMNT fans, but anyone that wants a series of old-style games that feature side-scrolling, action, platforming, fighting, and more. Do yourself a favour, and pick up what’s sure to be a platforming highlight of 2022.