SAN DIEGO — Pick up a controller and play for a few minutes, and you get the feeling that you have played this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up! before. That’s because Game Arts, the developer of Smash-Up!, worked on Super Smash Bros. Brawl along with Sora; you have four player brawls on interactive stages with characters from a classic franchise, and the controls are very similar in some ways. If you play a little longer though, you start to realize that things are a bit different. Health is not measured by percentage, with your character flying further and further from the stages surface with each hit, but is instead an actual life bar like a standard fighter. You do have lives meter though, so all is not lost if your life meter is depleted, but that does bring‚ significant change in strategy from Smash Bros., where getting hit is not such a big deal given your ability to recover from it in mid-air, especially if you’re skilled.
Items work a bit differently too, with your character not so much holding the item in their hands as they have it in stock once it is picked up. These items give them special abilities–the one I picked up and used the most often during my three matches slammed a wave of energy into the opponents in front of me, knocking them over and allowing me to start wailing on them while they were defenseless. I was not given a chance to check out how robust the options set was, to see if matches can be handicapped, items can be turned off, lives can be used as a measure for success rather than a timer, etc.–as the demo version of the game used a defined set of rules.
The stages that I played on were fun and diverse, which is great for this type of game. One stage, which was Manhattan, had you fighting on rooftops. You could be knocked off of the central roof, but there were two taller buildings next to this one, which meant you could wall jump your way back to the stage with everyone else. I failed at this the first few times but picked up on it quickly, and the Ubisoft rep had a good handle on it from the start; it’s the kind of recovery move you would expect a ninja to be able to make, so it was nice to see it there. Another stage had the brawlers fighting atop a stage with support columns strewn about; you could destroy these columns through the course of battle (or just focus on them), and once they were all destroyed, they would smash through the center of the map, and cause you to fall to a completely different stage. This new stage had an electric ball in the center that would randomly choose one of the four fighters to shock; you could see which one by looking at which portrait it stopped on. Once it chose, if you were the one selected, you can hit the ball to stop from being turned into fried turtle; at that point it selects another brawler to roast.
Not all of the fighters were available to use–because not all of the fighters have been announced–but I spent some time with Raphael (my favorite turtle from my childhood) and Casey Jones. Raphael was quick, but with shorter range than the other turtles. He still had the big kicks and swings needed to take down other brawlers though. Casey was more of a heavyweight, with a big, slow swing of his hockey stick, but what he lacked in quickness and finesse he made up for with raw power. I got to see April O’Neill in action, as well as Splinter. Both characters were quick to the point where I had some trouble with them even as Raphael, but they didn’t seem to hit as hard. I didn’t play enough to know for sure, but that’s just my initial impression of their fighting style.
The fighting itself is similar to Smash Bros., which strong and weak attacks, grappling, and item use, but the characters seem to play differently, and it moves at a quicker pace than most Smash matches due to the speed of many of the fighters. It will be interesting to see how it plays once all of the characters are revealed, as right now it looks promising. It’s not a Smash Bros. clone, but it is similar to the point where the Ubisoft reps were telling Comic-Con attendees that if you like Smash Bros. you will want to play this. The strategy has worked though, as the booth has had lines of gamers waiting to give it a shot.