When the Sunday night fear kicks in, you know it’s Pizza Time


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (NES) (1990)

Let me set the scene: it’s Sunday evening, and you may well have had a bittova night last night. You’ve had yourself a decent old lunch to take the edge off a bit, but now it’s the main event and you ain’t cooking, no way. Now sometimes a Chinese will do you, and fair play if so. But tonight, it’s pizza. However, there’s that eternal dilemma with pizza – if you’re alone, then you can have it your way but you’ll always end up getting far too much and eating yourself into the bowels of regret. And trust me, they’re some bowels you don’t wanna eat your way into.

It’s not so bad if you show a bit of restraint and set some of those spare slices aside for later, to be consumed either reheated or cold. But can you demonstrate that level of self-discipline? That brings you to the other side of that dilemma: ordering pizza with a companion helps share the load, but you’ll have to share the toppings as well and this is where things can quickly get troubling.

After all, what if they like a bit of pineapple on their pizza? They might take it pretty badly when you attempt to have them sectioned for their own good. Actually, if we want to get serious about pizza toppings (and I’m always serious about pizza toppings), I wouldn’t mind pineapple all that much. For me, it doesn’t have to mean that someone’s mentally ill if they order it, but I do have to question their judgment. Didn’t you see ‘Deluxe Pepperoni’ on the menu there? Beef balls, maybe? How do you pass up a Maserati in favour of a Kia?

The most toppings I’ve ever been given the privilege of ordering on one pizzabase is four. And one of these days, just to wind up everybody in a 500 mile radius, I’m gonna get the devil’s fourway – pineapple, anchovies, mushrooms and sweetcorn. Can you imagine it all went wrong and you had to vomit that bad boy back up? As you may know from bitter experience, sweetcorn in particular is seemingly immune to stomach acids, so you’ll be boaking them right back up like yellow rosary beads.

No, it’s not worth it. Stick to the vegan’s nightmare, a meat ensemble of pepperoni, bacon, cajun chicken, or one I prepared for you myself – sliced Irish sausage. And grab a few pals and go as big as you can, go ham as it were. I was once part of a pizza task force charged with putting away a Wagon Wheel. That’s 22 inches of pizza, which had to be tilted on its side to even get it through the door. As a team of four, we took two slices each, and after much struggle we conquered the beast.

One of these days, we’re gonna put the band back together and tackle its even bigger, badder brother, the final boss of takeaway pizzas – the 26-inch Mega Wheel. Four inches mightn’t sound like much, you just ask my ex. But if you know a thing or two about circles, and I like to move in some of the top ones, then you’ll know that this boost in circumference adds a ton more dough and grease for all hungry challengers.

A Mega Wheel might be enough to put you off pizza for a long time afterwards, but trust me, you’ll be gasping for any and all pizza you can get your hands on in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for the NES. That’s Hero Turtles over in sheltered Europe of course, which is pretty disappointing. What’s even more disappointing is that some of the animation was actually done in Dublin. So we were able to produce ninjas here, but we weren’t allowed to consume any. Now I know how the winemakers felt during Prohibition.

But anyway, Michelangelo still wears his nunchucks loud and proud in this game, so now I don’t know what to believe. What we can say for certain is that a) if you had a NES back then, you were almost legally obliged to own this game and b) it’s a damn hard game to beat. I think most people expected this game to take cues from the 1987 cartoon series, which was massive at the time. And it’s still worth watching a few episodes today for the lame jokes and the top voice-acting talent. Perhaps gamers were just surprised that the game was more inspired by the TMNT comic books, with more than a few generic enemies thrown in.

There’s six levels, although in typical NES style you’ll need practice and preparation to see Level 3, plus a greasy slice of luck to see Level 4 and beyond. The game starts out strongly enough, where you bust heads in a few sewers. You quickly learn that unnecessary combat is the last thing you ought to be doing however, because you actually control the team of four turtles, each with their own healthbar.

I think you’ve already guessed it – the game’s about resource management, essentially trying to spread the pain across your four turtles, only to see one of your lads get squished and insta-killed on the overworld anyway. Even worse, when you get the Turtle Van, it shares the health of your currently active turtle, which makes bundles of sense.

Either way, the infamous dam level is the turning point of the game, the one that decides if your operation to take down The Shredder is gonna be a success or not. It’s only Level 2, for crying out loud. And if you don’t got a map of the level, with an optimal route planned out for you (you better not have missed that issue of the Nintendo magazine), then you’ll run out of time before getting even halfway through.

Plus, you’ll be etting shocked silly by electric seaweed all the way through, losing bundles of health as you go and reducing your chances to naught. You almost have to sacrifice poor Raphael or Michelangelo to this level. Sorry Raph and Mikey fans, but they’re the worst turtles in this game, on account of their weapons having the least amount of reach. It is an absolutely infamous level, responsible for breaking millions of children’s hearts. Imagine having that on your conscience?

Because I’m a pro-level gamer (chess club verified), I can do the god-dam level, but things quickly get tedious after that and I’m left with four crippled, depressed turtles with nothing but tougher battles ahead of them. It’s desperately sad to see their famous teenage vim and vigour being choked out of them like that, so I usually put the poor turtle boys out of their misery and switch off the game. Even if I found an area where I could devour a respawning pizza item to restore their health, you end up losing more health than you came in for because there’s usually a dozen enemies surrounding the pizza. And guess what, they respawn the moment you turn your back.

You can probably get about ten or fifteen minutes of fun out of TMNT NES, before the difficulty gets way too much. Smashing up enemies with Leonardo’s katana and Donatello’s bo (don’t even bother with the other two) is good fun, but it’s only costing you health and lowering your chances of getting anywhere. And don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a beatable game once you have a bit of knowledge and craftiness. But you’d better be ready to take on the responsibility of four wayward teens as Master Splinter did, thats all I’ll say.

Even its nice soundtrack doesn’t save it, and it must be noted that the classic “Heroes in a Half-Shell” theme only appears briefly. Some of the sound effects are vile as well. No, the game’s a bit of an anchovy pizza for me – maybe I’ll have a slice if I’m desperate, but otherwise, you can fill your boots.

8 May 2020

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