Yesterday I played through Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan’s story mode by myself. Today I went online and played the game the right way.

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It makes complete sense. The TMNT franchise has always been about four brothers working together. In the movies Raphael was always getting angry and running off to do his own thing, which usually resulted in him getting his shell handed to him or something happening to his brothers or rat father because he wasn’t there to help them.

The best TMNT video games have featured cooperative play, giving four players the ability to pick their favorite turtle color/weapon combo. The very worst have one player controlling a single turtle at a time.

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That’s not to say single player Mutants in Manhattan is horrible. It does a valiant job of juggling three AI characters while letting the player swap characters on the fly. It’s just a but more work and a lot more lonely.

Getting a group together takes some doing, at least if you don’t have three friends lined up to play with you. I clipped about five minutes out of the video at the top of this post, long stretches of me waiting for the first player to show up, some singing, and another long stretch of waiting for the second. We got impatient and started after that, allowing Donatello to be played by the computer.

Once in-game, online co-op play is a joy. The erratic behavior of the AI is replaced by the erratic behavior of real people, which is better because you can call them names without feeling silly. Real players are much less likely to stand around a boss when he does wide area attacks, and quicker to heal you should you fall.

Plus, you pick your turtle at the beginning of the game, and that’s you. You don’t have to feel bad about neglecting the other characters, or worry about making sure all of their ninjitsu and equipment is upgraded and properly sorted. It takes a weight off, and that weight is replaced with joy.

Plus it’s always nice to have company when you die and get sent to the pizza room.

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Single player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutants in Manhattan is fine. Online cooperative Mutants in Manhattan feels much more like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Since offline co-op sadly isn’t an option, online really is the best way to play.