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Since it was first revealed that members of the Super Smash Bros. Brawl team were crafting Ubisoft's new TMNT brawler, the expectation has been that it will be a total SSBB play-alike. From our time with it at last week's UbiNintendo day, we can confirm that there are similarities, but, if anything, it's more like "SSBB lite."

The four-player, multi-tiered arena aspect is there, for sure, but the complexity of the controls (and, with it, the number of moves and weapon pick-ups) has been dialed back a few clicks. At the same time, the pacing and presentation has been turned up, making for an extremely frantic experience.
The version of the game we played contained only a handful of characters and a portion of the stages planned for the final release. We played as the ninja brothers -- Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo -- along with Master Splinter, Shredder and April O'Neil. (Casey Jones wasn't in this build, causing our inner vigilantes to become quite displeased.)

Since each character already wields his or her own weapon from the start of a match, and moves at a rate befitting of their size (Shredder is slower than April, for instance), it was easy after a few rounds to decide on a favorite. Everyone is subject to the same controls; holding B blocks (we were playing with the Wiimote turned sideways), A is for using ninja powers -- throwing knives, fire, electricity -- once you've picked them up, while 1 and 2 perform basic and strong attacks. If you're dizzied, rocking the Wiimote makes your character come to their senses.

We have to admit: the first few matches we played were utter chaos. No one knew what was going on, the screen was filled with flashy effects and ithe game devolved into a pure button-mashing festival. It was admittedly a little off-putting. But as we played with different characters on various stags -- a city rooftop, the sewers, the jungle, the dojo, a high-tech base -- the pace started getting a little more even and we actually began to employ some strategy.

On the rooftop, for example, players can be thrown into neon signs and be electrocuted. You can either use the throw move and take advantage of this, or destroy the signs so that you don't receive a jolt. In the jungle and sewer stages, platforms hang by cables and rope, existing primarily as safe spots to prevent a giant crocodile (not Leatherhead) from eating you. Here, we developed a strategy of knocking our opponents to the floor (or cutting the platform's support, thus sending it crashing to the ground) just as the "caution! crocodile imminent" indicator flashed on-screen.

To help players maintain a bead on their character, the developer has wisely decided to include a "glowing aura" option. Basically, with it turned on, your character is outlined in the color of your choice at all times. It's very handy, at least while you're leaning on the ropes.

We can see TMNT Smash-Up providing hours of fun as a party game (its producer says the team has drawn a lot of inspiration from the classic "party fighter" Power Stone 2), but unless there are some major gameplay mechanics yet to be put in place, it's not going to be a substitute for Smash Bros. Still, it's feeling like the game has what it'll take to get both fans and non-fans to shell out the asking price when it hits September 22.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.

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