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Not Even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Co-Creator Could Beat That Dam Level

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The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was infamous for its difficult levels, none more than its infamous dam level. It was a stopping point for many frustrated Turtles fans, including one of the franchise’s own creators.

In an interview with IGN to promote the new Cowabunga Collection, which brings together more than a dozen of the Turtles’ most famous 8 and 16-bit adventures, TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman admitted that he was never quite able to clear the original NES games’ second stage.

“[A] lot of times when we would go to conventions back in the day, people would come up to us and be angry with us because they thought we made the game that hard,” Eastman remembers. “And we’re like, ‘We can’t win either. We’ve tried.’ I never made it through the water level and I’ve tried and tried and tried.”

Eastman was in good company. The dam level was notorious for its imprecise controls, which practically ensured that the Turtles would take damage, and strict time limit. It required the Turtles to navigate what amounted to an underwater maze while disarming multiple bombs before time ran out. The level has become synonymous with the often unfair difficulty of 8-bit games.

Still, Eastman says he has fond memories of working on the original Konami games, which were published under the Ultra Games label on the NES, calling them games “a universe within itself.”

“[It’s] amazing to work with these guys that follow some of the same steps design-wise or whatever. But then to bring them into a thing that you can only see them in full motion, but also control that motion was … It’s really mind-blowing. But what a treat to be part of that team,” Eastman says.

As for his favorite game of the bunch, most Turtles fans would probably agree with Eastman’s pick.

“My first thought is the arcade game because I just liked the fact that you could play with a bunch of your friends at the same time, three of your friends,” Eastman says. “But Turtles in Time was one of my favorites, because it was sort of something that we explored in the comic book. The fun part, too, is seeing something that started as an idea here evolve into something amazing and unique in the gaming format. So I like the different universes you can go to in in that game.”

All of these games are memorialized in the Cowabunga Collection, which was produced by Digital Eclipse for multiple platforms. In our review that went up earlier today, we wrote that the collection had “clearly been crafted by a team that loves the TMNT — not just the games, but the shows and comics as well.” However, we were frustrated by rough it online implementation.

Elsewhere, we asked Eastman for his thoughts on the various Turtles movies over the years, including the notorious Michael Bay films.

The Cowabunga Collection is available now.

Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.


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