Coming Out Of My Shell And I’ve Been Doing Just Fine

HIGH My second playthrough, geeking out over everything with friends.

LOW Already itching for a third playthrough.

WTF Can we get a revival of The Simpsons arcade game in this style? 

A lot of ’80s pop culture is lost on me since that decade started about 17 years before I was born — the boom of IPs like Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Thundercats, and GI-Joe mean nothing to me. I became more of a superhero kid playing with Spider-Man and Power Rangers, though the thing that really stuck with me from back then is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 

What started out as a comic book parody by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird ended up becoming one of the biggest pop culture powerhouses ever, spawning decades of toys, movies, and games. I grew up during the era of the 2003 animated series, its toys, and the 2005 animated film, and I have a deep love for it. I’ve been reading the original comics too, and appreciating how dark and strange they are. My two major blind spots for the franchise, however, are the original ’87 cartoon and a slew of video games released in the 80s and 90s. Thankfully, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is making up for that lost time. 

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is an old-school style brawler based on the original cartoon series that can be played solo, four-player local or online co-op, and can even accommodate six-players in online co-op.

Players control 2D characters in straightforward side-scrolling levels full of fights that eventually lead to boss encounters with baddies like Bebop, Rocksteady, and more. The Turtles have history in this beat-’em-up genre, with titles like Turtles in Time and The Manhattan Project. This latest plays to that formula with some solid refinements.

For example, there are two main modes — arcade and story. The arcade mode is a harder one echoing games from the past, forcing players to contend with limited lives and trying to beat the game in one sitting. Story mode is a little easier, with more chances to earn extra lives, extra power-ups, and even a chance to take breaks from playing. Story mode has a set of difficulty options as well, and these choices are great. 

The gameplay itself will feel familiar to anyone who’s played any kind of beat-’em-up. Players control one of six characters from the start— Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo, April O’ Neil, and Master Splinter— each with varying attributes and abilities. They’re out to stop the likes of Krang and Shredder from terrorizing New York City.

Combat is fast and furious, with each character feeling unique. My first time was as Master Splinter, using his cane to attack and employing a flurry of slashes as a super move. Every attack has a different property when used in tandem with a direction of the d-pad or when jumping/dashing. There’s a lot of variety in the attacks and an extensive move list that adds depth to what could have been a very simple game. 

Of course, even with these moves it’s not the most complex experience out there, and most enemies can be taken down with simple button-mashing, but there’s a real sense of progression that comes with unlocking new moves during play like new super attacks, an extra lives slot, a larger health bar, and more super meters. 

I played through the game once by myself before release and was rewarded with Casey Jones as a playable character. Casey is my absolute favorite in any form of Turtles media, so I used him during my second playthrough in co-op, and this is where Shredder’s Revenge really shines thanks to mechanics that change things up. For example, there are a few attacks that two players can do together, as well as a “high-five” ability that allows one player to give a bit of their own health to another. These are neat ideas that encourage teamwork.

The real treat of co-op, however, is playing with a fellow TMNT superfan and geeking out over everything. Hearing my friends call out references, hearing about the toys they had growing up, and even catching a specific (and surprising) nod to the 1991 film, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze made this the multiplayer highlight of the year so far.

While Shredder’s Revenge is a short experience, it can be expanded upon by completing a few side missions involving collectibles or going through the game again while trying to attain a series of achievements, like beating certain levels without getting hurt or not using a super. The music also kicks ass, with the likes of Faith No More’s Mike Patton, the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, and rapper Mega Ran contributing great tracks while composer Tee Lopes provides a killer score.

As a Turtles fan, I’m happy with Shredder’s Revenge as it captures the spirit of the franchise so damn well, thanks to a load of fan service and a strong style. As someone who’s played a few great brawlers (some martial arts-themed ones and even licensed ones) this is the absolute peak of the genre for me thanks to the incredible combat and a wealth of fanservice. It’s great to see these turtles back in the spotlight, and anyone who’s a fan of TMNT or a lover of old-school arcade games owes it to themselves to order some pizza and head to the sewers because this is something special. 

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is published by Dotemu and developed by Tribute Games. It is available on PS4\PS5, PC, XBO/X/S, and Switch. This copy was obtained via publisher and was reviewed on PS5. Approximately 6 hours were spent in both single-player multiplayer, with the game finished twice across both modes. 

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10 for Fantasy Violence. The violence here is incredibly tame and slapstick. The pixel art is very light-hearted and over-the-top. it’s definitely okay for young kids.

Colorblind Modes: Colorblind modes are not present in the options menu.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are subtitles for character dialogue and plenty of visual cues, though they cannot be adjusted. No audio cues are needed for successful play. In my view, the game is fully accessible

Remappable Controls: The controls can be remapped

Cj Salcedo
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