The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need no introduction. Having managed to stay relevant since the 1980s, the pizza loving reptiles are still a household name in the hellscape that is the 2020s. Previously featured in some of the best (and worst) beat-em-up arcade games from the past, Shredder’s Revenge is here to finally come back and kick some shell.
Shredder is back as usual, and is out to end our super turtles and their friends. Featuring sixteen story levels, the game isn’t incredibly long, but it also isn’t short enough to blaze through the arcade mode in a short sitting. The story will take our heroes across all of NYC- from the skies to the sewers. The levels are fairly varied, and each one has loads of detail, along with the occasional Easter egg. Is the game too short? Not for the price. Is it too long? Maybe for the arcade mode.
Gameplay is exactly what you would expect from the TMNT beat-em-up. You can learn the moves and become a master, or mash buttons and just have mindless fun; both techniques are acceptable. The gameplay is as deep or as shallow as you’d prefer. Each of the six playable characters do however level up over time, and slowly unlock unique attacks and moves as you play. Each one is well balanced, and not any one character feels like the “crappy” one. So even during the game’s hectic six player co-op, you’ll still enjoy playing with whatever character you get. That said, it is very much a classic, beat-em-up experience, meaning things are going to get repetitive. So bring a friend! It’s much more fun that way.
This classic throwback to the beat-em-ups of yesteryear manages to capture exactly what those games were like; as simple or as complex as you’d like, and very repetitive. So if you’re looking for insanely varied gameplay, look elsewhere. This game follows the classic formula to a T. While that may sound boring for some, most fans of the genre will be glad to mindlessly beat their way through some levels with their friends as long as the combat feels good.
My biggest complaint with the gameplay itself, is how boss fights are handled. While they do have different move sets, and sometimes special phases, it all seems very surface level, and basic. Level bosses feel more like ‘mid-bosses’. And you never need to do anything different than bash them endlessly like every other boss. While I’m not asking for Sekiro-level boss fights, something a bit deeper would have been great.
Featuring utterly gorgeous visuals by the inedible pixel artist Paul Roberston, Shredder’s Revenge is oozing with retro goodness and crisp eye candy. If there is one thing this game absolutely nails, it’s the visuals. I can’t express how well crafted every background, animation, and sprite is. Tribute Games always knocks it out of the park when it comes to retro pixel art design. You’ll feel like you’re playing on some 4K, high-def, 90s arcade cabinet. I actually kind of want to see this on a CRT, now that I think about it.
While the visuals are something worth pining over, the same can’t be said for the audio. While the music isn’t bad, it just feels oddly out of place with the game’s presentation. The same can be said for all the audio, from the canned punch noises, to the often just strange voice acting. It feels neither retro nor modern, making it stick out like a sore thumb among the otherwise flawless presentation. Maybe it’s just me, but I won’t be picking this one up on vinyl.
In the end, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a lovely call-back to the classic Turtles game we all know and love. Excellent visuals and gameplay, packed within a bite sized game makes for a true return to classic beat-em-up form. Just try to ignore the anchovies that are the sound design.