Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge Review
Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello lead the retro renaissance in this inspired arcade beat-em-up.
Ah, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The heroes with hard shells but soft and squishy innards. Have you ever had turtle soup? I have. I didn’t much like it. I still ate/slurped/drank the lot, because I paid for it and I needed to fill my belly, but it wasn’t the fine dining experience I was promised. Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “Chris, this whimsical intro is going to be turned around so you can say that Shredder’s Revenge is the turtle soup of games; it fills you up but doesn’t taste great.”
Puh-lease. I wouldn’t be so obvious.
No, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is certified goodness and unlike the questionable bowl of turtle chow, I’d gladly take a second helping.
OK, abstract food analogies down the gullet, let’s get down to the nitty and the gritty.
|Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge
|8/10 – Great
|Xbox Series X (Xbox One version)
|PSN, Microsoft Store, Nintendo eShop, Steam, Retail
If you’re old enough to remember begging Mum and Dad for coins so that you could dump them in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade cabinet (well done for making it thus far, old chap) you’ll get pangs of nostalgia before you’ve even kicked your first Footsoldier through the Channel 6 newsroom. The game begins with the GOAT cartoon theme song, which for me instantly rolled back the years and made me momentarily forget the world isn’t doing so great. For those 60 seconds of 80s tuneage, the world didn’t matter. I was six years old again, ready to hunker down with a bag of Opal Fruits (they’re called Starburst these days) and a worn-out VHS full of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons.
Sadly, there aren’t any actual episodes bundles in (that would have been a nice extra treat) but the game is structured to feel like a season of the show. I say that because that’s what the developers said pre-release, but really, it doesn’t feel like playing through a season at all. Sure, the levels are broken up into 16 “Episodes” and there’s a loose story that sees the awesome foursome (plus Master Splinter, April, and an extra unlockable character) smash their way through familiar locations as they chase down Krang and his scattered robot body. But that’s about it. There’s very little dialogue between levels, just static animations with a sliver of exposition. I didn’t find them very interesting so my co-op buddy and I were grateful for the option to skip them.
Speaking of co-op, you can either roll solo or play co-op with up to six players on one screen. I played through the entire Story Mode with my go-to co-op buddy: my six-year-old son, Charlie. He’s a solid player. A real crackshot in Warzone. Don’t tell his mother. Or social services…
For me, two-player was hectic enough, never mind having six heroes darting their way around the screen. It can get very busy and I lost myself often enough when it was just the two of us playing, so I can’t imagine the visual chaos that would come with six players. Still, better to have the option than not, but I wouldn’t do it myself.
Given that the game is essentially a modern arcade beat-em-up without the predatory coin-sucking tendencies of an actual arcade game, it’s fairly simple to play. And, unlike those penny punching cabinets, Shredder’s Revenge has three difficulty options: Chill, Okay, and Gnarly, which is great news for those of us who like to just sit back, bash some buttons and feel good for a little while. For this review, Charlie and I played on easy mode right through to the end. Once we beat the game, we did another run on the middle difficulty and it was a much greater challenge. I don’t think my game pads would survive the hardest mode.
I was surprised to see the list had over 20 commands. I was less surprised to find I had forgotten most of them by the time I unpaused the game.
Despite being super accessible to all with just two attack buttons, a jump button, and the life-saving dodge move, it’s not without depth or challenge. If you really want to feel the cold sweat of running on your last life, you can knock up the difficulty or try out the Arcade Mode where Game Over actually means Game Over, not just start the level again and again until you cheese your way to the end. There’s depth to the combat, too, if you go looking for it. Thankfully, it’s not hard to find. Just jump into the menus and you’ll find a Move List. I was surprised to see the list had over 20 commands. I was less surprised to find I had forgotten most of them by the time I unpaused the game. For me, simple button mashing and abusing the power move is enough, or at least enough to limp through to the end of the game after a couple of Game Overs. Yes, even on the easy mode we got our arses handed to us, especially on some of the later levels with the environmental hazards and tricky-to-beat enemies. I have an out though: it was all Charlie’s fault…
There’s a trend among developers these days to cram in RPG-lite systems where they really aren’t needed in order to pad out their games. Sometimes it works, a lot of the time I see right through it for what it is: a cheap way to offer a sense of progress. Shredder’s Revenge bucks the trend by having upgrades that are automatically doled out through play. You have no say in what upgrades you get. You just play the game and over time your character’s Power Level increases, with each new level giving you an HP boost or a new variation of the power move. This suited me to the ground because less time spent in the game’s menus means more time in the game’s wonderfully drawn levels. And they really are well done.
Charlie didn’t have the same appreciation, calling the graphics “bad” but that’s because he never lived through the times where bugs were features and the third dimension was a dirty fantasy. I must admit, I’m a little loose on my love for the “good old days” when it comes to retro graphics, but I still managed to pick up what Shredder’s Revenge was putting down. Every level was crammed with detail, little jokes, and enough nostalgia to make an old man yell “cowabunga dude!” after every successful boss battle.
The game’s music stood out, too, and I normally don’t pay much notice to music in games unless, well, it’s a music-based game. But the variations of the familiar theme were done well enough to catch my attention and infect me with the earworm that has caused me to hum the theme song just about everywhere, much to the annoyance of all who don’t like fun.
As a fan of the original arcade coin-suckers, I can say that Shredder’s Revenge hits the right notes in all departments. However, modern gamers who didn’t grow up with cartridges that needed a good blow and a bang might find the admittedly simple and one-direction gameplay a bit too basic. Basically, if you’ve used a VHS player in real life, you’ll get what Shredder’s Revenge is all about. If you’ve never touched a floppy disk, you might get bored of button bashing by Episode 6.