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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge review: A shell of a time

rapheal and casey jones high five tmnt shredder's revenge.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge
MSRP $24.99
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge isn't just a great Turtles game for nostalgic fans. It's a perfect retro-style beat 'em up that's eager to innovate.”
  • Detailed sprite visuals
  • Deep combat
  • Tons of TMNT fan service
  • Modes aplenty
  • Six-player co-op

When Tribute Games, the development team made up of members that worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. The World — The Game and the Gameboy Advance port of TMNT, were on board to develop the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat ’em up, I knew the project was in the right hands. Anyone familiar with those past titles knows that Tribute is one of the best when it comes to finding that sweet spot between retro nostalgia and modern innovation. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is the studio’s master class.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge - Gameplay overview

As both a huge Ninja Turtles and beat-’em-up fan, my expectations were high and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge met them at every level. Not only does the blast-from-the-past title give fans of the 1987 Turtles cartoon and arcade games a radical time, but fans of retro beat ’em ups, great co-op experiences, and arcade nostalgists will find themselves loving the “Cowabunga!” lifestyle. That all comes back to Tribute Games itself, which has worked its magic to bring fresh ideas and upgrades to a tried-and-true formula.

Reinvention of retro

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is another modern, retro-style beat ’em up, much like Streets of Rage 4 — though, I’d go as far as to say that it might be the best of that breed yet. Not only is it a great return to form that looks and plays the part, but its one that also innovates on the old genre by inventing new mechanics. As a result, it’s great for those who just want some retro bliss, but it’s much more than that for those who want a more in-depth experience that classic arcade games usually don’t offer.

April O'Neil throwing a red foot ninja while a purple one approaches her.

The game throws players into the world of the Heroes in a Half Shell and gives them full reign to pummel every Foot Ninja and enemy in the way. Not only can they do this in the standard arcade mode with limited continues and super bar, but in the brand-new story mode as well. All of those modes can be played with up to six players.

Story mode presents players with a new fleshed-out experience that can be compared to games like Scott Pilgrim vs. The WorldRiver City Girls, and the Kunio-kun series. Here, you make your way through each level of the game, but unlike arcade mode, which is more fitting for classic gamers just chasing that straightforward ’80s experience, characters can be leveled up after defeating certain numbers of enemies. These level-ups unlock different power-ups, including health buffs, additional super attacks, and additional Ninja Power, which allows you to hold multiple super bars instead of the single limit of the arcade mode.

Map of New York in TMNT Shredder's Revenge.

The story mode progresses on a Super Mario World-esque map and along the way you’ll meet different characters from the 1987 cartoon series like Vernon, the Napoleon Bonafrogs, and even the Neutrinos. These guests present you with collectible quests to get more experience points. Along with these come challenges that you can complete on each level that will put you on the fast track to leveling up as well.

Combat goes much deeper than you might expect at first glance.

Even before beating the game, I found myself constantly revisiting stages with new characters to chase a complete full power roster by beating enemies and completing challenges. These missions are no walk in the park on hard mode, giving me the old arcade challenge I love.

Ninjitsu action

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge continues the reinvention of a classic genre by taking the action from the simple button-mashing found in classic Turtles’ beat ’em ups and making it into a more in-depth combo-fest.

The turtles and friends are now given the ability to dodge, use three different super moves, grab and throw, taunt to gain super bars quickly, and do team attacks, heavy homerun attacks, and the standard combo strings found in most beat ’em ups. By putting these mechanics together, I quickly made a delicious combat pizza that made me fall in love with the game.

Leonardo doing a super dash attack on a foot ninja.

Combat goes much deeper than you might expect at first glance. I can dodge cancel moves into other attacks and OTG (hitting knocked-down opponents off the ground) and wall-bounce enemies to extend combos. These techniques not only give you mileage when it comes to dealing damage, but they also show how deep the game can go when you begin stringing moves together.

Like Streets of Rage 4, I found myself training to find just how many hits I could land before enemies finally faded into the beat-’em-up void. And much like that game, Tribute Games found the perfect way to preserve the retro experience while renewing it to keep it fresh and appealing to new audiences.

Leonardo hitting a foot ninja with a sword with the words "How to Play" and his combo attack buttons in the foreground.

Turtles in a new time

You could already guess that a game like this would be full of callbacks to the Turtles franchise, but there are more here than even I expected. From stage to stage, I found tons of Easter eggs calling back to specific episodes of the 1987 series and old arcade games — and it all looked beautiful thanks to the detailed sprite work.

Leonardo and Raphael fighting Tokka and Rahzar.

Simple references, and deeper ones like small stage decorations, show up here in full force. I was constantly geeking out at every turn, especially during boss fights, which are the icing on the ooze green-colored cake.

All of those strengths are before you get into its multiplayer mode, which is the main draw that makes Shredder’s Revenge special.

You can play with up to six friends with a varied roster of characters featuring different looks, move sets, and strengths. In joining up with a team of green machines, you’ll unlock multiplayer-exclusive mechanics that are built for couch co-op. I say that from experience, as each move hyped me and my brother up every time we executed them.

Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Casey Jones, Splinter, and Raphael fighting foot ninjas.

On the defensive side, you can revive downed teammates and even split health to make sure you both make it through challenging levels. And if you’re all about kicking shell, then there are tons of team attacks you can do like the Sandwich Attack, Homerun Swing, and Tubular Spin. All these additions make the multiplayer mode a whole new experience, whether playing locally or offline. If you can manage to get five of your closest friends together, you’re in for a shell of a time.

Our take

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a must-play for both TMNT and beat-’em-up fans alike. It’s a game that takes what worked in the past, but still finds space to innovate beyond its fan service and nostalgia play. If you’ve ever felt like retro revivals can’t be much more than shallow nostalgia, Shredder’s Revenge will prove that there’s still more than enough room for an old genre to grow.

How long will it last?

My initial story mode playthrough on the normal difficulty without challenge chasing took around two hours. With challenges, multiple arcade mode difficulties, and various characters to level up to max power, you’ll find the game taking up way more of your time than that.

Are there any alternatives?

Streets of Rage 4River City Girls, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are all great contenders, but I don’t recommend skipping Shredder’s Revenge in favor of any of these.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re looking for that next great multiplayer experience, a fun beat ’em up, a strong retro revival, or just some Turtles nostalgia, it excels in all of those respects.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge was reviewed on PC.

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