In this game, you fight classic TMNT villains to the tune of a brand-new Raekwon and Ghostface Killah track. Enough said. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a brilliant beat-’em up with so much nostalgic style.
It’s a throwback to an era of arcade games and classic cartoons—but one that speaks to all generations of Turtles fans. I grew up with the 4Kids series from 2003. So, while I didn’t see many elements that spoke directly to my childhood, I nonetheless felt deeply connected to the title’s celebration of the fandom at large and this retro era in particular.
Shredder’s Revenge makes me feel like a 90s kid. It’s so perfectly executed. This is an ode to this franchise that effortlessly transports you into its world.
The success is multifaceted but it begins with the presentation. TMNT’s pixel art and animation are remarkable.
New York’s New Look
The environments are rendered with such bright colors and fine detail that they seem like cartoon cells come to life, and the characters feel even more alive.
It’s all about the small touches—Michelangelo’s goofy run cycle, Casey Jones’ battle animations that juggle various sports equipment. These are so on-brand. Tribute Games’ love of the source material is evident.
And, it extends to the scenarios that unfold across the game’s sixteen stages, framed as episodes of a TMNT season. There are some really, really deep-cut references here. I spent every afternoon playing with my Turtles toys and each Saturday morning watching that early 00s show. Nonetheless, a lot of the characters and motifs went over my head.
However, they’re all so lovingly rendered that I’m suddenly motivated to watch the previous generations of TMNT television. You want to share in Shredder’s Revenge’s references.
I also wanted to share in its systemic excellence. If the presentation is a celebration of the TV show and lore, the gameplay is an equally-great homage to the TMNT games of thirty years ago. Turtles in Time, Hyperstone Heist—the legacy of the classic Konami titles of the fourth generation is confidently upheld here.
Like Dotemu’s previous project, Streets of Rage 4, Shredder’s Revenge feels like an experience out of time. I mean that in the best way—it’s like the beat-’em up genre never missed a step.
Hand-To-Hand Half-Shell Action
It’s all about that moment-to-moment combat. The button inputs aren’t that intensive nor is the move list all that daunting. You’ve got your staple beat-’em up moves and some TMNT classics boiled down into a simple string of commands. As such, the title is totally approachable.
I’m far from a genre expert, so the fact that I could quickly pick up the game was greatly appreciated. The multiple difficulty options were an asset too, allowing me to find the right level of AI resistance on my march across Manhattan.
This convergence of factors allowed me to seamlessly discover the flow state necessary to just pound the snot out of Shredder’s forces. Stringing together simple bread-and-butter combos as I threw Mousers and Foot Soldiers about never failed to entertain, and I always felt empowered to slowly experiment with new techniques.
Through optional challenges in each stage, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge incentivized me to do more than simply mash square. By the time I beat the game, about two hours after it began, my playstyle had naturally evolved.
If that sounds short, then you likely need to recalibrate your expectations for Shredder’s Revenge. Unlike, say, River City Girls, TMNT is unabashedly arcade-influenced. The game’s scope is meant to incentivize replays across its myriad characters, empowering yourself to improve across each run.
Yet, while the mechanics and structure are decidedly retro, the title is smartly modernized for 2022. You can work through its stages in the rigid Arcade framework if you want to kick it like the quarter-munching days. But, you can also explore the game via the Story Mode.
This is a more laid-back trip through New York. Here, you can change your character at any time, play without fear of limited continues, and engage with the title’s deep replayability. And, that longevity doesn’t simply come from score-chasing.
Molding a Modern Experience
As suggested by the aforementioned optional challenges, Shredder’s Revenge mixes modern sensibilities with its arcade ones. You can scour the stages for collectibles, work toward in-game achievements, and even level up the roster’s characters.
The result is an experience that expects you to play long after its credits roll, whether you want to grind for mechanical improvement or trek toward 100%.
Both are valid, but I think TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is a bit too long to warrant Arcade mode replays. That is, at least for me. If the title came in at about ten stages or so, it would be easily doable in a single sitting, and thus perfect to run back in the name of improvement.
At sixteen stages, the game warrants perhaps two sessions to complete, making back-to-back runs a bit monotonous.
That hour mark is perfect for these sorts of games, and why I can get lost in Sin & Punishment for multiple runs at a time, but not its sequel. Turtles doesn’t quite fit the bill of the former. But, its story mode offers plenty of added playtime that isn’t predicated on full game runs, but instead on challenge-oriented approaches to individual stages.
Tmnt: Shredder’s Revenge – A Triumph
In exploring that, I came to appreciate the game even more. So much is missed by jumping into levels only once to see the credits. The quality per square inch here is so high. The stages are denser than they initially appear, and tell far more of a story than may be obvious upon first blush.
And, while the differences in playstyle between characters frankly aren’t major, they’re enough to incentivize experimentation. I played through the story mode with Leo, but Mikey might be my main man now. Funny, since he was probably my least favorite Turtle as a kid!
That’s an apt transition, as Shredder’s Revenge, if nothing else, makes you long for childhood. It makes me wish that my Turtles toys weren’t sequestered in a storage box somewhere. Yet, the game is much more than a feeling.
The scope of the experience is just right. The mechanics are just right. The options are all there. The pixel art is beautiful. The animation is second to none.
The soundtrack… well the soundtrack’s just phenomenal.
Any issues I have are mere nitpicks. A few of the late-game enemies feel overly spongy or annoying to fight. The hit detection and sense of spatial awareness in-vehicle stages could be tightened.
The final boss was a bit uninspired. But, we’re talking about chips in the armor that don’t register as much more than that.
The wait for TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge has absolutely been worth it. Cowabunga!
An early copy of TMNT was provided for the purposes of review.