From the moment the publisher Dotemu released the first trailer a year ago, I’ve been excitedly and anxiously looking forward to the release of Shredder’s Revenge: beautiful 2D pixel art, a beat ‘em up in the same grand scale as Turtles in Time, up to six player local co-op play support, a banger soundtrack—what else do you want from a game like this? Luckily, my anxiousness immediately waned as soon as I started playing it. From the moment I booted up the game—where you’re greeted with a beautifully animated nineties-inspired intro cinematic—until the very end, the big grin on my face only went bigger. Cowabunga!
For those of you looking for a completely unique experience that reinvents the beat ‘em up genre, you’re going to be disappointed. But for the rest of you, those of you expecting to have a blast while bashing some ninjas: you definitely will highly enjoy Shredder’s Revenge. The game indeed perhaps plays it a bit too safe when it comes to level design: mostly a from-left-to-right affair with the expected skateboard/airboard levels and a few elevator stops that spawn lots of baddies. But again: I didn’t expect it to be radically different, I just hoped it to be really good.
And it is. Each turtle handles great, the controls are sharp, and there are more combo moves available compared to the SNES classics. Dealing an uppercut is done by pressing
B at the same time, and that was the only one I had a bit trouble with, especially with the Siwtch’s inferior Joy-con controllers. The more ninja ass you kick, the fuller a super meter becomes, that allows you to pull off a super move, destroying everything in the vicinity. Your meter completely discharges as soon as you become hit though, so there’s a nice trade-off.
Each playable character (there are 6 from the start: the 4 Ninja heroes, Splinter, April, and unlockables) has a few different attributes such as speed, power, and range. Donatello’s bo staff has the best range while Raphael’s weapons do more damage. The difference is noticeable enough to warrant another play-through, but not completely different. Since the single player campaign or “story mode” is over after two to three hours, it’s good to have the option to switch to another character.
The story mode is divided between sixteen episodes, each ending with a boss fight. You’ll likely finish each episode within 6-7 minutes, but I didn’t find that to be a problem: Shredder’s Revenge keeps the dopamine and energy flowing, rushing from one stage to the next, in pursuit of Krang’s exoskeleton android pieces, initially stolen by Bebop and Rocksteady. There are secret things to find in the stage, but they only yield extra points or achievement unlocks, which didn’t interest me as much as having another unlockable character or super move.
Shredder’s Revenge is simply stunning. The animators have really pulled all stops here: all frames are gorgeous and I couldn’t stop looking at the background and silly animations or enemies idling about before a turtle arrives and tears the place apart. Some enemies can be seen stealing a wheel of the Turtle mobile, licking icicle pops, working behind a desk, selling vegetables, sleeping on a bench, … These little details all add up to the prolonged presence of that big grin on my face.
The last Turtle games I played intensively were the Game Boy ones, where I remember the music being especially good. This is also true with the latest Turtle installment. It even boasts some really big names: the fight with Shredder (Spoiler!) is backed up by Ghostface Killah and Raekwon’s beats and lyrics of the Wu-tang Clan. Other level soundtracks remind me of Sonic Mania, where the upbeat retro vibes also sent chills down my spine. Shredder’s Revenge soundtrack must be among the best I’ve heard this year. Perhaps that’s because the brilliant Tee Lopes, the music artist, also composed Mania’s offical soundtrack!
As far as enjoyable beat ‘em ups go, this game just can’t be faulted. Sure, it’s quite short, plays it safe, and hasn’t got too much enemy variety. So what? Are you going to play this for ten hours straight like a complex RPG? No. Are you expecting intricate level design from something like this? No. Do you want chaotic co-op gameplay? Yes. A great soundtrack, gorgeous pixel art and satisfying moves that send enemies flying all over the place? Yes, please!
I can easily see myself enjoying Shredder’s Revenge for years to come, in small but regular play sessions, among friends (in which this game clearly shines), but also by myself. I haven’t explored the online co-op play options, but for those who want it, it’s there. I’m more interested in the couch experience where you can yell to your friends and possibly throw a controller at them.
This is an exceptionally well done tribute from Tribute Games to both the nineties Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the beat ‘em up genre, in the same league as the recent Streets of Rage 4. Cowabunga indeed.