Admittedly, I am not a Ninja Turtles fan. That’s not to say I dislike the franchise, I just didn’t grow up with it and my only other meaningful experience with the turtles was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, which I hold in high regard as an excellent arcade beat 'em up game. When I heard a new Turtles game was on its way, I knew I had to give it a try.
Upon launching Shredder’s Revenge, you are met with an opening cutscene that can only be described as a beautifully animated, nostalgia trip through the early 90s. Luckily, the artistry doesn’t end there. Tribute Games certainly pays tribute to its past while still showing off how far pixel art and animation have come. One thing I noticed while playing was that the game had striking similar visuals to my favorite beat ‘em up, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World: The Game and that’s because several people at Tribute Games worked on it. Looking at both games side by side, you can clearly see the similarities but, more importantly, you can see how much the team has grown and changed in order to give Shredder’s Revenge its stunning art style.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find much of the music particularly memorable. However, Shredder’s Revenge does have a few tracks by artists like Mega Ran and a couple members of Wu-Tang Clan which I can’t help but think is awesome. I love seeing developers bring in outside musical influences, especially when those influences have a clear understanding of the time period and vibe the game is going for. On top of that, many TMNT voice actors were able to reprise their roles, some going back over thirty years, which is always nice to hear.
Like most other games in the side-scrolling beat ‘em up genre, Shredder’s Revenge is pretty light on story. In the game’s story mode, the Turtles and friends find themselves fighting many of the series’ baddies in order to thwart Shredder’s evil plans and save New York City. You have six playable characters to choose from which include the four turtles, Master Splinter and April O’Neil plus one unlockable character for completing the story mode. Each character has three stats that loosely dictate how they will play: Range, Speed and Power. I found that these attributes barely make a difference during gameplay which was a little disappointing but mostly on par for genre. Less disappointing is the game’s leveling system. Every time you knock out an enemy, you get points and at certain point thresholds you level up. Leveling up generally gives you a small bonus such as an extra hit point or an extra life but it can also unlock special attacks for your character. I like this design because it is very co-op friendly. Since leveling up doesn’t make your character inherently stronger, it allows every player to pick any character and hop right into the action all on an even playing field no matter which level is chosen. Speaking of co-op, like most beat ‘em ups, Shredder’s Revenge really shines when playing with others. One of the craziest features this game has on offer is six player multiplayer. When I first saw that this game allowed six players to play together, I was whisked back to the first time I saw a four player arcade cabinet and thought, “Wow! That’s huge! That many players must make the game super fun and chaotic!” While six players on screen all at the same time does in fact make the game very chaotic, there is a reason we don’t normally see more than four players in a game. I tried a six player co-op game while online and during the single level that I played, I spent more time trying to keep track of my character than actually fighting enemies but the experience was novel nevertheless. That said, I feel Shredder’s Revenge is best played with two to four players. There is something magical about being on the same team as your friends, fighting hordes of enemies all the while competing to get a higher score than everyone else and Shredder’s Revenge captures that magic very well.
Making my way through the game’s sixteen levels took me about three hours which is pretty short when compared to other modern titles in the genre. Personally, I enjoyed the shorter level designs because they played into the game’s strength of being able to jump in and out of co-op as any character. This allowed me to try many different combinations of characters and players in a single playthrough. The shortness of the game also allows for the existence of arcade mode. In arcade mode, players will choose a character and play through the entire game in a single attempt with a set amount of lives. This mode makes Shredder’s Revenge feel more like an old-school arcade game but I prefer story mode for its more modern comforts. While the levels are short, they are very sweet. Each level gives out a handful of optional challenges and secrets if you feel like pushing yourself. The secrets generally involve finding character cameos from the series’ past and little collectibles for those characters. Although, I hesitate to call them “secrets” as they are incredibly easy to find. During my playthrough, I found every single one on my first attempt in each level. Some of the challenges are genuinely pretty tough though. A few levels even challenge you to not take any damage and I know I won’t be completing those anytime soon. Each level culminates in a boss fight with various villains from TMNT’s history. I have to say, these boss fights were some of the highlights of the game. Many beat ‘em up games have bosses that just boil down to punch them and don’t get punched by them and while Shredder’s Revenge has a few of these, later bosses have some really cool mechanics in their fights. My favorite one being a boss that is invulnerable until you throw another enemy at them, all while dodging the boss’s and their minions’ attacks. There isn’t much in terms of varying gameplay when it comes to beat ‘em ups so seeing some variation is always welcome.
Shredder’s Revenge is a love letter to past arcade games in the series and you can see just how much the developers cared when making the game. Beautiful visuals, amazing voice actors and really cool musical guests are the excellent toppings on a pizza of snappy and well thought out gameplay. Launching on Xbox Game Pass along with the inclusion of crossplay will make sure this game reaches its audience. Despite its minor flaws, I highly recommend Shredder’s Revenge for anyone who is looking to play a quality beat ‘em up with their friends.