I can’t tell you how many hours I spent at home on NES and SNES or at the arcade playing Turtles beat ‘em ups like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. The Turtles games were a constant throughout my childhood, and one of the standards to which I held all other beat ‘em ups. Those classics were great games, not only because they were fun as hell to play solo or with friends, but because it gave me and my friends a chance to take on the role of our favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle characters—something that was amazing to a kid in the late 80s / early 90s. I never thought I’d have a chance to have a new Turtles experience after so many years, and it’s amazing.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is essentially a sequel to Turtles IV three decades later. This beat ‘em up can be played solo, or with up to five friends for a total of six players—that’s a lot of on-screen action. While Shredder’s Revenge does keep to the retro vibe with its presentation, its pixel art characters do stray a bit from the 1987 classic look, but it pays homage to the classic cartoon and games in almost every scene, from the characters to the art and music. In fact, there were so many spot-on nostalgic notes in the first few levels, I found myself literally tearing up. I was home again, back as a kid watching cartoons and playing video games on a lazy Saturday.
While it’s certainly a nostalgia trip, Shredder’s Revenge is also an excellent beat ‘em up, and a worthy entry into the Turtles beat ‘em up series. If you’ve played the original games—either their arcade of console versions—you’ll feel immediately at home here. But there have been some modern touches added to the mix. Each turtle has their own speed, range, power level, and special attack. You can also take control of April O’Neil who uses her microphone as a weapon or Master Splinter. And while it might be a tiny spoiler, you can also unlock the sports equipment wielding Casey Jones.
Shredder’s Revenge follows closely in the footsteps of Turtles IV. Each level is specifically themed, and capped with at least one boss fight. In each level you’ll fight a variety of Foot Clan robots, and sometimes other enemies from the Turtle franchise. The boss fights themselves have a suitable amount of variation, with bosses returning from previous games—including a few that are pretty deep cuts.
While most of the Turtle beat ‘em ups have the turtles fighting from one level to another, Shredder’s Revenge adds an overworld map. This overworld map pays homage to the NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and while it doesn’t add non-linearity, it’s a fun and attractive way to revisit previous levels to get all the secrets and collectibles.
Throughout Shredder’s Revenge this is an attempt to keep a retro feel, but it’s mixed in with lots of modern touches. The voiceover is high quality audio, but they’re still short clips like you would find in the classic versions. It’s great to hear some familiar voices, too, like Rob Paulsen reprising his role as Raph alongside other voices from my childhood. The music is similarly retro, with variations on classic themes making their way into the mix, and brand new songs by members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
There are two main ways to play Shredder’s Revenge: campaign mode and arcade mode. Campaign mode is perhaps the most modern way to play, and gives each character a certain number of lives to beat each level. In co-op mode, other characters can revive you if you run out of HP, saving you a life. Arcade mode presents a higher difficulty challenge, but one that’s more in-line with classic Turtles. You have a finite amount of “credits” to be the game with—if you’re unsuccessful, you get a game over and have to start over.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge exceeded my expectations, and managed to bring me back over thirty years. The story, situation, characters, art, music, levels—everything is drenched in beautiful classic Turtles nostalgia. But even it wasn’t a Turtles game, Shredder’s Revenge manages to be a great beat ‘em up with tight controls and fun couch multiplayer. It’s hard to find fault in Shredder’s Revenge, and it’s easily one of my favorite games of the year.
A PlayStation key was provided to us for this review.