By now, you’ve probably seen the reviews for Tribute Games’ TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. It’s got an 85 on Metacritic and an 87 on OpenCritic, scores that solidify the general consensus among critics: Shredder’s Revenge is 2022's raddest beat ’em up so far. I want to take that a step further and say this lovingly crafted homage to Konami’s TMNT games is exactly how modernized takes on classics should be made: leaning into the inspiration while expanding the scope. It’s a gnarly time beating up the Foot Clan that’s made all the more bodacious when you play co-op, and my partner enjoys it just as much as I do. No seriously, we’re working on a third full playthrough right now, and it rules.
Published by Streets of Rage 4 maker Dotemu, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge sees the four turtles and their friends—April O’Neil, Master Splinter, and the vigilante Casey Jones—navigating through New York City to stop the Foot Clan and various iconic series villains from terrorizing the Big Apple. So it’s up to you, either solo or with friends (via local and online co-op) to kick some shell by slashing, throwing, and pummeling enemies while unlocking new moves, completing side objectives, and eating as much pizza as possible.
The game takes ample inspiration from Konami’s old-school TMNT beat-em-ups, particularly 1991's Turtles In Time. You’ll see all sorts of homages to those games as you make your way through the vibrant New York City of Shredder’s Revenge, like the way turtles might say “This cave gives me the creeps” upon falling down a sewer hole, or the ability to throw hapless Foot Clan fighters into the screen in gorgeously rich, pixely colors.
These references lather Shredder’s Revenge thick with nostalgia, but Shredder’s Revenge also carves out its own visual identity. Where in Konami’s games, for instance, the turtles shared many of the same movement animations, here each one runs in a delightfully distinctive way that conveys something about his personality. Still, there’s no denying the game’s nostalgic pull, and anyone who remembers going to an arcade or picking up a Turtles game in the ‘80s and ‘90s will likely have fond memories of button-mashing to whoop ass. Those same folks might also remember just how punishing Konami’s old brawlers were, and while Shredder’s Revenge does have a harder difficulty option for those looking for a challenge, it’s a much more forgiving experience overall.
For starters, Tribute Games has greatly expanded movement in Shredder’s Revenge. All seven playable characters can dodge left and right whenever they want, giving you the ability to escape danger when hurt or reposition yourself to extend combos. There’s a whole suite of new moves here, too, including a rising uppercut to intercept troublesome airborne and diving enemies, and a heavy attack that can break through enemy defenses. Then, there’s the unlockable upgrades you get as characters level up, like a special attack that can be performed in the air, as well as more lives and extra special attack gauges. These additions make for a gameplay experience that’s both rewarding for button-mashers simply looking for a lowkey good time and satisfying for technical wizards dying to rack up high scores and attempt some of the game’s toughest built-in challenges, like clearing certain stages without taking any damage.
Sadly, Shredder’s Revenge is quite anemic on modes. There are only two available—a story mode that features persistent character upgrades across playthroughs and completable side objectives to get more points, and an arcade mode that’s exactly what it sounds like. There’s a bit of replayability in the campaign, especially if you miss some of the objectives or wanna try out and level up a totally different character. However, because the game’s core loop boils down to one scenario—moving from left to right while beating up goons on the way to the boss—Shredder’s Revenge can feel stale and tedious as you approach the latter half of the 16-level story. After all, as the arcade games that inspired Shredder’s Revenge understood, brevity is the soul of wit, and fewer or shorter levels might’ve helped it drag less.
That’s not to say Shredder’s Revenge is boring or devoid of personality. Far from it. Tribute Games has baked a ton of character into this adventure, from Foot Clan soldiers licking up popsicles at the zoo to New Yorkers running in sheer horror as Krang weaponizes the Statue of Liberty. Each character has their own idiosyncrasies as well, with Donnie pulling out a GameBoy during his taunt and Raph just always scowling. It’s a testament to Tribute Games’ attention to detail, as the game honors the past while pulling from established lore to create something brimming with even more life and attitude than its predecessors. I wish the studio had taken a page from SebaGamesDev’s Fight’N Rage and introduced alternate paths, but that doesn’t detract from my enjoyment.
Because, like I said at the top of this blog, Shredder’s Revenge is 2022's raddest beat ‘em up so far. It keeps one foot in the past while refusing to be chained down by the limitations of the era that inspired it, bringing a classic formula into the modern day with aplomb. It’s dope.Tribute Games should be commended for so skillfully balancing the familiar with the fresh and new. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, despite the doldrums in the later levels, is a game I’m not putting down for a while…at least till River City Girls 2 drops.