The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have a notable history of beat-’em-up games on arcade cabinets and retro consoles like the NES and Super NES. Now Leo, Raph, Mikey, and Donny are back again for another adventure in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, and it looks… like a modernized version from the same era, which adds an immediate nostalgic appeal. Developed by genre veterans Tribute Games, the build I played shows that this retro-rules pseudo-sequel is shaping up to be a charismatic – albeit safe – return to the genre.
Something important to share first and foremost is that Shredder’s Revenge is its own game. It may be based off the 1987 Ninja Turtles, but the story is not connected to TMNT: The Arcade Game or Turtles in Time. After playing the first two levels with the developer, Shredder’s Revenge is very much inspired by the era, and plays more or less as a modern release with quality of life improvements, so don’t expect many new additions this time around.
With that being said, “old on purpose” isn’t particularly a bad thing. Combat is smooth and introduces a super attack that is unique for each playable character. I was even able to “meditate” in the middle of battle to automatically fill my super bar. It honestly feels more like a taunt to the enemies, and it was continuously charming to boot. Similar to the level-complete animations where each character is different from one another, each taunt is distinctive as well. Tech wiz Donatello plays on a little Game Boy when meditating and uses his staff as a pogo stick after beating each level. Mikey, on the other hand, does a little dance, and Raphael simply laughs at enemies. It’s these kinds of details that not only distinguish each character, but it’s also a good way to show off their personalities for those who may not be as familiar with the franchise. Tribute also seems to nail the overexaggerated cartoon animation of the late-80s in even the small details, too, like the ninjas typing on a keyboard.
Similar to the classic TMNT games, you’ll find pizza boxes as you progress through each level. Not only is there pizza that heals, but there are also other pies for extra strength, and infinite supers for a limited amount of time. Another fun callback to the older games is throwing enemies around like rag dolls or towards the screen itself, which remains satisfying even 30 years later. Each level seems to end with a boss, which in my case consisted of the iconic duo Bebop and Rocksteady. Both brought a relative challenge that made me be more conservative on when to attack and focus more on dodging. I also can’t fail to mention the funk and groove that is Shredder Revenge’s fantastic soundtrack.
The soundtrack isn’t the only notable new thing in a game full of nostalgic nods. Also new to Shredder’s Revenge is the ability to choose April O’Neil and Master Splinter as playable characters for the very first time, with four total players being the max by either local couch co-op or online play. There will be two primary modes available at launch: Story and Arcade mode. From what the developers told me during my play session, the only main difference between the two modes is that Story will allow you to upgrade your characters health and super bars while Arcade will have you at base level throughout. For those who are (or not) looking for a challenge you will be glad to know that there will be three difficulty levels the choose from to help personalize the experience you want.
Despite its beloved and iconic past, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge isn’t trying to break any barriers when it comes to the beat-’em-up genre and honestly, that’s OK. Everything that I’ve seen so far has been true to the TMNT brand, and it’s clear that a lot of tender love and care went into making this game live up to its past. So far so good. Chaotic combat, engaging boss fights, and a killer soundtrack is what makes a great beat-‘em-up game, and Shredder’s Revenge is looking to check all those boxes when it comes out this Summer.