It’s great when a game can capture a moment. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is especially good at it, because it nails its goals across the board. It perfectly pays tribute to the 1987 cartoon series in an earnest way via maintaining the aesthetic and offering loving references. But at the same time, it’s calling back to the 1989 arcade game by offering that sort of experience, only with more modern quality of life adjustments and conveniences.
Channel 6 is under attack! The Foot Clan and Bebop are wreaking havoc. Naturally, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Splinter, and April come in to save the day. However, this is no isolated incident. The head from Krang’s android body is also there, and Shredder’s minions were there to reclaim it. What follows is a series of “episodes” in which our heroes beat down familiar minions from the 1987 series, watch as the exo-suit parts are recollected, and hopefully thwart enemies’ evil plans. You know, while also collecting newspapers, nasty looking bugs, and VHS tapes for rescued supporting cast members.
The people at Tribute Games previously worked on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game, and you can tell while playing TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge. There’s the same feel to it. This is a combo-heavy game that encourages players to constantly beat up on opponents. (If you do so together at the same time, you might even trigger a team attack.) But while there is that, there’s a benefit to thinking before button-mashing. You can use charged attacks and dodge, and there are varying super attacks that rely on Ninja Power. (Though if you are going through the campaign, you’ll need to increase your Power Level via playing to unlock these extra actions.) It also very much encourages cooperating with others. Not only are there those team attacks, but you can share help by “cheering” someone up or go to an ally about to die and “wave pizza” near them to revive them.
Stages are filled with the sorts of nods to the original 1987 animated series people would expect. The stages go around New York City, with the group traveling to each one in the Party Wagon. Each location acts as an “episode,” with pacing designed to both feel like an entry in the show and a beat’em up along the lines of Streets of Rage. Stages could have hazards, like open manholes to fall into or telegraphed missiles occasionally raining down. Foot Clan members may be engaged in daily activities in the background, before leaping into the fight. Beating up certain landmarks can reveal characters like Irma, Vernon Fenwick, or the Punk Frogs. Finding them unlocks opportunities to find collectibles in stages for them for points. Also, each stage can have challenges like avoiding being hit by certain projectiles or clearing it without using a specific attack. At the end of each area, a classic foe like Rocksteady shows up as the boss. It generally feels fantastic! Every stage is essentially a love letter to the show, complete with little callbacks if you pay attention.
There’s only one time I didn’t have a good time with TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is when aerial enemies were involved. Certain stages involve the team on hoverboards and skateboards. When it comes to characters’ aerial attacks, it means they perform a dive kick while in midair, rather than launching into an aerial combo. It means constantly picking at a foe, hoping to get the positioning right and nail one or two hits. (Unless you’re Donatello and perform his special, in which case the AOE takes out everybody adjacent to and above him.) This also meant one boss fight felt a bit more frustrating. Not because it was especially challenging, but because you had to deal with those flying foes.
But really, aside from those enemies, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is quite balanced. There are three difficulty levels going into it. Both basic opponents and bosses telegraph their attacks, so you can properly respond to them. The more ordinary foes are both color-coded and carry weapons, to help make them easy to distinguish. Health-restoring items come up at handy moments, which means it feels as manageable alone as it does with other people. The Arcade Mode feels like going into an arcade and playing, due to the lack of a save state, no need to unlock moves, and keeping track of lives. The campaign feels more relaxed, as it encourages someone to replay, perhaps test out other characters, and take their time. I was disappointed to find you don’t get multiple save files for the Story Mode. So once you start an adventure, you pretty much need to keep continuing it or lose everything you’ve done.
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge feels like a time capsule. You can tell going into it that the people at Tribute Games deeply respected the source material. They did their research, both in terms of watching the show and playing past titles. It is also absolutely evident that they worked on similar sorts of games, because it often feels as fluid as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game. There are a few situations that frustrated me, but it’s genuinely a joyful experience.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge will come to the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on June 16, 2022.