The beat em’ up genre is a bit of a time capsule from the arcade era. Many games don’t use the format for a variety of reasons, but there’s no denying the impact the genre had not only on the gaming industry, but forming friendships and communities in an era of less accessible games. With changes to game production and less limitations, there has been little reason to continue the genre as a main staple of games, but every once in a while a title will come around and take a crack at bringing back some memories of a time past in their own way. A modern spin on a classic property and genre, TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge takes all the most fun parts of beat em’ ups and neatly packages them into a game enjoyable at all levels without any commitment.
There’s a certain cocktail of retro that just feels right whichever way you look at it, and the Turtles in a beat em’ up setting is honestly one of them. With an art style, music, and mechanics that feel right at home for the crew, Shredder’s Revenge really saw everything that made older titles fun and said “we’ve got this”. Even playing with a keyboard was hassle free which is rare for most titles like this. There was a fluidity to the controls and combos that was not expected, and proved the developers really thought of everything. As far as beat em’ ups go, Shredder’s Revenge has been the easiest to pick up and the hardest to put down in my experience.
With animations and personality defined essentially only in static cutscenes, there’s a lot to be said about the sprite-work in this game. Every character’s personality is shown in every single animation and weapon choice, and is incredibly faithful to the source material. Even characters beyond the turtles are playable like Master Splinter and April O’Neil, and they both have distinct advantages and disadvantages. The progression system is on a per-character basis and encourages a lot of trying out new things. While every character has a base stat line and certain advantages, the game won’t punish you for giving someone new a shot either to level them up or just to give their moveset a try. This is useful in the earlier levels for finding a rhythm to go into the rest of the game with, as it’s relatively easy to find a certain playstyle or combo to enjoy using more than the others. While the depth isn’t as close to fighting games on the level of something like River City Girls, there’s enough enemy and boss variety combined with traps and interactables to keep every level interesting, making sure each run won’t go the same twice.
The award winner of Shredder’s Revenge is how it very uniquely captures not only the overall aesthetic and attitude of the Ninja Turtles, but of the era they’re from as well. Every environment and enemy is very painstakingly made to give off that grungy and rebellious 80s-90’s feel while still looking approachable and stylized for the modern day. Combined with beautiful sprite works and the detail that goes into some pieces like the boss splash arts,
Shredder’s Revenge feels like it could just be the absolute best beat em’ up from the late 90s that just survived the test of time and was ported from console to console. In every good way it feels like an arcade game to play with friends after school without a care in the world, with none of the drawbacks of having to commute to an arcade or waste a million quarters because the enemy placement was just hard enough to get you killed. The adjustable difficulty and lack of punishing game overs really keeps players engaged even when things seem the most out of control. Notorious vehicular levels are dozens of times more manageable, and there’s incentive to not only try out different characters, but attempt to clear waves with stage traps or with moves that might not be as easy to pull off. Taunting serves a clear purpose as well, and the reward of getting a super bar makes it entirely worth attempting to pull off even in boss fights.
Even those who have never picked up a beat em’ up game before would have fun with TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge if only for the fact that it feels really fun to play. This is a title that older players and fans of TMNT would adore, but can absolutely find footing in a friend group that is new to both. The colorful characters and environments and accessibility of the game make it fun to grind through alone, but an absolute blast with a party. This is also remedied by the fact that there’s online multiplayer and party finding, so playing in a group is always an option. While some of the more tedious parts of the genre can show during longer sessions, there are certainly very few titles that can match the love that went into TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge; and even fewer that are just as much fun to play.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC