Ever since the two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade beat ‘em ups from Konami, the heroes in a half-shell have epitomized co-op gaming. Sure, there have been solo titles (including an underappreciated Metroidvania entry from WayForward), but gamers clearly expect co-op from Turtles games. Some later-day cooperatives entries like Mutants in Manhattan and Out of the Shadows have failed to hit the mark, lacking polish and misunderstanding what fans really want from a TMNT game. Tribute Games and Dotemu really do know what fans want, though. That’s why Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is so fantastic, combining what gamers loved about the original TMNT beat ‘em ups, loads of fan service and reverence, stellar production values, and amazing 6-player co-op into one crowd-pleasing package.
Shredder’s Revenge starts with an animated introduction of similar style and quality to that of Streets of Rage 4, providing a new spin on the 1987 cartoon’s intro. Mike Patton’s cover of the original theme song is almost as good as the original, and the animated scenes are quite cool despite some poorly drawn Turtle faces. The game also features a second, more Turtles in Time-esque pixel art introduction that sets the narrative in motion. In it, Shredder’s minions hijack a routine newscast and take over the Channel 6 building. The Turtles and their friends witness the event and quickly set out to kick some shell!
The game features two modes: Story and Arcade. Story mode is the meat of the game, implementing a map that allows players to replay stages in any order, character leveling, stage-specific challenges, and special requests (side missions). Characters in Story mode level up by earning score from defeating enemies and completing challenges and special requests. Leveling characters increases their moveset and hit points slightly, and there is a time-consuming Achievement for fully leveling all seven characters. The primary local player’s account earns levels for all characters used in local co-op games, so local co-op can accelerate character-specific progress significantly. Online players only gain levels for the specific characters they use, but getting to take your progress and beefy character(s) with you is always good.
Story mode’s challenges tend to consist of defeating enemies in certain ways and avoiding certain types of damage or death. Challenges don’t have their own Achievement, oddly, but they’re still fun to complete. Cameos and special requests, on the other hand, do contribute to several Achievements. A total of ten cameo characters from the 1987 cartoon pop up throughout Story mode. These friendlies assign side missions for finding their specific collectibles, such as locating Burne’s newspapers or Irma’s diaries. The desired items are found in breakable objects throughout certain levels, making them hard to miss. The character who requests each item even tells you which stages they’re in, so the collectibles cause zero frustration for once.
Shredder’s Revenge consists of 16 stages, about as many as the two original arcade games added together. The stages include a handful of familiar locations, but they mostly represent new locales. Tribute Games really matches and occasionally exceeds the arcade games’ level design, with stages that feature varying topography and scroll in more than just a single direction. Skating and surfing stages return, giving players a break from beating up on all the new types of foot soldiers, returning arcade enemies, and a few new baddies from the show. Speaking of which, the bosses are truly a highlight of the new game. Bebop, Rocksteady, and a few arcade mainstays return, but the new characters from later seasons of the show are some of the most fun to fight.
As for Arcade mode, it’s basically a streamlined version of Story. Players progress through the game in a linear fashion. Gone are cameos, special requests, replaying stages, and even character leveling. Each player gets a limited number of continues as well, adding to the challenge. Even though Arcade is missing some of Story’s cool new features, it’s still a fine choice for players who seek a more traditional TMNT arcade experience.
The beat ‘em up gameplay in Shredder’s Revenge does a great job of capturing the classic arcade feel while adding plenty of depth. On top of attack and jump buttons, there are now buttons to perform super attacks, dodge, taunt, and even a co-op button. Double-tap in a direction to dash, then hit a button to perform a dash move. The arcade games’ old attack plus jump attack has been replaced by an uppercut-style rising attack that’s even more fun. Because enemies can now be juggled, players can do a rising attack and then follow up with more aerial moves on their way to the ground.
Also enjoyable is the improved grapple system. In Turtles in Time, players could sometimes throw staggered Foot soldiers, but it basically happened at random. Now, simply pressing toward a nearby Foot soldier will grab him. From there, players can left or right plus attack to throw the Foot horizontally, damaging nearby enemies; up plus attack to perform a fling slam, or down plus attack to throw the Foot toward the screen. This arsenal of throws is a lot of fun, though it can be tough to successfully grab enemies during chaotic multiplayer games. Non-Foot soldiers can’t be grabbed, either, but probably 80 percent of enemies are Foot soldiers, so that’s not much of an issue.
Each of the seven playable characters (the Turtles, Splinter, April, and the unlockable Casey Jones) has varying stats, but they play quite similarly. Where they differ a little more are their character-specific taunts and super attacks. Taunts take a little time to perform, but successfully doing so charges up the player’s super meter. The player can then perform a powerful super attack (with additional variations unlocking via leveling in Story mode) at the cost of one level of the meter.
Super attacks are impressive-looking and helpful at bosses, but taunts and supers inadvertently have a negative effect on the pace of the game. A player who performs abundant supers can get way more kills than one who doesn’t, building score/EXP faster and likely earning props on the end-of-level screen. Super moves deal good damage against bosses, too, making them fairly essential during those battles. As a result, many players spend the whole game alternating between taunts and supers. Taunts slow things down, whereas spamming supers diminishes the rest of the combat system. This would be less of a problem when playing solo or with friends, but it’s unfortunate nonetheless. Tribute Games should either rebalance super moves or add an option for online hosts to limit or disable them.
Co-op moves, on the other hand, don’t harm the multiplayer experience one bit. Players can actually hit the co-op button at any time to high five another player, bestowing two units of their own health. Downed players can be “reanimated” (revived) by pressing and holding the co-op button for a few seconds before the injured player’s timer expires. On top of these mainstay co-op moves, the game also has three team attacks: sandwiching enemies, spinning a partner, and hitting an enemy thrown by another player. These moves require specific circumstances that make them hard to perform in chaotic settings, but they’ll sometimes happen by accident, livening things up a bit.
Clearly, Shredder’s Revenge has a significant cooperative element. To that end, both Story and Arcade mode can be played with up to six players on all platforms but PlayStation, which is limited to four players in local games. Enemy count scales based on the number of players, so 6-player games get extremely chaotic! Making it easier to get large games going, the non-PlayStation platforms support combo co-op. That means that multiple local players can play with online players in the same game, an excellent feature that more games should allow. The game has a built-in party system to facilitate group play as well.
It has been reported that Shredder’s Revenge supports crossplay between Xbox and PC but not other platforms. Having tested both of the Xbox and Steam versions, I can confirm that they have an option to enable or disable crossplay. However, it doesn’t look like the Steam version can play with Xbox at all. Instead, there’s a Windows Store version of the game that none of the press releases or trailers mention, and THAT’s the version that can play with Xbox. Expanded crossplay is probably in the cards for Shredder’s Revenge, but it’s quite limited at present. If compatibility improves in the future, we’ll update this review.
While we’re on the subject of different platforms, I’m happy to report that Shredder’s Revenge is fully Steam Deck compatible! The game runs perfectly on Valve’s portable console. The Steam version also has solid graphical settings, including resolution, window type, and Vsync. In less happy news, both the Xbox and Steam versions (plus, I hear, other versions) are a bit buggy at launch. I’ve experienced a few crashes on Xbox and a boss freezing and becoming unkillable on Steam. Launching a complex game on four platforms simultaneously is a real QA challenge, but these issues will likely be fixed over time.
A single playthrough of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge‘s Story mode will take about two hours in total. That’s actually pretty long to continuously play a beat ‘em up, given that genuine arcade games tend to top out at an hour in length. Shredder’s Revenge lacks the robust RPG elements of River City Girls or Castle Crashers, but that doesn’t mean it’s a one-and-done game, either. Between Story mode’s numerous objectives and the pick-up-and-play nature of Arcade mode, players who like beat ‘em ups and/or teenage turtles will get plenty of adventures out of this one. Shredder’s Revenge was made by fans (and many talented artists) for the fans, and it truly succeeds at being the best TMNT beat ‘em up ever made.
Xbox and Steam review codes were provided by the publisher.
The Co-Op Experience: Players can choose from all four Turtles, Splinter, April, and Casey Jones (the unlockable character), and then team up to defeat the Shredder and his minions. Co-op moves include high-fiving to share health with another player, reviving downed players, and three multiplayer moves: sandwich attack, tubular spin, and the homerun swing.
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