Available On: PC, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Played On: Switch
Few franchises represent the attitude of the late 80s and early 90s better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Turtles popularity rose alongside the modern video game industry, and the action-packed cartoon provided the perfect template for side-scrolling beat ’em ups.
Like Streets of Rage 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a modern successor to decades-old beat ’em ups, proving that the formula is still successful — doubly so with friends and family.
Toys to Life
True to the genre, Shredder’s Revenge doesn’t have much story. The turtles, along with Master Splinter and ever-present ally April O’Neil, witness some hijinks with villains around the city. Action figure villains such as Rocksteady, Dr. Stockman, and Metalhead are recovering pieces of the mastermind Krang. Our heroes chase villains throughout the Big Apple, including through amusement parks, museums, sewers, and into Dimension X.
Up to six players can join in the co-op action through story or arcade mode (the latter greatly limiting the number of lives). Each character has their own speed, range, and power rating, as well as visually distinct super moves. Super move bars are charged by attacking, or through a funny taunt each character can perform — which is a little too easy to charge in between fighting waves of enemies.
Despite having only one dedicated attack button, players can squeeze out a lot of moves by comboing with the slide, jump, grab, and dash moves. The slide (or dodge) button creates a faster pace than many beat ’em ups, though I found it tricky to space the landing, often rolling right into danger during tricky boss battles.
Tribute Games absolutely nailed the look and feel of classic Ninja Turtles. From the second the intro video plays, we’re treated to an impressive homage to the original cartoon. The bright, color-popping art style makes every character and vehicle come to life, especially the boss battles, and bring fond memories of boxes full of toy action figures. It’s a good thing it looks so good, as the enemy Foot ninjas make for boring enemies, even when equipped with various weapons.
Fearsome Fighting Teens
Shredder’s Revenge introduces character progression for each fighter, a rarity in the genre. Defeating enemies, finding collectibles (and completing sets), and completing level-specific challenges earns points. Each character gains improved stats and unlocks new abilities upon passing certain point thresholds.
It’s an interesting system that rewards side task completion. But it also creates disparity between co-op players, with stronger players unlocking more powerful moves and getting even stronger.
The game’s biggest flaw is that it’s weaker in nearly every way to 2020’s Streets of Rage 4, another modernized retro fighting game based on a classic beat ’em up series.
Streets of Rage 4 featured much more interesting enemies, level designs, and traps. The fighters were way more distinct. The story was told through fun comic panels with actual dialogue. Combat was much tighter and more precise, and the soundtrack was incredible.
That’s not to say Shredder’s Revenge is a bad game — just the opposite. I’m overjoyed that we have two recent, wonderful beat ’em ups dripping with nostalgia. Shredder’s Revenge is the far easier and more kid-friendly game, making it the better option for younger kids as well as older fans of the classic cartoon.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is rated E10+ for Fantasy Violence. Defeated enemies pop or explode out of existence, and there’s zero blood or gore.
Despite being the perfect target for Turtles nostalgia, I would ultimately rather play Streets of Rage 4 to fulfill my beat ’em up needs. Shredder’s Revenge is still a fantastic offering, however, offering an energetic and youth-friendly modernized entry into the classic genre.