Shredder’s Revenge review: Retro games are back and better than ever

I’m sure there are flaws to Shredder’s Revenge (the new retro-styled Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles beat-‘em-up from Tribute and Dotemu). But I was having too much fun playing the game to think of any.

A traditional review checklist just doesn’t seem to matter when you’re on your third hour of playing and having so much fun you can’t even remember your name, or where you work, or that you’re over 35 now and will require sleep and sustenance at some point.

Shredder’s Revenge is fun, very fun.

This game is just that fun. We’ll get into why exactly in a moment. But, it just needs to be said that this game is stupendously, insanely, chaotically fun. Forget the platform debates, or online vs. individual features, story vs. gameplay, or the never-ending discussion on whether a retro game should be a faithful remake or a reimagined update, because, really, who cares as long as the game is mind-melting fun? We’re not splitting the atom here, we’re playing video games. They’re supposed to be fun. I’m not overthinking it.

I have fun just thinking about the game. It’s exactly what it is supposed to be and nothing that it’s not. There are few things in life that are just pure, simple, good, and just deliver what they promise with no overthought or complexity: a warm spring day, a hug from a friend, a breakfast burrito that really hits the spot. Shredder’s Revenge can now be added to the list. 

If I sound overly positive, to be fair, I was fully primed to jump back into the TMNT world guns blazing. This was by design. Before those first three hours of gameplay began, I got in the mood: I ordered a cheese pizza. I watched the old cartoons. I streamed the live action movies on HBO. (They hold up!) I even played the old NES games that this new installment is modeled after (with both Nickelodeon and Nintendo’s blessing). I wanted my mind to be right to leap back into the world of Heroes in a Half Shell. 

And I think this is what Dotemu and Tribute would’ve wanted. Their development of the game (and the others in their catalog both past and future) certainly seems to suggest so. Developers wouldn’t put this level of cinematic work into a game if that isn’t going to be the essence of the final product. Wu-Tang Clan members on the soundtrack and the unspeakably beautiful pixel-art graphics aren’t necessary for any gameplay, but it would be hard to picture why this retro game should exist without those additions. I wanted to absorb it all: the sound, the background art, the major features and the knickknacks, none of it is wasted. It’s just a beauty top to bottom. 

Dotemu and Tribute Games nailed this.

Everything about this game is just so fun. (Have I made this point yet?) It’s fun to set it on easy and button mash like you’re a kid at a Chuck E. Cheese, but it’s also fun to take the time to surgically learn all the moves. It’s fun to jump right into arcade mode but also to pay attention to all the collectibles and side wins in the longer story mode. It’s fun to just brawl like you’re in an action movie but also to take your time and smell the roses and peek at all the cool side art in the background. The game really is everything at once: old and new, beautiful yet pixelated, loud but 8-bit, simple then rich.

Shredder’s Revenge price and features

To be quantitative for a moment, it’s hard to think of a better value for $20–35 if you’re a gamer than Shredder’s Revenge. In the 1990s it would’ve cost about $150 to buy all three NES TMNT games, which would be about $300 today. But you can get everything those three games packed and more for about the price of the large cheese pizza I ate in its entirety before playing the game. It’s hard to top that value. (Naturally, you could beat the game in just a few hours if you wanted, but that’s up to you, and that minimum sounds about right for any arcade game.)

More specs: You can play in Story mode or Arcade mode. You can switch up the competitiveness between three levels (Chill, Okay, Gnarly). You can play online or off, and you can check the leaderboard if you think you’re up to the challenge either nationally or internationally. In terms of players, you can switch between any character, which includes the four turtles of course, but also April, Master Splinter, or the unlockable Casey Jones. There are plenty of features but not so many that it takes you out of the fun. 

My favorite part of the gameplay, by far, is the different abilities of the turtles. Their contrasting skills really affect how you play. Donatello’s reach with his staff is so much farther than the other terrapins it almost feels like a cheat code, but he’s so much slower that it’s easy to get stuck under falling debris. Leonardo is strong in all areas, as you might expect. Raphael is the strongest fighter, and Michelangelo is the quickest. There are real pros and cons to each player that you can plan for and strategize around. In that sense, the wildly simple game can get pretty complex if you want to approach it that way. 

I played Shredder’s Revenge on my Windows laptop via the Steam platform (with a PS2-style USB controller), but you can play it on Linux (via Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 (PS4) or Xbox One. And, you can no doubt have equal amounts of fun on all of them. 

So, to buy the game or not buy the game. That is the question here, right? I think you know what I would recommend.

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