TMNT: Shredder's Revenge

I’m old enough that I remember having the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 arcade cabinet at my local arcade. I never played the thing myself, but it had a reputation for being ludicrously difficult.

While at school one day, one of my friends excitedly told me a story about how he witnessed some little five-year-old kid attempt to play this notoriously difficult game. The kid was so short, according to the tale, that he couldn’t see the screen — he could just reach his hands up and fumble with the buttons. However, with a single credit, he managed to get through the entire game, absolutely devastating everything in his path. Not even Krang and Shredder could stand up against this kid’s blind talent. What a legend!

Obviously, this never actually happened. I was a pretty gullible kid back then, and even then, this story was a bridge too far. There’s just no way these events were actually true.

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - Central Park Zoo

But with the release of Dotemu’s TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge, I kind of feel like I tapped into the magic that this totally-not-real kid had at his disposal back then. I’m really good at this game.

Okay, so there are three difficulty levels here: Chill, Okay, and Gnarly. I played on Chill, which was the dirty secret behind my magical winning powers. But, I mean, this game is a basic side-scrolling brawler in the vein of Streets of Rage; combat isn’t especially deep, and higher challenge levels don’t really seem to add anything meaningful to the game for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love brawlers like this. I grew up in the Sega Genesis era, and I played as many of these games as I could get my hands on. I still have a lot of affection for them to this day. I’m just acknowledging that the charm is in the simple, pick-up-and-play nature of these mindless brawlers. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is something you could chill with for an hour after a hard day of work, then put it down for three months, then come back to it and still have a blast. These sorts of games serve a very specific purpose, and I love that they exist.

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - Channel 6 News

And this is a pretty darn good brawler. It feels really good to play, even if you just button-mash your way through the trash mobs that stand between you and victory (at least on Chill difficulty). If you do want to get deeper in the weeds, though, the controls are a lot more complex than you might expect.

To illustrate this: The first time you fire up the game, you’ll be met with some slides that explain how to play. Each slide has an animation that shows the move being performed, along with the corresponding button combo. And, I kid you not, there are 21 slides in this presentation.

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - How to Play

Even though this is very clearly a retro-throwback brawler, there are some modern upgrades that bring TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge to some of the standards of 2022. For example, if you play in Story mode, you can choose one of six characters (and a seventh once you complete the game for the first time). Your character will earn points and level up, which will unlock more health, more lives, and, occasionally, new moves. This gives you a sense of progression, and even if you choose to start the game over, there’s an option that lets you carry over character progress (called “power levels” by the game). Each character can level up to 10, which means there are 70 levels to grind, if you’re into that.

The game’s world contains 16 stages in total, and almost every stage features collectibles to look out for. These are generally not hidden away in super sneaky places, though there are a couple that you might miss on your first playthrough.

I’ve seen people reporting that they were able to get through the game in about two hours, though that seems super fast to me. I spent about five hours with the game myself, but I did start over a couple times and I made sure to locate every single collectible. I even replayed some levels several times to see if I could complete all the challenges.

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - Pause Menu

Oh yeah, every stage features a series of challenges for the checklist-inclined. Some of these challenges are pretty easy, like defeating two enemies with a special move, but some of them ask you to get through a stage without taking any damage. Even on Chill, those require a pretty serious commitment to learning stage layouts and combat mechanics.

So the amount of entertainment you get out of this game is completely up to you. If you’re a one-and-done sort of player, the game will be over in a few short hours. If you want to collect everything, unlock every challenge, and rank all your characters up to the max level, you’ll be in for a grind. I imagine that you could spend maybe a dozen hours with this if you’re a completionist.

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is pretty much the exact game you’re expecting if you’ve seen any of its trailers. It’s a retro throwback that commits to its aesthetic, but is also willing to throw in a few modern conveniences to prevent it from feeling stale.

TMNT: Shredder's Revenge - Secret Diary

If somehow that five-year-old kid from my local arcade actually does exist, he’s in his mid-30s by now. I hope he settles in after a stressful day at the office, grabs a cold beer out of the fridge, and downloads TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge to remind himself that he’s an absolute legend.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge for PS4, though I played it on PS5. The opinions expressed in this article, however, are my own.

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