Shredder’s Revenge served hot in sequel
As a connoisseur of most things related to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I find that the first two movies, the comics and the first animated show are worth my time. In addition to those mentioned, certain games are acceptable uses of my hard-earned scrilla. I am a discerning fan, and my dollars and time are precious. So, it is with great joy and elation that I spread the word that TMNT games have recovered slightly from the Dimension X portal that the franchise fell into and the latest game, Shredder’s Revenge, is proof of this return to glory.
Conceived as a tribute game of sorts, Shredder’s Revenge takes everything we found awesome about TMNT II: The Arcade Game and TMNT IV: Turtles in Time and ramps up the awesome level. The story continues Turtles in Time, which was a wise choice. The Turtles find Rocksteady and Bebop and their adjacent villain associates guarding Krang’s exoskeleton head in various locations including Manhattan and Dimension X. Apparently, Shredder is alive and kicking again after being toppled on top of the Statue of Liberty in 1992. In 2022, he wants revenge for the Turtles stopping this particular plot of mayhem of using Lady Liberty to take over the world. Because they’re used to Shredder’s foolishness — bear in mind this is 1986 cartoon Shredder, not comic book Shredder who wasn’t a major villain — the Turtles and their friends and family band together to stop the revenge plot once and for all.
Adding April O’Neil, Casey Jones and Splinter alongside the Turtles was a smart move. It’s almost inconceivable now that we were never able to play as those three supporting characters in a Turtles beat-’em-up before, and it has to be allowed in future games. Once you get going with a character chosen, the level-up system is quick and easy to learn. And learn you will because there are so many ways to dispatch Foot Clan soldiers and other enemies for points that work within the system. It’s almost too much to keep up with, especially in the heat of battle where knowing the correct way to dispatch a boss is important. Having some previous knowledge of Turtles in Time helps tremendously, and there are in-game instructions and a tutorial, but it’s nigh overwhelming. Though, to be fair, I’d rather have too much than too little. The game is giving me a feast and thankfully, the controls are easy to grasp and clean as you romp through 16 gorgeous levels.
The game looks just as fantastic as well as it controls. The art immediately dips into the nostalgia of the original afterschool show and had me humming the super ’80s theme song. This is the area where that tribute comes into play. If you’re a fan of the show, you will love everything about how the game looks, feels, and sounds. Well, almost.
While the soundtrack is also fantastic, we can’t not mention the atrocious remake of the theme song. Of all of the music chosen to remake, the theme show is the one track that you don’t mess with. It is a reverent piece of pop culture history and is sacred to most Turtle fans, including myself. My 42-year-old adult self knows the words by heart and has it in digital form; it’s on that level for me. So, hearing the theme butchered as it were in Shredder’s Revenge had me taken aback. I was grievously wounded but the soul still burns in this old Turtle girl. Because the rest of the soundtrack is great ’80s centric pop, tunes snatched directly from the early seasons of the TV show, and beautiful voicework from the original animated cast, I can let the remake theme slide, but it better not be in the sequel.
My only other gripe here is the difficulty level. Even on the easiest difficulty, there were a lot of arcade rip-off tendencies going on. Tactics like enemy AI ganging up on characters with already low health, not-so-clean hits from off-screen enemies that you can’t see and losing health rather quickly ran as rampant as those Stone Soldiers that Krang employed. Any levels involving vehicles and flying are impossibly hard and feel designed to be annoyingly frustrating. Boss fights, I’m fine with; they’re supposed to be hard. But regular levels beyond the first stage were like this on easy difficulty, which is obnoxious. It was like trying to play TMNT II: The Arcade Game all over again and watching the cabinet steal my money out of my pocket. It feels unfair and set up to be against the player, which is unfortunate. Knowing that going into the experience now makes it a little easier to navigate but is a detraction.
Despite a try-hard collision system that keeps it from obtaining legendary status, Shredder’s Revenge is a nice love letter to older TMNT fans who were around for the original craze. The quirks are noticeable, but Shredder’s Revenge tries really hard in every other area, and it succeeds well. Let’s call it a Cowabunga for now.