Our review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, developed by Tribute Games. Available now for PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Switch, Windows, and Linux. Sadly, no Amiga port has been announced. Yet.
WHAT IS IT?
Your favourite Saturday morning cartoon, come to 16-bit life.
IS IT GOOD?
It’s so arcade-perfect the only thing missing is a sticky floor.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
Ninjas. Turtles. Millennials.
When I was a kid, my German cousin came to live with us for a year. One of the earliest computer geeks, he arrived in our already nerdy household loaded to bear with floppy disks for our Amiga 500 home computer. Prior to his arrival, my Amiga time mostly consisted of fooling around in the Wizkid demo or trying to make sense of the Amiga’s rudimentary art program. The influx of a library’s worth of imported games changed everything.
There were some real masterpieces on the Amiga, a system that, to this day, remains rightly revered as one of the greatest computers of all time. Lemmings, one of the first great puzzle-strategy games, had me spending hours trying to save every one of those cute little worker gremlins. Arkanoid took the Breakout template for “block breaker” video games, and perfected it. The long-forgotten Gods (seriously, even I’d forgotten about it until I started writing this article) combined platforming with run-and-gun combat and light puzzling for one of the best action games of the era. I still listen to the Lotus Turbo Challenge 2 soundtrack on a regular basis.
In hindsight, the presence of a Lotus-brand video game should have tipped me to the Europeanness of our imported game library. But if childhood me wasn’t up to speed on my car brands, there was one thing that stood out about our new gaming collection. That Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles game might have looked like my favourite cartoon… but what the heck was up with that title?
LEAN, GREEN, AND MEAN
The “Hero Turtles” game of my childhood might have been a victim of pearl-clutching British censors, but even with that ridiculous rebranding it remained a favourite long after the Amiga 500 had gone the way of the dodo. Some thirty years later, the brand new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is here to give me, and others like me, a serious dose of nostalgia.
Players familiar with the (vastly superior) arcade version of TMNT will be right at home. I may have a soft spot for my weird Amiga port, but I’m the first to admit that TMNT Arcade was the better version: bright, loud, and, next to fellow Konami title X-Men Arcade, the closest a game had yet come to looking like a playable Saturday morning cartoon. TMNT could also, significantly, accommodate four players, not to mention all the quarters you and your friends could scrape together from allowance money.
TMNT is only the latest in a string of retro sequels that like to pretend the past several decades of gaming never occurred. But unlike something like Streets of Rage 4, which improved upon its pixelated forebears with updated gameplay and visuals, this latest TMNT looks, sounds, and feels like the exact same game I was playing three decades ago on my Amiga.
Developers, please take note: this isn’t necessarily a good thing! I may love and revisit the Sonics and Hero Turtles of yesteryear, but it’s one thing to dust off the ole Amiga, and quite another for a modern PS4/5 game to ignore decades’ worth of video game evolution. Shredder’s Revenge is fun, yes, and to be honest I kinda lost track of our Amiga a few years ago (I think it’s in my dad’s storage locker), but if you’re asking me to shell out (ha!) for something new, well, it needs to be something new.
That said, Revenge‘s delivery of more of the same happens to be a very good same. The side-scrolling combat, the six-player(!) multiplayer, the retro chiptunes and sound effects: it’s all here in fine form, and is sure to hit you with a pang of nostalgia. The added ability to play as April O’Neil, Splinter, and Casey Jones is in many ways an improvement. Still, it’s odd, and disappointing, that Revenge could quite literally be mistaken for a Super Nintendo game.
There are a few signs that corners have been cut on Shredder’s Revenge. For one, it bugs me that, thanks to lazy online matchmaking, you have no control over what level you’re thrown into when you hop online. The first time I joined a random session online, at a point when I’d barely completed Level 1, I was dropped into the penultimate level, since that’s the stage my random online teammate had reached. The audio in Shredder’s Revenge could also use a bit of work; original cartoon voice actors return to key roles, but the performances themselves are lackluster. Probably Revenge‘s worst sin is that, despite being based on a Saturday morning cartoon, most cutscenes consist of static images with overlaid text. If you’re going to swing for hardcore nostalgia, it’s a whiff if you can’t even be bothered to replicate the original animation.
These qualms aside, Revenge is a happy addition to the modern/retro gaming landscape, which is having a bit of a moment. It plays impeccably, it revels in its pixelated glory, and there’s enough here to satisfy a few extended co-op sequences with your friends gathered around the TV. If all you need is Donatello doing machines or Raphael being cool but crude, this game is for you.
Final score: 8/10 peanut butter and clam pizzas.
Visit the official website for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge here.