TUCSON, Ariz. — "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge" acts as though the last 30 years never happened, and we're still squarely in the era of quarter-chomping arcade brawlers.
The side-scrolling beat-them-up from developer Tribute Games seeps its throwback effort in the 1980s and early 90s nostalgia, from the 16-bit-style graphics to the cheesy soundtrack.
Inspired by the early TV shows, movies, and games from the bygone era, the new entry is out to recapture nostalgia for older gamers and strike up interest in the new generation.
Phil Villarreal: I was smiling the entire time I played. The six-player simultaneous co-op revives memories of the old "X-Men" arcade game, and it's refreshing to be able to play as April or Splinter in addition to the four turtles. The levels are filled with little in-jokes and callbacks to past games and series, and the backgrounds are as deliciously 1980s as "Stranger Things."
What were your first impressions, Sean?
Sean Newgent: This is as nostalgic as video games can get. Being old enough to have played "The Simpsons" and "X-Men" at the arcade before arcades slipped into the depths of obscurity, the very fact that publishers are willing to bring that experience to new audiences while honoring the nostalgia of those who grew up with this style of game makes me so happy. Booting this up and seeing the gorgeous sprite-work, the ear-worm soundtrack, and that quick, simple plot that doesn't require anything more than four screens and a couple of lines of pixelated dialogue put a smile on my face.
As you said, every screen is full of little jokes and references that draw the eye away from the action. It's the kind of irreverence that so many games like "Shredder's Revenge" reveled in back in the day.
Did the gameplay transport you back thirty years like the graphics and tone, Phil?
Phil: It truly did. I'm already trying to get the same friends I used to play these games in the arcades and dorms to get this on Switch, so we romp through the game together.
There is something to be said about genius in simplicity, and that's what Tribute Games excels at here. The studio made its bones on the underappreciated "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Game" adaptation and continues its trajectory here. "Shredder's Revenge" pulses with true joy and is bolstered with tons of quality-of-life improvements that make it more manageable than the arcade games you referenced.
I'm not ashamed to reveal that my first play-through is on the nearly offensively easy "Chill" mode, which allowed me to get the lay of the land before I tried to make it through on the harsher difficulty levels.
Do you think the replayability will hold up, Sean?
SN: It will for sure hold up over multiple replays. With such a wide variety of characters to play, offering different play styles and a cursory level-up system — as well as the obligatory side quest collections and challenges for each level — there's a lot of reason to return to each level and 100% it.
I can see myself picking the game up to play it multiple times, especially given the fact you can beat the whole thing in an afternoon.
"Shredder's Revenge" is a faithful, gorgeous, and absolutely entertaining homage to the games many of us grew up on, and the sheer simplicity of it is refreshing in a gaming market so saturated with overcomplicated, open-world blockbusters. Whether a turtles fan or not, this is well worth playing. Especially if you can get a couple of friends to join in, order a pizza, and recreate the magic of the 90s gaming scene.
The publisher provided review codes. Phil played the game on Switch. Sean played on PS4.
Past game reviews by Sean and Phil:
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Diablo II Resurrected
NEO: The World Ends with You
Rainbow Six: Extraction
King of Fighters XV
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga