The four turtles, Casey, and April run across New York City's streets in TMNT: Shredder's Revenge.

I Have No Idea What a ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’ Is. But ‘Shredder’s Revenge’ Is Dope

I know nothing about these turtles. But their game sure is fun.

Do not ask me what a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle is. Do not ask me to name all four, their arch nemesis, or what weapons they use. I do know they like pizza, they live in New York City, and they’re buds with a short-haired news anchor named April O’Neil. I think they live in a sewer, and an art history teacher 14 years ago told me they’re named after Renaissance artists. Otherwise, I am absolutely not a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan.

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However, I did enjoy Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge quite a bit, despite my lack of turtle knowledge. It’s obviously a huge labor of love for the series as a whole, chocked full of references to the original SNES and arcade game Turtles in Time. It’s also just an incredibly fun beat-’em-up with a lot of charm thrown in.

What is this Shredder and who are these dang turtles?

Let me summarize, to the best of my ability, what TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is about. The turtles are hanging out when, suddenly, they discover that Channel 6 news has been hijacked and the Statue of Liberty is under siege for a brand new diabolical makeover. The plan is spearheaded by none other than the menacing disembodied brain Krang and the elite titular ninja, Shredder. The turtles, their rat mentor Splinter, and April spring into action to save the day, and that’s when the fighting begins.

And the fighting is pretty good. Despite a relatively lengthy tutorial to get you started, movement and combat is breezy and sleek in Shredder’s Revenge. You can chain combos with your basic attack, roll out of harm’s way, launch baddies into the air, and store up your Ninja Power to unleash devastating Super Attacks. Throw enemies into each other, slam them to the ground, and, in some cases, even chuck them at the screen. Rinse, repeat, and get to the end of the level, where you’ll do battle with one of many iconic TMNT villains (my favorite is the Dame of Games, Tempestra, a total baddie who Shredder brings out of an arcade cabinet).

Watching over 20 different attack explainers can feel a bit daunting at first, but executing moves is surprising smooth. On normal and easy difficulties, you can more or less button mash your way to victory, as long as you’re dodging now and then, generally aware of your surroundings, and have already figured out how to counter your enemies.

These turtles are in trouble this time

The full roster of playable TMNT: Shredder's Revenge characters stand on a brightly colored background.
Image via Dotemu and Gamera Games

The character design, by the way, is great. Your main enemies are the Foot Clan, whose logo is, you guessed it, the bottom of a foot. These ninjas run around terrorizing New York City wielding swords, maces, nunchakus, and even their bare fists. Most of the game involves beating the ever-living crap out of them, which does not grow old.

Alongside them are robots, sci-fi gun-wielding dinosaurs, and alien monsters, including a drippy, slimey swamp creature made out of pizza that straddles you and tries to bite you. Yes, bite you. A number of enemies try to consume you in this game — one of the bigger bots sticks you straight in their mouth, and even the Coney Island-dwelling alligator Leatherhead can grab you and chuck you right in his maw.

If that wasn’t enough to spoil your appetite, don’t worry, there are other ways to find yourself incapacitated. Grabbed from behind? Check. Bound by nunchakus? Check. Bitten by rats and mini robots? Check and check. Each of these encounters forced me to manically mash my attack button to free a panicked April O’Neil from their clutches. It’s funny, breaks up the gameplay flow, and gives enemy combat a cartoony flare — while remaining just playful enough to prevent all that rope and maw-biting from going down a Totally Spies direction.

April O'Neil bound in TMNT: Shredder's Revenge.
Image via Dotemu and Gamera Games

Well, for the most part, anyway.

There’s so much charm in this game, in all seriousness. Enemies and bosses jerked around in rope, April and the turtles taunting their opponents for power-up bonuses, even the little joys of the player characters’ pixel art design in motion. The turtles look fantastic on the battlefield, watching their attacks play out over and over is legitimately entertaining, and the game’s special attacks are guaranteed to make you gasp (or, in April’s case, laugh as she drops a whole camera on her opponents). And there’s nothing better than the initial Shredder match-up, which is scored to an original rap song from Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah and Raekwon The Chef.

Yes, they got Wu-Tang for this game. Automatic 10 on Pitchfork.

TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge is definitely short but sweet. I think I clocked in a little over two hours before I hit the story’s main credits. And yes, given I still know very little about these mutant ninjas and these teenage turtles, a lot of the love and care that makes Shredder’s Revenge so cool is utterly lost on me.

But I know a good beat-’em-up when I see one. And I’ll happily shout “pizza time!” to that. Or whatever the turtles say, I forgot.

(Featured image: Dotemu and Gamera Games)


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Author
Ana Valens
Ana Valens (she/her) is a reporter specializing in queer internet culture, online censorship, and sex workers' rights. Her book "Tumblr Porn" details the rise and fall of Tumblr's LGBTQ-friendly 18+ world, and has been hailed by Autostraddle as "a special little love letter" to queer Tumblr's early history. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her ever-growing tarot collection.