TMNT Shredder’s Revenge Is Stull Fun For A Button-Mashing Idiot

TMNT Shredder’s Revenge Is Stull Fun For A Button-Mashing Idiot

A ninja turtle spinning attack to send goons flying in all directions around the street.

Screenshot: Tribute Games / Kotaku

There are two ways to play a beat’em up. You can carefully learn all the moves, practice performing them as you progress through the early levels, until you master your character’s move set and progress masterfully with demonstrations of ballet. Or, you can just hit all the buttons randomly and hope.

For reasons deserving of many other articles, there is a truly nasty intolerance among game players towards those who are not good at a particular genre. As we’ve seen many times, when a game reviewer is brave enough to upload a video of themselves being bad at a game, the reaction from the loudest parts of the internet is truly frightening, a real primal torch and pitchfork rage. Driven by fear, as all of these reactions are, the very idea that someone might be willing to show their weakness threatens these crowds on an existential level. In other news, I suck at beat ’em ups.

I’ve always been terrible with them, ever since their first race in the 1980s when I was a kid. Not because I’m unable to master them, because it’s clearly a possible skill to learn. But because I don’t want and am not interested in putting the required level of practice before I start to be good. To me, such games feel like homework, vast lists of moves to memorize, button combinations to repeat, then enemy attack patterns to learn, and you know what? I had other things to do. In the 80s, he was running around and falling into the nettles. In the 90s, it was smooching and failing exams. Or, more honestly, enjoy other types of games like FPS, RPGs, platformers, and adventures.

But I still played the beat’em up! Mostly demos, obviously, or in arcades, or on a friend’s Mega Drive. I was really terrible with them. Whether it’s side-scrolling a la Streets Of Rage or fighting games like your Street Fighters, my approach was that trusty shortcut after all learning and practice: button mashing. The moves you could pull off with this less refined technique were mind-boggling, allowing your character to unleash attacks your more devoted companion had never seen before.

“How did you do that?!” they would cry.

“I don’t know,” would be my infuriating response. “I guess I was just hitting those buttons while I was hammering the d-pad?”

The splash screen for the first boss fight, Bebop, in Shredder's Revenge.

Screenshot: Tribute Games / Kotaku

It is surprising how effective this technique remains to this day. Like a newbie at a poker table, the button hitter can be the most impossible, unpredictable opponent simply because he isn’t aware of the smooth running of things. Sometimes you can win the whole pot with the 7-2 off suit you should have folded before the flop, when he hits a full house, just because you walked in on him.

So does this apply to The Shredder’s Revenge? Well, to some extent. In the simplest mode, it seems entirely possible to make your way through most levels while having fun. But what kind of ridiculous is that? I am 44 years old. I have no excuse for approaching these games this way these days. I’m proud of my ability to avoid falling into nettles and I no longer have to fail exams. Smooching I have on tap. I could just learn the moves, right?

But something inside me still resists. I read the long, painful list of button combinations and tried to memorize as many as I could. I tried removing them as I played through the levels, and found that running past and then backing up is a good enough technique that most of the time a level could only be completed using this. Cheesing, I believe it’s called. But then a new type of enemy appears, and I find myself directly smashing to see if it can be obtained.

Not to mention the boss fights. Far be it from me to criticize Shredder’s Revenge, but I’m not in love with boss fights. like someone who hates the very concept of such things, I can at least recognize when there is a pattern to learn and exploit. Here, the Turtles’ biggest villains seem to be begging for a shuffling approach, so erratic are their approaches, and so often they spawn other regular enemies to shatter any sense of thoughtful attacks. I managed to pass a lot of them just by getting close enough and pressing all at once.

I can only imagine how infuriating this must be for anyone approaching the game with any degree of finesse or skill. But I think it’s also useful for those wondering if they would mess around with nostalgia, fearing it’s been infected and infested with the worst aspects of modern gaming. The curse of games being too hard for fun has thankfully not affected our turtle friends, and you’ll still have fun if you don’t have the patience or skill to master its millions of moves. Especially if you’re playing with someone else who isn’t into edgelording at all, because then you can laugh and have fun, even when things go wrong. In fact, it’s rather easier than the classic brawlers of the early 90s.

Beat up goons on the set of a daytime cooking show in Shredder's Revenge.

Screenshot: Tribute Games / Kotaku

Ultimately, my odd reaction to Shredder’s Revenge was to wish there was less, but more to do. Levels like the awful hoverboard are so long, with lots of repeats, and really lack the bottom-line joy of the more detailed on-foot locations. Plus, after a while, for a button press at least, there just doesn’t feel like there’s enough to do. It’s so faithful to the games it’s based on, but I would have liked to see more inspiration.

But if you, like me, have no desire or ability to become excellent at this kind of game, there is always fun to be found. Especially if you’re old enough to remember both the genre and the cartoon from the first time around. So crush it, without a moment of shame.


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