>> Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge

Finished story mode on XBox at Hard difficulty with April

As a fan of Streets of Rage 4, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is another good brawler with a casual multiplayer focus. I do not have nostalgia for the franchise, so my thoughts are of it as a solo brawler. I can excuse a lack of features and quality of life such as a better lobby system, key bindings/macros, advanced tutorials, but the core combat is a bit messy and unpolished in a few ways.

The first choice players make is selecting their character. Although they differ in stats (power, range and speed) and move effects, they all practically control the same that lowers character complexity and uniqueness. While this design choice is meant for a casual audience, the problem is that these characters still have their differences in their specials and combos which can deceive and mislead players of its possible depth. If the player community is ranking characters, the game is doing itself a disservice. While I prefer mechanical differences, adding character specific tutorials, videos or indicators would have easily solved this.

For the meat of the game, the combat system is quite fluid with animation canceling and the anti-air move. While I do want advanced concepts like hitting enemies of the ground or wall, enemies have such a low health pool that I understand its exclusion. Talking about its issues, I have three major issues which players can get hit unfairly. The first is that normal moves cannot cancel into special moves instantly which is vulnerable window. The second is that grabs are implemented poorly and risky without any invincibility frames, crowd control or strong damage specially where grabs can be accidental. The third is the attack magnetism or homing nature of the running and dodge attack which can hit the wrong enemy, ruin positioning or flow. Other than that, the combat is okay although more mechanics and options are welcome.

Considering enemy design next, I do not like how almost all enemies can anti-air which makes aerial attacks unsafe or risky. Perhaps only certain enemies can anti-air which would signal against anti-air than being guesswork. Some enemies can block where grabs should have effective; however, grabs have their own issue and the other options such as special moves are more viable. Certain enemies can also cancel grabs unless they have been damaged which has no clear indicator. A special grab action can remove an enemy instantly which I think the game is preventing for these special enemies. Perhaps removing that optional grab action can allow grabs to be more consistent. Some enemies have power armor before attacking which means failing to interrupt or stagger enemies. Overall, fighting enemies do not feel predictable and getting hit randomly is a symptom of that.

Compounding those issues, bosses feel unfair and clunky. In particular, bosses have an attack and vulnerable phase where players have to evade attacks before actually doing damage or risk taking damage. An issue with this is once they take damage they go into an armored counterattack which limits the possible damage dealt and risk taking damage making fights longer or more passive. The last boss is specially guilty of this with such a long attack phase that the only thing the player can do is dodge and taunt. The hitboxes of some of their attacks are also unclear or deceptive which is a problem with 2D brawlers in general but more annoying with their higher damage. In general, bosses have so many issues and may feel frustrating to fight rather than a genuine challenge.

I will not be talking about the level design, but I do want to address a strange yet game breaking issue. Executing special attacks require a resource which can be partially charged on attacking but fully lost on taking a hit. This mechanic encourages defensive play while being aggressive, although I disagree with this since special moves are used as panic defensive options. Surprisingly, completing a taunt gives the player one special move resource without ever attacking which is absurd. In story mode, the maximum special move resource is 3 meaning a player can refill room clearing special moves before each encounter and the only thing discouraging this behavior is the forgiving hit counter. This is also unbalanced in multiplayer as players can taunt while waiting for the other players to finish their parts. In arcade mode, this is somewhat fixed with 1 special move limit, but it does limit special moves as a resource. Perhaps limit 1 resource gained through taunting is acceptable or removing it altogether is better, but this considerably affects boss damage and health which leads into a bigger design and balance issue.

While I cannot speak about the quality of online play since I disconnected frequently, the overall game as a solo experience does not feel worth investing my time in with all its faults. It is an okay game to reinvigorate the franchise, but it needs more features and fixes to make this a good product to truly recommend.