Hands-On: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge - Dimension Shellshock
Throwing in additional content for any game can be a gamble from time to time. Sometimes it can be an experiment that turns into a new title, such as Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands being presented as DLC for a prior game turned into its own adventure later on. Other times it ends up being a simple expansion that probably should have been in the game from the jump, but was instead dropped as DLC.
If you’re anything like me, you probably enjoyed the absolute hell out of Shredder’s Revenge when it dropped about a year ago. I can say with some confidence (if my review didn’t make that point clear enough already) that this game is one of the best beat ’em ups that I’ve played in recent memory, but I’m never going to turn down additional content to a game I already love.
With this latest content, dubbed Dimension Shellshock, it definitely feels like it takes more from the “simple expansion” angle. Because of that, it didn’t feel right to attach a proper review score to content that simply added a couple of extra characters and a new mode on top of a game that was already pretty dense. Despite this, I welcome any excuse to fire up this game and engage in a little more ’87 TMNT action.
Developed by Tribute and published by Dotemu, TMNT Shredder’s Revenge: Dimension Shellshock will be available for download on August 31, 2023, for PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Xbox Series X | S/Switch/PC (Steam). The Steam version was played for this hands-on.
Rockin’ the Gemstones
There is a bit of story here, but it’s mostly used as a setup for the survival mode that comes with this DLC. It opens up in the Turtle Lair, and the crew from the base game (along with new characters) are enjoying their favorite meal. Suddenly, they’re interrupted by the pan-dimensional entrance of the Neutrinos who warn them that Shredder is hopping across dimensions by way of the gemstones that they use themselves. True to form, the Turtles and everyone else jump into action to foil his latest plan for domination. I wasn’t particularly expecting much more than this in terms of story, but I’m glad that the setup for this mode is simple enough and helps the player understand the goal.
The gameplay flow here is eerily similar to Mr. X’s Nightmare from Streets of Rage 4, even down to new color palette choices in a free update for the characters, and I generally mean that as a positive. However, I will say that I was taken a bit off guard when I started to realize that the loop was similar. Your main goal here is to obtain gem fragments by completing the combat round or grabbing them off of the ground as they’re knocked free from the many foes and bosses of the Foot Clan.
Since this is done in a quick, round-based way, each encounter tends to not take long. Once the round is finished, you’ll be given a choice between two randomized perks. Some of these will be simple power-ups, and others will be multi-round perks or debuffs with a perk attached at the end of it. What I’m guessing most people will really appreciate with this is the choice of playing as boss characters like Bebop, Rocksteady, and even Shredder himself on top of the character you’re already playing. They do get their own health bar, but it’s more limited than your chosen character. Given that all three of these characters are overpowered in their own unique way, I don’t blame Tribute for limiting them in some way. Since they only leave when they’re knocked out, that extra bit of health can be useful when you’re trying to stay on your feet on the way to completion.
Like most survival modes, getting knocked out concludes your run in a manner similar to some roguelikes. This is why end-of-round choices are so important. Do I take the health pickup and continue, do I grab the boss character and hold onto it for as long as I can, or do I risk it and get the gem shards I need to advance to the next stage? These micro-decisions, as well as your own skill level, will matter with how far your run ends up going. That said, the difficulty here is not as hard as some other games. But it’s definitely a bit harder than the base game and escalates as you progress.
While Survival Mode is a welcome addition to an already great game, the mileage that one might get out of said mode really depends on who may be playing it. You’re getting two extra playable characters in the Foot Clan defector Karai and the Ronin Rabbit Miyamoto Usagi in the process, but the amount of content here is consistent with the $8.00 price tag. They’re a couple of very welcome additions to an already-stacked roster of playable characters. It’s not as meaty as some would hope, but given this price tag, it’s understandable.
Celebrating Every Dimension
When you have a property as revered as TMNT, the depth and dearth of iterations of the property are sure to be a benefit when you set up content meant to be more of a reason to celebrate the property. Even with entries like Turtles Forever, it was a chance to just celebrate everything and anything TMNT with a multiversal twist. Which seems to be the aim of Dimension Shellshock in a way. With the addition of Usagi and Karai, it’s a chance to reach into that very same well and tweak it into the environment of the ’87 show.
While you will get some nods to other iterations, such as a stage built entirely around its comic origins, there are stages that twist things around in a fun way. Naturally, this presentation is usually teeming with the kind of background movement and design in a way that’s visually interesting and usually isn’t distracting during gameplay. But a couple of artistic choices for the stages did get in the way at times, which was more annoying than anything else. Really, I think casual onlookers and especially fans will enjoy the amount of references and art style for what it is. It really is an extension of the celebration the base game started, but done in a way that’s wholly unique from it.
Thankfully, Tee Lopes was brought back for this DLC, and his work just speaks for itself. Anything I said about it in the base game’s review will generally apply here. The music for each stage is composed in a way that fits the aesthetics of the stage, like using era-appropriate music for the Edo period stage or crunchy guitar shredding for the comic-based Mirage dimension. I love that Tee’s work is getting traction like this because he’s been knocking it out of the park since he jumped in the game soundtracking scene. Doesn’t matter if it’s Sonic, Streets of Rage, or this. The dude has talent, and it should be heard by as many fans of game music as possible.
Overall, it doesn’t surprise me that the presentation here is on par with the base game. Aside from the unique features of this content, what I generally said before also applies here as well. I might be a little more partial to sprite-based 2D art than other people, but I think I’ll always appreciate a well-executed presentation that’s rooted in 16 and 32-bit console graphics. Is it another reason to reel me in with nostalgia bait? Sure. But at least that bait is worth getting hooked on.
When it comes to content scale in DLC, I’ve seen some wildly different takes on the matter. Lost Judgment: The Kaito Files was released as DLC, but the amount of content you get for the price is way more dense then one would expect for something like that. It could basically be considered a full game on its own. Then you get simple add-ons that round out the overall experience and just feels like a natural fit. Dimensional Shellshock falls in the latter category, and the price tag reflects that.
Make no mistake, I enjoyed the content in this DLC. It’s built upon a foundation that’s already head and shoulders above most beat ’em ups released these days. Having another excuse to dip into the deep pool of TMNT lore is also a welcome sight, and I’m sure hardcore fans will relish in the references they’ll find throughout their survival runs. If you’re looking for another reason to fire up Shredder’s Revenge, this is a pretty good reason to get back to kickin’ the Foot Clan to the curb across the multiverse.
Review copy provided by Dotemu for PC. Screenshots taken by writer. Featured image courtesy of Dotemu.