Title: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge – Dimension Shellshock (paid DLC)
Reviewed by: Andrew Millard & Block’s Gaming Reviews
Developer: Tribute Games
Release Date: 31 August, 2023 on all major platforms
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5 and Nintendo Switch (codes provided by publisher)
Price: $7.99 USD
TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge knocked it out of the park last year. Or better yet, hurled it through the screen like a scrubby Foot ninja. Tribute Games and Dotemu validated all the game’s hype by giving us one of the best beat ’em ups out there during a renaissance for the genre. A great brawler has to pull off the mean feat of making button mashing fun. The games that do it best provide just enough of a skill ceiling to allow players to improve without overly punishing casual fans. TMNT: SR did exactly that, while packing a ton of perks and quality of life features into a more-than-fair price. With two new characters, an additional survival mode, and a fresh crop of costumes, Dimension Shellshock only furthers that reputation.
Dimension Shellshock‘s story is bonkers and simple: Representatives from the Neutrino race in Dimension X interrupt the turtle gang’s celebration to tell them that Shredder has been stealing the crystals that fuel their ability to hop across dimensional barriers. The heroes on a half shell need to gather them all back and stabilize the boundaries between worlds. And oh, yeah! Usagi and Karai are there for no discernible reason!
Since the base game is such a blast to play, Dimension Shellshock didn’t need to do much to bring us back. Like brawlers in general, a DLC pack is best when it is simply more of what we loved in the first place. Of course, even eating pizza can get old! So, Tribute has taken the joyous and tightly-paced fighting of Shredder’s Revenge and layered coats of roguelite and survival mode paint on to it. For some, the addition of two new playable characters will be even more important: Miyamoto Usagi (of Usagi Yojimbo fame) and Karai (Shredder’s adopted daughter, and a deep cut for turtle heads). These two characters are fully integrated into the base game, meaning a lot of fans will want to re-run Shredder’s Revenge playing as both.
Thankfully, Usagi and Karai are unique enough to be more than a palette swap of existing characters. Usagi has incredible jumps and aerial combat, while Karai cuts a wide swath and has some of the best movement and dodge speed in the game. Both of them now have the best supers in the game, capable of crowd control and focused cleanup. But Karai takes the edge here as her special can be moved during execution for last second targeting.
As for the simple, multiplayer horde mode challenge, Dimension Shellshock is framed much like Hades: Up to 6 players (both local and online) carve their way through single-screen battlefields. Each battlefield will throw somewhere between four and ten waves of enemies at them. Occasionally a dedicated boss room will appear. After surviving an onslaught, the players will be given the option to jump into two different warp points, each with its own perk. If members of a multiplayer session choose different portals, the group won’t find out which perk activates until the next screen. The goal is to restore crystals to six different dimensions, with a final showdown to close the portals at the end. Unfortunately progress comes in fits and starts, and though the presentation is a joy, there isn’t enough variety to justify the length of time a successful run can take.
This also leads to the few minor complaints we have with Dimension Shellshock. First off, your progress from the base game does not follow you into the DLC. You once again level up individual characters by attempting runs with them. The level ups act as the permanent perks that most modern roguelike games offer after each run, failed or successful. Next, the difficulty of any given room is wildly inconsistent. Each consecutive run’s difficulty, whether with partners or alone seemed bizarrely erratic. The only consistency being that more players could flatten the curve. In fact, going online with five other players seems to break the game. So, if anyone feels stymied, joining up online will certainly solve that issue. Though that’s always been true of the beat ’em up genre. And lastly, collecting the crystal shards required for progressing the run is also erratic. Anytime a battlefield’s perk is a boost to your crystal count, even if small, it easily outweighs any health or combat boon the other option might offer. Which is a shame because some of those perks are the coolest features of survival mode.
Regularly throughout any given run, one of the room perks you will encounter is a vile of ooze with a character icon on the bottle. Those characters are not normally available to play as, but this perk will temporarily give you access to them. In our attempts, we used them to transform into Rocksteady, Bebop, and Shredder himself. Their movesets are complete and unique, just as if they were full-fledged members of the playable roster. All three are bulky and overpowered, so it was surprising how quick Shredder controls. To the point we felt unable to keep him out of pitfalls in certain levels. The other perks are also quite clever, and though they are never as useful as simply collecting dimension crystals, opting for them is always a boost of fun and a great way to add variety to the procedurally generated trials. However in practice, they end up further highlighting the frustrating pace of collecting crystals.
The clearest point to make about this DLC is that it is every bit as fun to play as the main game. And bolstering that fun are loving tributes and nods to the long history of everything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The 1987 cartoon and Konami arcade games continue to be the main throughline, but almost every aspect of the DLC is colored with contributions from the various iterations of comics, TV series, and movies. References to almost all the screen variations of TMNT are present along with well-deserved tributes to the Eastman & Laird comics.
Fan service is a tricky thing. Tribute has nailed it by having fan service present in both the sizzle and the steak of this package. For $8 USD Shredder’s Revenge players get a lean cut that will still fill them up. Dimension Shellshock is a competent example of two gaming staples, the survival mode and the roguelite. And while its gameplay loop is barebones and inconsistently difficult, most fans will get their money’s worth with its two new characters and an exciting excuse to jump back into the game! Creative perks, powerups and collectible costume swaps only sweeten the deal.
If you check out Dimension Shellshock, let us know your thoughts below or over at our Discord server.
Featured Image: Dotemu
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