Playing button mashers with a progressive physical disability is never easy. Despite growing up with games like Kingdom Hearts, the God of War trilogy, and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Turtles in Time, I tend to shy away from these mechanics due to the sheer physical exhaustion they cause. And since implementing accessibility options and design practices was relatively in its infancy during their initial launch, every purchase was a gamble. Yet even though the core mechanics of the genre remain, modern accessible innovations make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge an absolute joy to play.
Developed by Tribute Games, Shredder’s Revenge pays direct homage to the Ninja Turtle games of the 80s and 90s. Like the classic side-scrolling beat-em-ups of my childhood, players take control of one of seven characters to stop Shredder and his nefarious Foot Clan ninjas throughout New York City. Along the way, fan favorite enemies like Bebop, Rocksteady, and even Baxter Stockman appear to stop the Heroes in a Half Shell. Nostalgia is the driving force behind Shredder’s Revenge, and Tribute Games perfectly transported me back to my three-year-old self in my parents’ bedroom playing on a 17-inch television.
While button mashing is ever present, Shredder’s Revenge offers fantastic accessibility features and options for physically disabled players. First and foremost is the capability to fully customize controls. Even though it’s possible to create custom profiles on consoles, being able to choose button placements within a game without relying on the system level is beneficial. Not only does this feature save time, but it also affords disabled people opportunities to switch between games without needing to alter the comfort of their setups.
Aside from customizing controls, Shredder’s Revenge also includes the capability to toggle holding or mashing a button to escape enemy grabs, an option to simply flick the movement stick in any direction to sprint, and a feature to automatically attack enemies when they approach from behind. Combined with three choices of difficulty, these accessibility options help to alleviate the physical strain when continuously pressing the attack button dozens of times throughout each level.
Thankfully, Shredder’s Revenge implements incredible inclusive design practices, especially in relation to its combat. For physically disabled players, there are two buttons that are necessary, attack and jump, while other moves and functions are not required to successfully beat the game. Yes, I am forced to continuously mash my X button on my Xbox controller to defeat enemies, but that’s the only requirement. There are no complex combos, nor are there multiple buttons for different types of attacks like light and heavy. At their core, every character functions the exact same aside from attributes like strength, range, and speed.
To coincide with the basic style of combat, each character can use several super moves to defeat large groups of enemies. Whether activating a move by simply pressing the Y button on my controller while standing on the ground, after a double jump, or after a dash, super moves not only deal incredible amounts of damage within a large area, but they also provide brief moments of invulnerability. And to use one of these powerful invincible attacks, players only need to have a full meter of energy, achievable either through consecutive attacks or by using a taunt. While the taunt leaves you open to damage from enemies, it requires no button mashing and is simply activated by pressing the desired button on the controller.
Throughout the campaign, I regularly charged my meter before entering new zones, ensuring that I always had the opportunity to give my fingers a slight break while fighting an onslaught of enemies. I never encountered moments where I was forced to solely mash the attack button to win.
Yet, aside from the inclusive combat, Shredder’s Revenge’s accessibility truly shines with its level design. Since this game is based on the classic titles of the 80s and 90s, there are no egregious instances of platforming, only several minor moments of needing to double jump across rooftops within a specific level. Most stages, aside from those which feature players riding on hoverboards, segment encounters within specific zones. After defeating a large group of enemies, physically disabled players can rest indefinitely or charge their super meter before simply moving to the right to proceed. And during combat sequences, most enemies will gradually gravitate toward players, meaning that it’s entirely possible to not move during specific fights, unless enemies use area of effect attacks. For deaf and hard of hearing players especially, every action is visualized and precisely documented where attacks will land, meaning that there is no need to rely on audio cues.
Multiplayer is also incredibly beneficial for physically disabled players. Not only can you join or host online games, but it’s also possible to play with up to six players. While this can pose issues for people who may have trouble processing large amounts of information, or players with low vision, since having six characters fighting, jumping, and even using super moves creates an exorbitant amount of visual clutter, more players mean less enemy aggression on an individual basis. Even playing the game with a single partner was far less physically demanding than playing solo.
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On the off chance that enemies dealt enough damage to make me lose a life, my co-op friends could revive me before a life would be removed. Combine these mechanics with the overall ease of combat, and each run-through of Shredder’s Revenge would last for several hours without extreme fatigue or physical discomfort.
Shredder’s Revenge reminds me of my childhood, both in terms of entertainment and before my disability progressed to the point where I desperately needed accessible tools and features. In a time where every game, regardless of my preferred system, forces me to immediately calibrate options to cater to my needs, it’s beyond refreshing to simply press start and begin playing. I’m no longer a 28-year-old with a progressive disability. I’m a three-year-old sitting in my parents’ bedroom arguing with my grandmother that Michelangelo is yellow, not orange.