When publisher Dotemu announced they were coming out with an all-new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, everyone on our staff was over the moon imagining our favorite mutant fighters once again hitting the mean streets of New York to brawl it out with archenemies like Krang or Beebop and maybe even scrounge up a slice or two. Unfortunately, our excitement has been tempered by the developer’s recent announcement that the new side-scroller centers around a European trip where the turtles realize their fervent Italian-American pride has little in common with modern Italian life.
Oof, sorry, gamers. While Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is a welcome return to form for the heroes on the half shell, it’s hard not to feel bummed out as the four turtles realize their strong personal and cultural connection to Italy is almost a complete fantasy predicated on their affinity for The Sopranos and marinara sauce.
“The Turtles run into a snag early on when Michelangelo tries to order a chicken parmesan sandwich at a trattoria near their hotel only to be informed that that’s not an authentic Italian dish,” said Philip Stephens, lead developer at Dotemu, noting that the consternation of the turtles is compounded by their near-complete lack of Italian language abilities outside of rudimentary phrases. “From there, it only gets worse as they must reckon with seatless toilets and a lack of air conditioning at most establishments that aren’t in line with their romanticized version of Italy.”
In our playthrough, things picked up slightly after Donatello gets pickpocketed during an architecture tour and the Turtles hunt down the thief in the unfamiliar Parioli neighborhood. There, they attempt to bond with locals over a shared love of pizza, the films of Francis Ford Coppola, and Michelangelo’s bicep tattoo of the Italian flag, only to be met with skepticism and even derision by those who consider the quartet to be little more than American tourists.
Despite the game’s intuitive design and old-school sprite graphics—likely to excite any longtime Turtles fan—the game is dragged down by the melancholy of innocence lost, culminating with Raphael getting drunk on Bellinis and screaming at Leonardo for refusing to let April O’Neil come along since her Irish heritage would preclude her from “really understanding” what it means to be Italian.
Fans might also be surprised that most of the game’s finale takes place at a McDonald’s near the Colosseum, where the exhausted turtles send texts and photos to Splinter to convince him that they are having the time of their lives. What’s even more surprised that Shredder’s titular “revenge” appears to be not a nefarious doomsday plot, but merely the dawning comprehension that almost nothing in life will ever satisfy our inflated expectations.
Nonetheless, despite uneven gameplay and a rocky narrative, Shredder’s Revenge has one of the most satisfying conclusions we’ve seen in years, as the turtles begin boarding their flight to LaGuardia full of stories from their time aboard, and they realize there’s no right or wrong way to be Italian.