As a kid, I fondly remember playing WWF Superstars at a pizza parlor near the laundromat we used every Saturday morning. It was a game that let you choose two wrestlers and run through a gauntlet of tag teams before ultimately facing Andre the Giant and The Million Dollar Man for the tag team championship. Then in 1991, Technos Japan released the game’s sequel, WWF WrestleFest, which updated the visuals, added a host of new wrestlers and included the Royal Rumble match (to go along with another tag team gauntlet for the right to face the Legion of Doom for the tag straps).
The game rocked and there was nothing up until that point that either played or looked as good as WWF WrestleFest. In fact, it held a place in many WWE fans’ hearts as for years, we’ve all asked for an official re-release.
Well 21 years later, THQ and the WWE teamed up to develop WWE WrestleFest for the iOS platform. This new game maintains it’s simplistic controls – move around with a joystick and either kick or punch. Standing close enough to your opponent initiates a grapple, after which you either throw them along the ropes or pull off a random maneuver. You can stomp them while they’re on the ground, hit the top ropes for another move or pin them when they’re energy is depleted. Visually, the game gets a makeover, going with a more cartoony look while a bit more detail than from what we saw back in the day.
Players are able to choose from a host of classic wrestlers such as “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, and modern superstars such as Randy Orton, John Cena and CM Punk. Entrances all feature the same generic theme song, which sadly do not feature any of the actual WWE themes, while there is audio for the ring introductions. The game also features a variety of venues such as RAW and Smackdown, as well as Royal Rumble, Saturday Night’s Main Event and more. Of course some of the wrestlers and venues (such as Survivor Series) can only be picked up as DLC, though at least there’s quite a bit of it. This game also gives fans a bit more match types such as Gauntlet Match, Road to WrestleMania, Exhibition and offers up online multiplayer. Multiplayer however is typically laggy and choppy assuming you can find someone to play with online.
Where the game becomes a bit of a drag is in the controls and difficulty. For starters, it’s pretty much a button-mashing title, which is also true of the original. However, since you’re using a touch-screen, you can’t always tell if your button presses are really being recognized and the virtual joystick isn’t as responsive as I would have liked. More importantly however, the game is extremely hard. You’ll typically find yourself getting beat down before you get too far, or if you play in a Royal Rumble match, it’s rare if you can make it near the end. Even if you manage to land a few finishing maneuvers, the CPU generally kicks out, while that isn’t the case when you’re the one on the receiving end. What’s worse is that there is no difficulty level adjustment.
Even with these issues, the game somehow manages to be entertaining in spurts. Perhaps its the retro look and feel and surely nostalgia plays a big part of it, but fans of the original will still likely have a bit of fun with it.
WWE WrestleFest has its issues and casual fans may grow a bit weary of its repetitive gameplay, but longtime fans will probably gobble this up, if only to get a taste of the classic game one more time.