STAFF REVIEW of Action Arcade Wrestling (Xbox One)

Thursday, September 9, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Action Arcade Wrestling Box art Back in May I got to preview a small little wrestling game developed by two people that missed the old school classic arcade wrestlers I grew up with like WWF Wrestlefest, WWF WrestleMania: The Arcade Game, Tecmo World Wrestling and Saturday Night Slam Masters to just name a few. Their main goal was simply to make a fun wrestling game, one that doesn’t take itself seriously in any way or is grounded by any worldly physics, and with that in mind, they’ve succeeded. While most wrestling fans flock to the yearly WWE 2K installments simply because there’s really no alternative, Action Arcade Wrestling is taking a completely different approach, trying to be a completely over the top (rope) arcade wrestler instead of anything resembling matches you’d watch on Raw or Smackdown.

Previously branded Chikara Action Arcade Wrestling, when the promotion shut down they had no choice but to drop the license and its roster, which is the game we see today with Action Arcade Wrestling. Fast paced, simple controls and aiming to bring simple joy for wrestling fans, Action Arcade Wrestling will let you body slam, clothesline and powerbomb your opponents, as well as being able to shoot lasers, wield lightsabers and other completely over the top movesets that you won’t see in other wrestling games.

Action Arcade Wrestling only utilizes two buttons for every action possible, much like classic N64 wrestling games. This makes it extremely easy for anyone to simply dive in, and even my young daughter enjoyed playing a few matches against me because of this simplicity. Strikes are mapped to the ‘X’ button and grapple to ‘A’. Moves will vary based on if you simply press the button, hold it for a stronger version or combine with a direction on the D-Pad. Anyone that’s played old 90’s 16-bit era wrestling games will feel right at home.

You aren’t able to spam moves either, as if you repeatedly use the same moves over and over it’ll automatically get blocked and reversed. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you’ve ever played a wrestling game against someone that knows how to perform the best moves in a game repeatedly, you’ll know how unfair it can be when you don’t know how to block or reverse these moves with perfect timing. Also, just like in Street Fighter, you only need to hold ‘back’ to block any attacks, making the experience easy to understand naturally.

Sadly there’s currently no career or campaign mode, but there are more than a handful of different exhibition matches to choose from. 1 versus 1, Tag Team, Battle Royal, Battle Rumble, Tornado Matches, Three Way Matches, Four Way Matches and even up to 5 versus 5 and more. The first thing I took notice of when I played my first match was how hyped up the crowd was. No one was sitting in their chairs, the lights were spinning around the arena and the crowd looked as if it had that rock concert feel to it. Even with a bunch of match types, they all generally felt the same, but sadly there’s no Cage or Hell-In-The-Cell type of setups yet.

There’s a few things that really make Action Arcade Wrestling stand out and be unique. Remember, this is an arcade wrestling game, not a simulation, so you can expect to see power-ups appear, giving you bonuses to health, defense or offense. This can change the outcome of a match really quick, as you can also take other characters’ powerups by performing a heavy move on them as well. You of course will have a ton of traditional wrestling moves that you’d expect, but this again is an arcade wrestling game, so don’t be surprised if you see certain moves that also shoot lightning out of your hands.

Even after dozens of matches I’m still smiling and having a ton of fun if playing in short bursts. There’s nothing quite like throwing your opponent outside of the ring, running to the complete opposite side’s turnbuckle and launching yourself across the screen onto them. It’s moments like this that I couldn’t get enough of. Now and then you’ll also have “Spots” to try and complete. These are randomized moves that will give you bonus points if completed in the allotted time. These points go towards your overall level progression at the end of matches, unlocking new moves or items for your wrestlers as you rank up slowly over time. You’ll quickly notice how braindead the AI is when playing against the CPU, even on the Hard difficulty setting. Most of the time they’ll just stand there waiting for you to attack them or coming directly to you, making it easy to grapple.

By default, you’ll be able to unlock up to 30 unique wrestlers. Some are obvious nods to the industry and you’ll be able to discern who they are meant to be if you know your wrestlers. While there’s huge roster of unique wrestlers included, this has been solved with the inclusion of a Create-A-Wrestler feature, titled Wrestle Lab Creation Suite. This is where you or anyone can create any wrestler you can think of, so you know all of the classic real life wrestlers are there available to download, along with some interesting and odd designs. Keep in mind though that since wrestlers don’t actually have any stats, the only differences are their skins and movesets that you can alter.

While you’re limited to 60 downloads a day of wrestlers and arenas, this never really was an issue after the first day when I was downloading as many 80’s and 90’s wrestlers I could that I watched growing up. The creation tool is actually a separate app, completely free to use, and you can basically create any wrestler you could think of quite easily as it’s very simple to use for the most part. They even let you edit layer and upload pictures for textures. The issue here though is that you need to download their app on Steam. This is the only way you can create your own wrestlers and arenas, though it makes sense given that you can create nearly anything you think of if you have the photoshop skills. The creation tool even allows you to add custom textures and body morph, but it will take some time to learn to create a wrestler or arena that looks half decent.

As for weapons, you can expect tables on fire, sledgehammers, chairs, garbage cans, lightsabers and other wacky weapons if you choose to enable them. While there’s currently no ladders, it’s hard to fault a two man dev team. The glaring omission though was online play, as Action Arcade Wrestling only supports up to four players locally on the same screen.

Keeping in mind that it’s a small indie game, the cel-shaded aesthetic actually works quite well, and since this isn’t licensed and unable to do any body scans, it made sense. Not meant to look lifelike in any way, the flashy visuals and neon colors only accentuate the crazy gameplay and makes it feel like and old school game I may have played growing up.

There are plenty of animations for all the movesets and finishers, but you’ll most likely be distracted from the random bugs you’ll come across. I’ve had my wrestler get on the top rope only to then float above everyone else, unable to do anything. I’ve had my downloaded Macho Man’s tassels disconnect from his boots and follow me around like they were orbiting my head, and once even had my character stuck in place, unable to strike or grapple anyone until it randomly decided to work. All of that being said, for such a small dev team and creating a game out of passion, it’s really hard to hold it against them. Even with a laundry list of bugs, some were funny enough that I was still smiling and having a blast.

Sure, there’s a whole essay I could write about features and modes I want, like walk-in intros and online multiplayer, especially for the asking price of just under $20 CAD, but Action Arcade Wrestling is designed to be a not-so-serious arcade wrestler where you simply enjoy yourself with how over the top it can be. It’s not trying to compete with WWE games, and the casual gameplay design means anyone can simply drop in for a match or two when you have friends over for some laughs. Can I get a Hell Yeah?

**Action Arcade Wrestling was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 6.7 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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