Tuesday , May 28 2024

Videogame Review: ‘WrestleQuest’ – A Nostalgic RPG Spun from the Glory Days of Wrestling

Full disclosure: I am a massive old-school wrestling fan, or “wrassling” as my dad used to call it. I saw wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Macho Man, the British Bulldogs and my all-time favorite Bret “The Hitman” Hart and others at live matches many many times when I was young.

While I may not follow wrestling anymore, those matches and those personas loom large in my thoughts of my dad and just pure entertainment. When I saw that Mega Cat Studios was making an old-school RPG called WrestleQuest focused on this world and had collaborations with many of my childhood wrestling heroes, I was beyond excited.

Well, having played the game I can say that there is plenty to like about the experience, in particular the wrestling callouts, but the execution of the core game is not as masterfully done as Bret Hart’s signature Sharpshooter move. There are many pieces here that could be part of a standout experience, but gameplay and design choices hold the game back.

Muchacho Man on the Rise

Taking a step back to our corner, let’s discuss what this game is all about. WrestleQuest starts with a focus on a megafan called Randy Santos who becomes a wrestler, dubbing himself the Muchacho Man in reverence to his hero Randy “Macho Man” Savage. In this world the classic wrestlers are held up as heroes and whole regions are dedicated to them.

Santos dreams of making it in the big leagues. He truly believes in the sport and that it consists of real blood-and-guts contests between wrestlers and not a staged, albeit physical, show. He starts on a quest to obtain local championships so he can make it to the majors and win it all.

There is a parallel storyline focusing on Brink Logan, an obvious homage to Bret Hart. He is the expert on execution and the best of the best from his wrestling family, but he understands the game of give and take, lose when the story calls for it, and win when it is your time.

Logan also gets his shot, but unlike Santos who needs to doggedly chase down his next challenger, Logan finally gets noticed by PAW (the top league in the game) and heads to join its ranks. Logan is joined by his cousin who is part man, part moose (they live in the Great North after all) which shows us that not all wrestlers in this game are created equally.

With the stories established the game unfolds in a pretty linear fashion, often switching between Santos and Logan as they move towards their fate. On the way other wrestlers join their roster or get in their way, as well as managers and NPCs handing out wisdom or tirades or simply joking about the wrestling world.

The core gameplay is split into exploration and combat. The exploration is fairly similar to old-school RPGs like Final Fantasy VI and Chronotrigger. You wander overland, head into areas to find treasure and fight enemies, and solve minor puzzles on the way.

This is the weakest part of the game, as finding where you need to go is as hard as getting out of figure-four leg lock on the mat. There is only one quest ever active at any time but the marker on the minimap is vague and misleading at times.

Navigating the areas, you encounter a mix of avoidable and unavoidable fights as well as timed obstacles and at times clunky puzzles. Hulk Hogan ripping off his shirt in a match is as guaranteed as you getting annoyed and lost in each area you explore.

WrestleQuest Pros and Cons

The main action is, of course, the wrestling and this is where WrestleQuest excels and stumbles equally. As this is an RPG, Santos, Logan and their friends all start with basic movesets: a straight-up attack, a couple of gimmicks (moves), a taunt, and ability to use items.

As the game progresses many more gimmicks, including tag- or triple-team actions, open up as well as manager interactions. If you have ever watched any wrestling you know that if Jimmy Hart or any other manager is ringside, they will get involved, so this was a welcome addition to the movesets.

Despite this growing list of options the wrestling action unfortunately boils down to simple attacks (with quick time event button presses required), various splashy special moves (sometimes with QTEs as well), basic items and tag actions. While it does stay mostly enjoyable the combat can get rudimentary.

Thankfully the crazy cast of characters, all with signature moves, and the diverse areas and themes do make the game quirky enough to remain fun through most of the adventure. The game also has a really amazing presentation style with all the characters essentially being action figures set in this world of wrestling.

The game goes all-in on the action figure aspect, with items to heal being duct tape and clear tape as well as armor and weapons that are essentially costume props. Unfortunately none of the props change the looks of the characters, but the descriptions are pretty funny.

Ultimately WrestleQuest is a game of great ideas that just fails to stick the landing from the top rope on any of them. The game could have been The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be but ends up being an average experience in an interesting leotard.

We were provided Steam and PS5 keys for the purpose of this review by Skybound Entertainment. WrestleQuest is available right now for PC via Steam, PlayStation 4|5, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.

About Michael Prince

A longtime video game fan starting from simple games on the Atari 2600 to newer titles on a bleeding edge PC I play everything I can get my hands on.

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