When I was asked if I had an interest in previewing a game that featured legendary wrestlers like The “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Jake “The Snake” Roberts, The Road Warriors, and Jeff Jarrett in a retro 2-D, turn-based RPG-style video game, the answer was as easy as Macho hitting an elbow drop off the top rope to Yokozuna.
Skybound Games and Mega Cat Studios teamed up to create “the world’s first pro-wrestling RPG,” WrestleQuest, and people were introduced to a new gameplay video a few weeks ago at Steam’s Summer Game Fest. The game looks great, but as we’ve been warned, looks can be deceiving. So, I was very excited to get my hands on the demo (which was recently released on Steam), and to say I came away impressed would be an understatement.
Here’s my preview of Mega Cat Studios’ unique wrestling RPG, WrestleQuest.
WrestleQuest Hands-On Preview
What I Like
A Quest Like No Other
The heart of most RPGs is its story, and WrestleQuest has quite the story to keep folks wanting more. Your journey begins at a gym where you’re introduced to the controls of WrestleQuest. These are taught by PAW’s commissioner or head booker, Mr. Stretch. Stretch often refers to the old tapes that he invites all the trainees to watch. These tutorials are quick and make for a fast learning curve. From there, you take over as a 2-D up-and-coming wrestler inspired by Macho Man himself: “The Muchacho Man” Randy Santos.
There are five fighting styles to choose from, each with a unique perk — powerhouse, showboat, sidekicks, technicians, and underdogs. Each class has a special bonus ranging from higher attack rates, improved defense, hype meter boosts, cheaper gimmicks, and so much more. I chose powerhouse, hoping to inflict optimal damage on my foes.
Santos’ main objective, at least in the demo, is to wrestle a dark match for PAW (Plush and Action Figure Wrestling). However, to get this opportunity, he must first become the champion at a rival promotion next door in a gritty town known as Boxwood. The story is intricate, and during my four hours or so with the demo, I experienced a heavy helping of quests and missions to keep me wanting more. There are also a ton of different characters you encounter along the way.
A Motley Crew Of Characters Awaits
These “characters” aren’t precisely wrestlers, but they are a mixture of toys, action figures, and plushies. During my time with the game, I encountered Tot, a Mr. Potato Head character who was being ambushed by two rats. I put a stop to that real quick. At another point, I found myself in the great white north with Stag Logan, working on my entrance and jobbing out to the Tag Team Champions. There was also a Barbie Doll and a “Display Stand Dan” that I met along the way. My faction and alliances grew as the story progressed. There are also some pretty neat quests along the way.
On another mission, I found myself helping a conflicted wrestler named Neon Gravebird. Gravebird doesn’t know whether he should be “vibrant and electrifying” or “dark and brood-like.” I told him he should go vibrant without knowing he was wrestling in a modern-day ECW. The quests are fun and inviting. But it was the classic RPG-style gameplay that kept me coming back for more like Mankind turning around to climb back to the top of Hell in the Cell.
Action-Packed Turn-Based Gameplay
WrestleQuest plays like a traditional role-playing game, and most of the gameplay you encounter is turn-based. The controls are as simple as up, down, left, and right on the keyboard. The left shift key will make your wrestler run, and ‘enter’ plays a pivotal role in finalizing which task you want to use or who you’d like to attack. It’s pretty simple to pick up and play, so you won’t have to worry about endless movesets or try to master a bunch of different buttons. Instead, you enter each match with HP or hit points. Your opponent is the same. The goal is to be the last man standing, or in most situations land a pinfall.
During each match, wrestlers will take turns choosing whether to taunt, attack, use an item, or a gimmick. Items you might use could improve hit power or upgrade your defense. You might also have an item that restores health. But, again, you’ve seen all these things in previous RPG games. Attack is usually a standard punch or kick, while “gimmicks” are special moves unique to each wrestler. Taunting is exactly what it sounds like but will boost your player’s HP and impact the “Hype Meter.”
Most attacks or gimmicks will cause your opponent to fall into the ropes, allowing an opportunity to strike again. If you don’t time the attack perfectly, the enemy will use that momentum against you, causing damage to your wrestler. So it is super important to always be ready. One of Santos’ gimmicks is a move called the “south of the border stunner.” This move inflicts a decent amount of damage, especially when timed correctly. Tag team moves are used when you have a party of two or more, but must be set up by you or your teammate beforehand. I did not see a 3-D or Doomsday Device, but I did see exploding tacos hit like a baseball by a Mr. Potato Head carrying a wrench.
Mini-Games And Other Notable Features
Entrances also utilize this timing system, and at times, can feel like a game of Dance Dance Revolution. This was showcased during my trip to the north to team with Stag Logan. Instead of a traditional match, we had to hit dramatic moments throughout the match. This felt more scripted and gave a different objective than the usual matches.
In a normal match, the hype meter fluctuates throughout based on how well I have been able to time attacks or how much damage I have inflicted. A few times, I watched helplessly as my hype meter withered down to nothing, with several of my tasks disabled. This plays an essential role in every match. Pinfalls can only be performed once you’ve inflicted optimal damage to your opponent. However, it’s not as cut and dry as 1-2-3.
Pins are a mini-game all their own. Players will need to be quick and precise to execute a pinfall successfully. The main objective is to fit the black arrow inside the green-shaded area. This needs to be done three times before your 10-second time limit expires, and the pace will pick up after each successful attempt. Fail to time one, and your opponent will kick out. But worst of all, your opponent will get extra health, and the hype meter will shift in their favor.
Another clever addition to WQ is how specific items are made to break tables that obstruct your path. When this item is used, a luchador (or Lego Man) will appear and will be tossed through the table, unlocking your passageway. It’s quirky and innovative, but ultimately, the entire premise of WrestleQuest is to level up your characters and open as many unique and damaging moves as possible.
Unique Sights And Sounds Of The Squared Circle
The best part of WrestleQuest, outside of its pure brilliance, is how the game looks and plays. As mentioned, the characters are 2-D and have a retro look. The characters remind me of the old Double Dragon games or one of those old-school arcade fighters. Best of all, a majority of the characters are unique and have their place in the story. The dialogue in WrestleQuest is also shockingly clever at times — I can see how much the developers love wrestling. There were times when I found myself laughing out loud at some of the conversations or rebuttals you could throw back at some of the other wrestlers in the locker room.
Many of the moves or attacks throughout the game felt impactful and looked like the moves they were trying to replicate. At least in the demo, the background music is exactly what you would expect from an RPG. It was catchy and gave me a throwback vibe. Sticking to the audio, there were unique voiceovers and moments during matches where you could hear the characters. It wasn’t perfect, but it added to the game’s presentation.
At this point, I’m eager to continue playing my journey and look forward to the game’s official release later this year. WrestleQuest will be available for all video game consoles, including Steam, Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. However, the system I think I’d be most excited to play WQ on would be the Nintendo Switch. The graphics won’t look much different on the next-gen consoles, and this is the perfect game to pick up and play. Besides the obvious, I’m interested to see what other former wrestling legends appear in WrestleQuest — and what the ultimate endgame is here because, on the surface, there’s a lot that they could do with WrestleQuest.
Before I played WrestleQuest, I never imagined an RPG wrestling video game. But now that I have, I can’t imagine a world without it. WrestleQuest can stand alone as an RPG and give fans of that genre something to play for hours. And the same holds true for wrestling fans. After all, the entire concept is based on legendary wrestlers and their worlds. As a result, everything about WrestleQuest, from the characters and storyline to the intricate movesets and old-school RPG, is done just right. My only gripe is that I now have to wait before leading The Muchacho Man to his first heavyweight title.