Throughout the years, wrestling has captivated audiences of all ages from around the world with spectacular showmanship, and fan favourite superstars performing all manner of crunching moves, all of which usually reign from the dominant world of the WWE. Recent years haven’t been kind to the gaming translation of this, with multiple disappointments from previous iterations of the WWE games. Normally that wouldn’t make any difference, with no real opposition to push for the wrestling crown. Now though, we welcome fresh competitor Action Arcade Wrestling to the ring to see if we finally have the showstopper we’ve all been waiting for.
Developed by VICO Game Studio LLC, Action Arcade Wrestling looks to reignite the excitement found in classics such as WWF Wrestlefest and other popular arcade-infused hits of the ’90s and early ’00s, but with a name as generic as Action Arcade Wrestling, you’d be forgiven for thinking what we have here is no more than some simple fodder that bulks out the marketplace. Put in a little time however and what you’ll find here is an experience that can certainly hold its own between the ropes.
Straight into the gameplay then and there is only really one particular way to play Action Arcade Wrestling (AAW for the purpose of this review), and that comes down to Exhibition Matches. Sadly, there is no Career mode available, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to be excited by however. With 16 match-types to choose from, AAW has plenty to keep you occupied, and that’s before you even get into the lads and ladies you’ll be throwing around the ring.
Amongst these different match types sits standard 1v1, 3-Way Dance, 4-Way Dance, Tag team and Elimination Tag, Battle Royal and more. No matter which match-type you choose, however, there is very little to learn before you have the knowledge needed to run rampant on a hunt for the pinfall.
After a capable tutorial is finished, you’ll have learnt that most of the game’s functions are tied to either the X or B button thanks to the two-button system implemented, with X for striking and B for grappling. Mix these together with the Dpad, or each other, and you’ll soon find yourself pulling off all manner of outrageous move sets from the 700 moves available that would be sure to make even seasoned veterans’ wince by the time your opponent hits the mat.
Whilst the controls will certainly prove simple to pick up and play for any gamer, there are a few elements to keep things fresh besides mastering each character’s moves, one of the biggest being Power-ups.
Power-ups can come in various different forms; however, my favourite example was the power-up that enables characters without any remaining energy to get up instantly and resume the fight – whereas they would normally be struggling to stand and ripe for a pinfall. Another fantastic example is a power-up that enables your character to launch a flurry of strikes onto your opponent with the possibility of making them dizzy and unable to attack briefly, therefore allowing you to execute a devastating move to further lower your opponent’s energy bar.
Throughout each match, players will also have to make the most of opportunities to earn as many points as possible in order to level up. Points are earned for entertaining the crowd with a good variety of moves as well as performing spots. Spots are objectives that appear asking players to perform a particular action within a time limit, achieve this and you’ll be granted bonus points.
As for the wrestlers you’ll be accomplishing this with, AAW offers a wide variety of different, albeit rather generic-looking fighters from which players can choose. Some characters such as the superhero-inspired ones can even shoot lasers and fireballs to really put a comical mix on things and it seems the developers have at least tried to cater to everyone with at least one of the many options available. The highlight however doesn’t come from the ‘Krimson Klaw, or Rockin’ Ronnie’ original characters, but rather the User Generated Creations, that are available to download.
Now creating a wrestler or an arena will require players to utilise the free companion app via PC to make creations work as intended, with no actual availability in-game to use the feature, however, those who decide to get on board will find one of the most in-depth creation suites available. Of course, if you wish to simply add the creations of others to your game, you can do so with several well-known and even iconic fighters having already been created by players, and with 300 stored spaces available to fill, you can expand your roster well into the hundreds if you so wish.
It’s worth mentioning that these creations aren’t anything to scoff at either, with most coming with their real-life move sets included and often having more detail than even that of characters that come as part of AAW itself.
On to the audio side of things and from the off AAW comes rocking an energetic soundtrack that looks to set the mood. It sounds 90’s, it feels 90’s and it seems well out of place anywhere but the 90’s. Nevertheless, for a game that looks to recapture the magic of 90’s sports entertainment at its finest, it fits well, especially with the arcade nature of the game. Sadly, we have no joy at experiencing fighter specific themes due to the lack of any character entrances – a sorely missed opportunity it has to be said.
Visually AAW very much follows a minimalistic approach with a cartoon-esque artistic design on show throughout. With the clear inspiration of 90’s fighting games in mind during development, it’s not hard to see why we haven’t got something a little more ‘realistic’ and instead it seems the developers have managed a spot-on visual creation for those wanting to roll back the years to the classic games of old, although it would have been nice to have seen a little more detail in the available fighters after seeing what can be achieved with the creation tools.
Overall if you want something a little different that doesn’t take itself too seriously as you wait in anticipation to see what the next WWE title can offer, then Action Arcade Wrestling certainly isn’t a bad way to go. Whilst it would have been nice to see a Career mode option available and maybe a few more unique character designs, for the price point Action Arcade Wrestling isn’t going to be a game you’ll regret spending your time with.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.