Finally, the Rock has come back to video games, and for the first time ever, on the iPhone. Well, he did for a little while, anyway.
WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania was released on March 24 and being an avid wrestling fan, I immediately bought a copy. Meanwhile, on the March 30, TNA Wrestling was released, bringing the wrestling promotion wars to the iPhone and taking me to potential heaven. So here I am, ready to pit the two games against each other in a wrestling showdown of epic proportions, one not seen since the glorious WWF vs. WCW days of the late 90s.
WWE Legends Of Wrestlemania
The battle was on, however as soon as it had begun, WWE pulled Legends Of Wrestlemania from the App Store due to an insane number of bugs how unplayable the game was. Trying to make a traditional, real-time 3D wrestling game on a small touch-screen device is a big challenge. The gesture-based system they went with had potential to be slightly playable, however for this to work it required instant recognition of the gesture you’ve made. Unfortunately, Legends of Wrestlemania didn’t do this. It would ignore some gestures, or recognize them two seconds after you’ve made them. This made the game play incredibly frustrating and more trouble than it was worth. On top of this, the game was riddled with bugs, as gloriously highlighted in the screenshot below.
Yes, Jimmy Snuka is standing on the second invisible set of turnbuckles that are above the normal turnbuckles. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh on this game since, in all fairness, they have pulled the game and presumably are working hard to address these issues. However I think it’s important to stress that even without the horrible bugs and gesture playability issues, the game is still incredibly bland.
Here’s a screenshot comparing The Rock with Andre The Giant:
Not only do they look nothing like the people they’re meant to portray, they have identical stature and build. If the game play was solid, this would be OK, but for such a shallow game, you’d expect the ‘look’ of it to be right. Additionally, while you can play with different game rules, they do little to change the game play (Hell and Cell is identical to falls count anywhere, with just a cage drawn around the ring, no way to interact with it).
The ‘story’ mode just moves you through various matches with very little story. You start off as the WWE Champion and have to defend it leading up to and including Wrestlemania. You don’t interact with other players in anyway apart from the matches. To top it off, Hulk Hogan is nowhere to be found. How can a game about legends of Wrestlemania not let you play as the Hulkster? Even if they fixed the bugs and made the gesture control system responsive, this is a poor design for a wrestling game and feels like it was thrown together just so they can say there’s an iPhone version.
With an old-school video game feel, TNA Wrestling is the breath of fresh air for modern wrestling games. The developers apparently recognized the difficulties they faced implementing a wrestling game on the iPhone and decided to throw out the modern rule book by shunning both 3D graphics and real-time game play. TNA looks and feels like a game from the early-to-mid 90s and focuses on game play and story over flashy gimmicks.
This is a turn-based game, in which you perform basic moves like kicks, punches, lock ups and Irish whips one at a time and can perform a big move by hitting the basic ones in the right combination. The combo moves available to you can be viewed in the bottom area and you can scroll with a finger gesture left or right to see what moves you need to hit for the combo.
There are also a limited number of reversals, counters and avoid moves that can be used strategically during the opponent’s turns. This forces you to pick the right time to use them to minimize the damage taken and turn the tide of the match. It’s not all about strategy, however, as once you hit a combo move or a reversal you have to perform a series of guided real-time gestures correctly to successfully hit the move.
These gestures are not in any way hard to hit, but you have a very limited time to mimic all the gestures and often in haste you can miss one, throwing a big spanner into your strategy game. These gesture tasks add a great real-time feel to the game play while still being playable — it’s just great fun. In a similar way, making a pinfall (or conversely, escaping from a pinfall) requires you to push the button at the right time to hit the target with a moving bar, with the size of the target dependent on the current health level of you and your opponent.
With single, tag team, gauntlet, iron man, 2 out of 3, lumberjack and handicap matches available, the core wrestling game play in TNA Wrestling is just awesome fun. Which brings me to the story mode. Unlike the story mode of Legends of Wrestlemania, in TNA Wrestling you start as a nobody trying to make his name in the independent wrestling scene. You finally get noticed and signed to TNA Wrestling, where you work your way up from the bottom. Half of the time spent in story mode is in choose-your-own-adventure style conversations. What answers you choose change the story path at every step of the way — this gives great re-playability to see what would happen if you choose a different path.
Just as important however, the choices you make give you heel or face points, which impact if the audience like you or not and what moves become available to you as you level your character up. The story lines in this game are all classic wrestling story lines, with wrestlers turning against you, love angles and more. Its all hilariously written and is an absolute pleasure to see unfold. This is the best story mode of any wrestling game I’ve played.
There are some negatives, of course. The animation is a little choppy, the music is annoying (but can be turned off), and here, too, the bodies of all the wrestlers are the same size and stature. These don’t matter so much, however, as the immersion from the story lines work so well you don’t mind.
Your winner, and New iPhone Wrestling Champion is…
Since TNA Wrestling is the last man standing in the App Store, it wins by disqualification of WWE Legends of Wrestlemania. However I think that its important to reiterate that even if they fixed the major bugs, Legends of Wrestlemania just does the minimum necessary to be called a wrestling game. The graphics are poor, the story mode is incredibly weak, and the game play design is broken. TNA Wrestling, on the other hand, is absolutely entertaining in its story delivery, provides an innovative turn by turn wrestling game play, while sporting old-school graphics that work well with the game. TNA Wrestling is without a doubt the iPhone Wrestling Champion, and could even become my favorite wrestling game of all time.