The state of wrestling games is in flux at the moment, between the horrid mess that was WWE 2K20 and the somewhat mixed response to the arcade-style WWE Battlegrounds. In fact, the only solace that gamers had for some time was the old-school Fire Pro Wrestling World – and without availability on all platforms, its audience was more limited than expected.
However, now we have RetroMania Wrestling, a game from Retrosoft Studios that takes the formula of the 1991 classic WWF Wrestlefest and runs with it in its own special way. Perfect it is not, as it doesn’t really have all the features needed to be a winner. However, there’s more than enough retro goodness to keep you putting fools in a headlock.
The gameplay works similarly to Wrestlefest when it comes to the attacks you can use. You have weak, medium and strong, but it’s all based around a system of timing. So aside from some grappling moments, it’s all about when you can hit the buttons the right way. Do so and you can gain leverage in a match. Don’t, and, well, we hope you like getting body slammed. Not everything is clearly explained, but RetroMania has an excellent “pick-up-and-play” mentality that works fundamentally well. In fact, after a few matches, you may be tempted to throw friends around locally (in-game, mind you).
That brings up an interesting flaw with the game’s lack of online multiplayer. Locally, it works really well, and makes for some good match-ups. Except without an online component, it’s a little more limited than 2K’s WWE fare. Perhaps a future update can fix that.
Fortunately, there’s more than enough variations of matches to keep you busy; and there’s a decent story mode that walks you through what this revamped wrestling world is all about. It’s not overwhelming, but not half-bad either. The game also has a superb roster for an indie game, including everyone from The Blue Meanie to Tommy Dreamer to Matt Cardona to a variation of John Morrison, in the form of Johnny Retro. It’s not hustling and bustling like WWE’s games, mind you, but it’s still pretty cool. And there’s more to come via DLC, as well. That said, it would’ve been awesome to have some sort of customization tool, so you could bolster the roster along the same lines as, say, Fire Pro. As it stands, though, not bad at all.
On top of that, RetroMania has a terrific style going for it. You can tell that the devs are big fans of old-school wrestling games, as this chews it up at every turn. The animations are sharp and the characters and in-ring details are very clear to see, even on a portable Nintendo Switch game screen. It runs very fluidly too, even with the default 2D camera set-up. Wrestlers barely overlap and you can see all the action clearly. The themes are a lot of fun, too, and the “attitude” is just about right when it comes to classic wrestling action.
Overall, RetroMania Wrestling is a nice blast from the past, especially considering we never got a console port of THQ’s Wrestlefest reboot from years ago. This feels like a title that flashes back to the good ol’ days of wrestling games, when it wasn’t really about the fantastic engine or the features, but the easy-to-adapt-to action and fun roster. It’s a bit light on certain features, and has no online wrestling community (at least, not yet), but as it stands, it’s a blast from the past that’s worth adding to your collection. And it sure beats taking a steel chair to the sternum, tell ya what.