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Destructoid review: TNA Wrestling

2:00 PM on 04.17.2009 // Brad Nicholson

A few years ago, my friends and I would have huge wrestling game parties thanks to the long line of absolutely rockin’ Nintendo 64 titles. We’d stay up all night, giggling like little girls while we smashed each other through tables, hit each other with foreign objects and forget to tag our partners. It was the only time in my life that I socially played games without the Internet.

And I’m sad that wrestling titles haven’t been able to interest me much since. Still, though, developers are able to make solid titles. I recently just finished playing Longtail Studios TNA Wrestling for the iPhone. It’s actually pretty rad.

Hit the break for the review.

TNA Wrestling (iPhone)
Developer: Longtail Studios
Publisher: Longtail Studios
Released: March 26, 2009
MSRP: $4.99

When I was younger, professional wresting had me firmly in its grasp. I was drawn in by the spectacle of muscle-bound men slapping and grabbing each other on top of the springy canvas. I grew out of it pretty quickly. I think the catalyst that got me looking elsewhere for entertainment was Bill Goldberg’s monumental title defense against Diamond Dallas Page. Three Diamond Cutters, man. Three. That shit just doesn’t jive with me.

But I tell you what does -- TNA Wrestling for the iPhone. Surprisingly, Longtail Studios has crafted quite the charming wrestling title that almost perfectly captures the sideshow antics -- both physical and mental -- of TNA’s brand of wrestling. TNA Wrestling is an undemanding game that relies heavily on the eccentricity of the company’s stars and your willingness to engage in their ridiculous banter to propel an intuitive turn-based style grappling system. As a whole, the game is digestible, hilarious and even a little addictive.

The objective in TNA Wrestling is to take an unknown wrestler that you create to relative stardom at the top of TNA’s roster. And it won’t take much effort on your part. The game throws you matches consistently and a fairly linear progression makes sure you’re never treading water -- even if you’re pissing off the suits or embarrassing Scott Steiner.

Character creation isn’t that big of a deal, unfortunately. You’re given a few mundane characteristics to fool around with at the beginning of the game -- stuff like hair color, chest build and facial hair. The game deals in absolutes, so no multi-colored goatees or rainbow briefs.

Wrestling is the only vehicle of progression in the game, which is probably my biggest knock on the title. TNA Wrestling has a fairly diverse dialogue system that allows you to make moral decisions that affect immediate conversations and who you’ll face in some matches. I ultimately got the feeling that these decisions -- based on a “Heel” versus “Face” structure -- really amounted to nothing. About midway through the game, you’re thrust into matches that would have happened regardless of your actions. I would have liked to see more backstage stuff and perhaps a less physical route to the top of the wrestling food chain.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to follow my wrestler home. What do these guys do in their spare time anyway? (Other than pump iron and beat their children.)

Anyway, so there’s a dialogue system that propels you into the wrestling action, which is by far the most enjoyable experience in the title. Wrestling is turn-based and controlled by statistics, not wholly unlike an old-school role-playing game. Instead of casting “Fire,” you get the option to punch, kick, grapple or throw an adversary into the ropes.

The system uses Battle Points, which are earned by netting Experience Points from defeating opponents and making dialogue choices. It’s a flat earning system -- you get points no matter what words you choose. It’s a bit disorienting at first.

The usage of the turn-based system makes matches strategic. A series of punches and kicks will wind up activating a special move like an eye rake or some kind of suplex. (A nifty HUD keeps track of what moves you can pull off, your health, and even the amount of battle points you have to spend.) The key to getting off a move is paying attention to the battle points that you have, as well as the amount of reversals your opponent still has at his disposal. (You can have three initially.)

Of course, once your turn ends, you’ll need to wisely spend your reversals as well.

What it all boils down to is a cautious five minutes of battle that will commonly end in your favor since the AI isn’t that intelligent. At the same time, though, matches can spiral out of control if you spend your reversals like a moron or if your opponent manages to pump up the crowd -- another fighting option that can be taken at the beginning of the round.

There is one slightly annoying caveat to all of this: every special move and pin requires you to mess around with quick-time events. The QTEs are usually just little swipes and flicks on-screen, but if you miss, your turn is automatically forfeited. Usually, by the time you have an opponent ready to be pinned, you’ve already used all your reversals. So when he pops up, your face has just become a meaty punching bag. I’ve lost entirely too many matches thanks to my slow reaction time.

Still, for a mobile wrestling game, you can’t argue with the results. TNA Wrestling is wicked fun and you’ll probably spend a few more minutes in the title than what you reckoned every time you pick it up. The visuals are quite sharp, the dialogue is witty, and the action has a dash of complexity. Pick this up if you’re a fan of wrestling games or if you’re just looking for a slow brawler on your iPhone.

Score: 7.5 -- Good (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)

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