Ladies an' Gennelmen, welcome a newcomer to the ring, Melbourne House's Rock'n'Wrestle. in the blue corner, Tommy "Giant Hayfever" Nash (boo hiss) wrestles up a review...
Quiz time. If you'd been in a deep coma for, oh say at least eight hours and you woke up not knowing what day of the week it was (let alone how you came to be sleeping head first in the linen basket), how would you work out it was Saturday? Turn on the telly for starters. Right. And watch Mike Read make a complete prat of himself on Saturday Superstore? But Mike Read makes a complete prat of himself every day of the week. Watch out for Saint and Greavsie? No chance. The hardest thing of all is finding at time when they're not on. The wrestling? Got it in... er, just over one. Yes, the wrestling, of course. The show in which two EEC-subsidised food mountains (why else d'you think he's called Giant Haystacks?) start knocking the stuffing out of each other. Wrestling equals Saturday. And don't start telling me that you can go down the Civic and watch wrestling any night of the week. Have you ever been? No, of course you haven't.
Except that now, grappling fans, you can have wrestling on your telly every day of the week. Rock'n'Wrestle is the first 3D wrestling simulation to head-butt its way onto your Speccy. But be prepared for a few changes from the real thing. For starters, our man-mountains look as though they've spent a couple of weeks with the Weight Watchers - Big Daddy would have three of them for breakfast before tucking into his Shredded Wheat. And the referee's gone walkabout, so there's none of that a-one-a, a-two-a, a-three-a plus copious amounts of palm slapping on the canvas - the countdown appears as plain old numbers on the screen.
In any case the ref would have great difficulty with the rules. The only way to win a contest is by one pinfall if you're playing the computer or two if you're mashin' up a mate. There are no knockouts and no submissions.
The other big difference is the visuals. A real wrestler would have to get beaten about a bit to look as bad as this. The graphics are definitely on the naff side of awful, especially after the clean lines of Melbourne's last big hit, Way Of The Exploding Fist. And until you've got a fair few back breakers under your Lonsdale belt it's a trifle tricky in some of the grapples picking out which pixel belongs to which player.
But it won't be long before you're used to the blockiness of the graphics and you can tell at a glance the difference between the Missouri Breaker and Redneck McCoy. Then you can get on with the business of mastering the moves - all twenty-seven of them. It's an idea to put some practice on the two-player mode - that way you can be certain of an opponent who keeps still even while you're throwing him around the ring.
Rock'n'Wrestle is not a megagame but it's not far off in its gameplay as looking at the screen shots might suggest. And as a wrestling simulation, it's not at all bad. All the major moves are there and it feels pretty accurate when it's your head making contact with the canvas. You'll even lose control over your character as he reels about the ring after a bad knock. But in the end there is one vital element missing. How could the programmers leave out everyone's favourite handbag-wielding granny?