Commodore User1st April 1988
Published in Commodore User #56
There's something a bit different about this wrestling game. For a start, it uses yet actual digitised pictures of real wrestlers (eugh) instead of the usual bundles of sprites. Secondly, since there are no sprites to control, there's no grappling to do. This may sound disappointing and, in truth, it's disastrous.
MicroLeague Wrestling is an official product of the World Wrestling Federation. It looks to me as though the WWF know absolutely nothing about computer games. Either that or they've landed on their heads too often. As I was saying, there's no actual combat to control. All you do is choose the moves and watch the two big dumbos carry them out.
But let's introduce the big macho blubber boys themselves. There are three of them: Hulk Hogan - blond moustachoed bombshell from California. He's true American grit, he fights clean - he's a nerk. Randy "Macho Man" Savage - he's black, he's crucial, he wears shades and a leopard-skin headband - katanga! Paul "Mr Wonderful" Orndorff - boring-looking bloke from Florida.
The game gives you a choice of only two matches, and Hulk Hogan (for some unknown reason) gets to fight in both of them. This is a one or two player game, so you can choose to be any one of the three against the computer or play an (unwilling) friend.
Before the match, you get an optional sequence of screens that show both men being interviewed by TV wrestling pundit Mean Gene Okenlund (who he?). This amounts to a set of digitised photos in which balding Mean Gene asks highly probing questions and elicits pertinent replies like: "I'm gonna stop that dude in this tracks".
Once you've endured the interview, you get yet another set of digipics showing the referee mouthing like a goldfish and the two fighters making their way to the arena. After what seems like five years, they actually start grappling.
What you get is a Harry Carpenter-type view of the action, with a set eleven moves for each wrestler displayed down both sides of the screen: five easy, four medium and two difficult ones. Most are common to both but some are particular to the fighter. Orndorff, for example, likes the Eye Rake whilst Randy Savage favours the occasional flying Knee Drop.
The strategy (what there is of it) involves choosing a move that has a better probability of success than the opponent's taking into account two factors: power and damage. Each wrestler has a powermeter and a damage display pnael. A successful move increases your own power and increases damage points to your opponent. If the points total amassed goes over a critical level, you can go for the pin, and eventual victory. Bouts can last ten minutes, twenty minutes and even an hour for the Grudge Match.
All three fighters have an option to get them out of trouble if things go badly. Hulk Hogan can get an uplift from the crowd once per bout. The other two get two chances per bout each of doing dirty tricks. That may put them back in the running, but they take the risk of being disqualified.
Once both of you have chosen a move, the computer decides whose move won and then displays it in a short sequence of digitised pictures to give the appearance of movement. In general, the sequences are very good and are shot from a variety of angles, both from a distance and close-up.
Some of the more complicated moves, like the elbow drop, are done in a set of around five shots beginning with the bloke standing on the top rope and ending with a huge flabby heap on the canvas. Then there's the simplex where the victim actually flies through the air. Simpler moves, like the stomp and punch, are merely two pictures alternating.
Oh, I almost forgot. During the bout, you get a textual commentary on each move from American TV wrestling pundit Vince McMahon (not Ken McMahon's dad), whose digitised face is on the bottom left of the screen. To the right is another digitised face who occasionally interrupts, a bit like Saint and Greavsie. Vince is a graduate of the Jimmy Hill school of obvious comments: "That atomic drop really hurt Savage," he opines. "There's no love lost here," interjects the Sidekick.
I have mixed feelings about MicroLeague Wrestling. Sequences of digitsed real pictures to approximate animation is a good idea, and the pictures themselves are very well displayed. Where the game falls down drastically is that there's absolutely nothing for the players to do but choose moves from a short menu. There's no real gameplay and no real challenge involevd. Once you've seen all the sequences of moves (and there are quite a few of them) and read all the mind-numbing commentaries, interest soon fades.