Review: Backyard Wrestling (PS2)

As much as I rant on Blockbuster, they do have a winner with their Game Pass idea.

Here’s the deal. You pay $20 a month and you get what amounts to a full-time one-game rental. You take out a game, bring it back whenever you want, and swap it out for a different game whenever you want. This has twofold goodness. First, if you get a game that you just can’t put down but also can’t quite finish within the 4.5-day rental period the Game Pass lets you keep it as long as you need to. Conversely, if you rent an absolute stinker of a game, you can trade it in the next day or sooner for a different one. Why am I bringing this up here?

Game: Backyard Wrestling
Platform: PS2
Developer: A group of people that should be ashamed of themselves.
Distributor: A group of people that should know better. (EIDOS)
Day I rented it: Friday, October 17.
Day I returned it: Friday, October 17.

Sweet mother of Mick Foley this game is bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, BAD, bad, bad. Which sucks because I had such high hopes for it. No, really. Between the TV ads, the screenshots, and the premise of the game itself I was oddly looking forward to it. With THQ pretty much running the wrestling game world right now, maybe I was hoping for a little indie excellence to shake things up a bit. Maybe I just wanted to suplex someone through a window. For whatever reason, I had a feeling that this game could be carrying some real visceral intensity (as far as video games go) and I eagerly plopped it in for review.

Just to make sure there is no misunderstandings here, I have absolutely no problem with the premise. I review a game on it’s own merits and not based on hackneyed opinion pieces from “concerned’ parents. As a concerned parent myself, I know the difference between playing a game where people are diving off of houses and kids actually diving off of houses, and when my son gets old enough I’ll make sure he understands the difference too.

Now, on with the crappy.

First sign of a problem (and yes, I know I’m doing this on a PS2 so I should expect this, but): “¦”¦really”¦”¦..slow”¦”¦”¦load”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦times.

Okay, so I’m finally into the game. I decide to give the Create-a-Wrestler feature a spin, first-thing. I mosey on over there, put in a name, and go to edit my appearance. That’s when I find out that there is no editing your appearance in this CAW. No, you have sixteen character models to choose from. No, seriously, that’s it. There’s no modifying these models for size, clothing, hair color, nothing. Sixteen models. Oh, but each model has something like 12 different costumes! Except that the costumes are basically color scheme changes to the same freakin’ model, and some of the models only have four costumes, but the programmers were too damn lazy to change the menu to say four costumes instead of 12 (or whatever. I didn’t write down exactly how many there were. I was in too big of a hurry to get this big, steaming pile of DVD out of my house) so they just repeat the four costumes over and over again. Ta-da! Four costumes become 12. Pathetic.

Okay, so I take my “custom character” and start a single-player game, known affectionately as “Talk Show Mode.” Now, we come to one of those things that made me really look forward to this game. They run a cut-scene, and a really well-done one at that, of this talk-show where this redneck character comes on and gripes about his brother (cousin, mom, whatever) wrestling in his backyard and slamming him into his barbecue grill. Funny stuff. Finally, we’re ready for the first fight. (I’ll assume that, had I progressed any farther in the game, the different stages would have been punctuated by cut-scenes such as this. If I have one regret for returning this game so fast, it’s that I didn’t get to see the other cut-scenes. Had I tried, I’d probably still be trying to get to stage 2.)

Another”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦really”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦..slow”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦..load”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦”¦

And we’re off”¦.

GAMEPLAY

I get punched down right off the bat. I get up, but I’m met with a flying tire to my skull. I get up again, and I get a brick in the gut. Up again, and I try to dodge the car battery, but apparently the fat, loser prick I’m wrestling has the throwing control of a young Pedro Martinez and I get clocked again. Next thing I know, I’m knocked out. Game over.

So I try again. Every game has a learning curve, right?

And again.

And again.

And again, and I’m beginning to suspect the A.I. of being a little cheap.

And again, and I’m looking for a difficulty setting. There is none.

And again.

And again.

Repeat until sanity melts away. Then eject, get back in car, and go back to video store to trade in for something less frustrating, perhaps Myst.

First of all, the fat rednecks in this game move with the speed of Rey Mysterio on a cocaine bender. I hit the button to throw a punch while my opponent was ten feet”¦.TEN FEET away from me. I didn’t miss, I never completed the punch. In the time it took my character to punch, the computer character traveled ten feet AND successfully grappled me. Once he performed one of his grapple moves on me (one of EIGHT, count em EIGHT at his, and your, disposal) he ran to the opposite side of the backyard and proceeded to throw all manner of junk at me until I was knocked out. Dodging is not an option, you just try to cover as much ground as possible between foreign object shots. Oh, but I grabbed this long PVC pipe once (actually about ten different times) when I had somehow knocked my opponent down. As he got up, I swung the 8 foot long section of pipe. Apparently, PVC pipe exists in a nearby dimension relative to the computer opponent, because it passed right through him without incident.

It’s not bad enough that the A.I. is cheaper than an NBA Jam game. The collision detection (as described above) derives itself from the Shadowcat school. This is the same feature as in many schoolyard games of Cops n’ Robbers: “I shot you!” “Nuh uh!” And what’s worse, the computer opponents no-sell worse than Hogan. I hit my opponent with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. Actually HIT him this time. Before I could take a second swing, the opponent recovered from the hit, closed the distance, and grappled me. I’m not kidding.

As for the controls, there was a button for punching, a button for kicking, a button for grappling, a button for picking things up and putting them down again, a button for pinning, and a button for the ubiquitous “dash” which didn’t travel at a speed discernibly faster than the normal movement rate of the characters. Handling the controls themselves were easy enough, it’s just that you spend so much of your time on your freakin’ back that 99% of the button pushes you perform are to either try to get up or reverse something.

And here’s a short bit on reversing. This is yet another game that tells you which complex of buttons, pads, sticks, whatever you can use to counter, but gives you absolutely ZERO instruction on just how to counter. You use the directional pad (or stick) and the circle, Square, and X buttons, but THEY DON’T TELL YOU WHICH BUTTON BLOCKS WHAT. If it were JUST the buttons, then you could figure it out pretty easily, but adding the directional aspect, which pretty much cubes the number of reversal combinations, insures that, without a Prima guide, the user will have no idea how to reverse anything for the lifetime of the game.

As for the moves, as I said earlier, you have EIGHT grapple moves at your disposal, and most of them are lifted off of “traditional” pro wrestling or blatantly ripped off of certain WWE characters. I know, what’s supposed to make this game unique is the interaction with the environment. The problem is that it’s pretty damn hard to concentrate on suplexing a guy through a window or slamming them through a table when you’re just trying to avoid getting clubbed with flying objects 90% of the time. Oh, and the only ground moves are stomps or splashes or that kind of thing. No submission moves or even knee stomps or anything like that.

I’m not kidding. The gameplay is basically you getting things thrown at you between periodic slams by one character or the other. Then you lose.

There were supposedly some unique game modes you could play (provided you unlocked them) like King of the Hill. Admittedly, I never played this against another human. Maybe it’s terrific to beat on your friends with, but with the glaring holes I’ve described I see a huge opportunity for just pissing off your friends by exploiting the loopholes in the physics model.

GRAPHICS

Truth be told, the graphics weren’t that bad. Nor were they that good. The environments were interactive, and that was cool, but it’s not like you’re in this Grand Theft Auto-esque freestyle fighting world. No, you’re hemmed in to a very confined fighting area. Far too confined for the aforementioned load times to be reasonable. The cut-scene was excellent, and I wish I could have been motivated to stick around and see more of them.

The “thinness” of the CAW models is just appalling, though. Appalling and insulting. Appalling and insulting and a waste of rental money, let alone purchase price (God help ye that went out and bought this without playing it first).

SOUND

This is the ONE section that gets an above average rating, and that’s only because of the expansive soundtrack for this game. Three PAGES of song credits in the back of the manual, from a nice variety of artists, not just 18 different Insane Clown Posse songs, thank God.

Otherwise, feh. The game sounds were okay. I especially liked when we knocked the redneck cook into the grill. He yelled something along the lines of, “Not again!” and I thought that was funny. The sounds were appropriate to what the characters were slamming against, so no complaints there.

FUN FACTOR

Like I said above, maybe this game is great for a group of friends to beat up on each other with, but with the miniscule movesets and the not-in-the-least-bit-glamorous environments I can’t see this being the target of anybody’s escapist fantasy, save for those kids too damn lazy to jump off of a roof themselves and want a computer game to do it for them.

I can’t say that I’ve never before had the urge to return a game so quickly; but I can say that, thanks to the Game Pass, this is the one I’ve returned the quickest. I fully suggest that everybody else should beat my time by just not renting it at all.

This game absolutely blows, and I don’t care who knows it. Go ahead and flame me. I don’t care. I don’t even care if Insane Clown Posse themselves come over to my house to “convince” me the game is good. Before they knew it, I’d have the big one down and in a figure 4, tapping like the late-great Gregory Hines; and Veronica would put the little one in the Walls of Jericho until he was crying and calling for his Momma.

Ratings
Gameplay: 1.0
Graphics: 5.0
Sound: 6.0
Fun Factor: 2.0