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Review

WrestleQuest Review

Stuck in the mid-card

At the WWE Vengeance pay-per-view back in 2002, in the main event, an undead biker mortician locked up with a legitimate Olympic gold medallist and a future Hollywood box office star over the WWE Undisputed Championship. Oh, and that undead biker came to the ring to Limp Bizkit’s Air Raid Vehicle (Rollin’). As recently as the day of writing, we saw Leatherface, of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame, get involved in a match between Jeffs Jarrett and Hardy on a random episode of AEW Dynamite. So, it’s fair to say that professional wrestling, oddball pairings, and genre crossovers are well acquainted.

While this might be true for the on-screen product, the same can’t exactly be said for video games based on the king of sports. We get the occasional management sim and card-based title, but the majority are simulation or arcade brawlers. Developer Mega Cat Studios ripped off its collective sunglasses, pointed down the barrel of the camera and said, “Oooooooooh yeah, that’s not gonna work for me,” choosing instead to bring the worlds of wrestling and classic RPGs together with WrestleQuest.

Opening with Conrad Thompson and Jeff Jarrett shooting the breeze on a podcast about a star going from the indies to the main event, we’re introduced to the Toy Box, an amalgamation of various toy sets, facades and box forts that make up the game’s world. First, focusing on a small gym filled with budding grapplers, we meet one of the game’s two leading figures, a Randy Savage super fan by the name of Muchacho Man. Wrestling is still real to Muchacho, dammit, and his plastic dome is filled with dreams of climbing the ranks and becoming a champion. A short way through the game, we hard cut to the frosty north, where we bump into our second protagonist, Brink Logan, a no-nonsense technician that wrestles in a tag team with his moose-headed brother, determined to do right by his family name and fight with…Hart.

I’m starting to think that the dinosaur is committing gimmick infringement 

The two main players, as well as the huge supporting cast of teammates that come and go throughout the course of the game, are endearingly odd, and so too is the world itself. From a jungle that’s comprised of a legally distinct version of Jumanji to wore-torn battlefields filled with army men and GI Joe lookalikes, the entire setting feels like you’ve taken your box of childhood toys and dumped them all out onto the floor for an all-out brawl. While you’ll encounter plenty of mutant rats, Barbie dolls and singlet-wearing dinosaurs, much like a child playing with action figures, everything can be a wrestler.

It’s abundantly clear that Mega Cat Studios live and breathe wrestling because that very love shows in every frame of WrestleQuest. If you’re not interacting with a toy version of Jake “The Snake” Robert or The Road Warriors, you’re chatting to a conflicted up-and-comer who can’t decide between their current surfer gimmick or a more brooding persona, not unlike a particular WCW legend. Indie names like Leva Bates will show up throughout the world alongside wrestling journalists and personalities like Chris Van Vliet, terms like mark, over, face and heel are used frequently, assuming that your wrestling lexicon is as advanced as the dev’s is. This is a labour of hardcore wrestling love, and I greatly appreciate that it leans so heavily into the bizarre hobby.

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The love for the craft, down to immovable obstacles on the map being plywood tables that you need to powerbomb jobbers through, made me instantly fall in love with WrestleQuest, but it’s a love that was shorter than a Goldberg squash match. The same appreciation for rassling is clearly also shown for classic RPGs, and the team has gone to great lengths to blend the two loves together, but unfortunately, it’s in ways that are a detriment to the overall fun.

Hey Muchacho, I think you got him

Combat also features a Momentum bar that fills, granting buffs and bonuses as you play up to the crowd and perform to your style. Choosing between various types, such as a brawler who lives for strikes or a technician that specialises in submissions, gives you a chance to cater to a specific play style, but no matter your choice, the momentum meter rarely dips below the highest segment.

Bosses and higher-level humanoid foes won’t just call it quits when their health hits 0, they need to be down for the all-important count. Pinning your opponent is accomplished by playing a timing minigame that’s relatively easy, but miss your mark, and the foe will pop back up with an injection of health to keep the fight alive. This mechanic is meant to emulate the back-and-forth nature of the sport, but it’s frustrating more than anything.

A thematic mechanic that effectively bridges the source material and the gameplay are the Dramatic Events during boss battles. Much like the preplanned spots in a match, these objectives must be met to complete the encounter. The first instance of this has Brink and Stag Logan eating the pin during a tag match, but not before hitting a signature move and exhausting one of their adversaries. Occasionally adding some much-needed jeopardy to fights, the Dramatic Events cleverly combined the predetermined structure of wrestling with a gameplay hook.

A tag team as Canadian as poutine and maple syrup

The reference-heavy campaign takes the various groups through many battles, brawls and donnybrooks throughout before hitting credits, but despite being filled with clever writing and quippy one-liners, the game’s story is far too long and divided to be engaging. The idea of split parties isn’t new, but WrestleQuest chops and changes between the various groups quicker than a WWE production team. I could barely get a handle on what I was doing and why before things would abruptly stop in the middle of a quest to shoot over to a completely separate storyline. Without the option for a recap or refresher, I found it increasingly difficult to understand the characters’ place in this plastic world, especially after 30 long hours.

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This would have been made easier to deal with if the quests you were embarking on were thrilling or even entertaining, but an unfortunate amount of the missions boil down to going from one place to another, talking to someone or fetching an item, just to go back from where you came. This isn’t across the board, and some standout moments will snap you out of a daze, but the already bloated runtime is extended even further by time-sapping questlines that drag on for little to no reason.

Final Thoughts

Professional wrestling is an acquired taste that many folks just don’t understand, and I don’t think it would be controversial to say that turn-based RPGs cop the same flack. So, for a developer to take both of those niches and mash them together is a bold move that will only appeal to a very specific audience, and I can’t love that enough. That’s what makes this so difficult. WrestleQuest is so endearingly faithful to wrestling that it made me grin like an idiot on the regular, but that faith also damages the overall product. The concessions made to bring the graps into an RPG format result in a messy combat system and an overly long and padded-out campaign. A tag team comprised of wrestling and a classic RPG sounds like a world-beater, but some teams are destined to go the way of The Rockers.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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WrestleQuest Review
Staring At The Lights
Putting wrestling and turn-based RPGs in a can they co-exist tag team style was an excitingly bold move that unfortunately ends in a heel turn and a crowd leaving early to beat the traffic.
The Good
Quick-witted writing
An infectious love for all things wrestling
The Dramatic Events mechanic is a fun addition
Great pixel art style
The Bad
Quick-time events ruin the flow of combat
About twice as long as it needs to be
Quests are dull and drawn out
Story pacing will give you whiplash
5.5
Glass Half Full
  • Mega Cat Studios
  • Skybound Games
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • August 22, 2023

WrestleQuest Review
Staring At The Lights
Putting wrestling and turn-based RPGs in a can they co-exist tag team style was an excitingly bold move that unfortunately ends in a heel turn and a crowd leaving early to beat the traffic.
The Good
Quick-witted writing
An infectious love for all things wrestling
The Dramatic Events mechanic is a fun addition
Great pixel art style
The Bad
Quick-time events ruin the flow of combat
About twice as long as it needs to be
Quests are dull and drawn out
Story pacing will give you whiplash
5.5
Glass Half Full
Written By Adam Ryan

Adam's undying love for all things PlayStation can only be rivalled by his obsession with vacuuming. Whether it's a Dyson or a DualShock in hand you can guarantee he has a passion for it. PSN: TheVacuumVandal XBL: VacuumVandal Steam: TheVacuumVandal

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