MAT MANIA / Taito / Arcade

Damn, this game looks good and plays smooth for 1985. Shame that console wrestling games would take about a decade to catch up to this.

The downside of Mat Mania is that you're stuck in the role of the shaggy-haired "You", with only your rather simple and unexciting moveset from game to game. You'll face a progression of six goofy fictional wrestlers on the way to the belt, from the Insane Worrier up to the champion Golden Hulk. Each match is three minutes, and of course if you run out of time you lose by default, in typical carny style.

Though your move set isn't exciting, it's surprisingly robust for 1985 and one of the first real wrestling games. You have the usual punch and kick buttons, and grapples are executed iffily when you or the opponent strikes when really close. The strength of the engine is in the rope game, where you can execute several moves after whipping the opponent, and can counter their attacks when you're whipped (if you have enough space). There's some strategy to it as different opponents are more prone to counter from different ranges. A rough idea of remaining stamina can be gauged from how long the opponent stays down, and when you're in trouble the music changes. Jumping off turnbuckles can also apparently be done but I couldn't actually manage to do it.

The game has a lot of panache, which is what usually helps these primitive old wrestling games the most. The whole presentation is a goofy manga-ish take on Japanese TV broadcasts of the 70s and early 80s (brought to you by the rather hyper "Cory"), it has really decent graphics and music (excellent for the time), and there's a whole slew of unlicensed and totally illegal cameos to enjoy in the audience.

Videos :

* Gameplay Video