WWF WrestleMania DOS review

Any wrestling fan out there (even filthy casuals like me) knows that the upcoming weekend is WrestleMania, definitely the most famous wrestling event in the world. And to celebrate such occasion, let’s look at one of the first wrestling games ever made for the PC, WWF WrestleMania (not to be confused with all the other games with the same title though).

WWF WrestleMania is a wrestling (duh!) game developed by Twilight and published by Ocean. It was originally released in 1991 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It was re-released the following year for DOS.

This game is very similar, graphic-wise, to the arcade game WWF Superstars by Technos, but it doesn’t seem to be a port of it (well, at least officially it doesn’t).

But as always, let’s first look at the cover:

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Well, now this is an interesting cover. Of course, you’d have to include Hulk Hogan (on the centre) and the US flag in there, but it’s the inclusion of the British Bulldog (on the right) and the UK flag that makes it interesting. It’s probably due to the fact that Ocean is a British company. And the mean-looking soldier on the left is none other than Sgt. Slaughter, another famous WWF wrestler. Just by looking at the cover, one might think these are the 3 wrestlers we can control in the game, but actually, Sgt. Slaughter is the final wrestler we face in the single-player mode.

But it’s time to boot this sucker, brother!

The intro actually looks good with an equally nice theme. It also shows the 3 wrestlers you can choose: the aforementioned Hulk Hogan and the British Bulldog along with the Ultimate Warrior. Then we go the the main menu where you can choose between two options: the simple-player mode, where you compete for the WWF Championship belt and the Practice mode, where you can practise your moves and attacks against Mr. Perfect.

I recommend the Practice mode if you’re not used to this type of game, although the control scheme is quite easy to learn for it’s simply the directional keys and one attack button. The practice mode also doubles as the two player mode, but the second player will always play as Mr. Perfect, unfortunately. And all the matches are one-on-one. There are no tag-team matches.

If you choose to compete for the belt and after choosing your wrestler, you’re then taken to a TV screen where your 1st opponent, Mr. Perfect, is cutting a promo. You can then choose between 3 possible answers to your opponent’s taunt, to which then your opponent will respond to. The answers you choose are different to each wrestler and to each opponent, but your opponent will always answer back the same reply regardless. All this promo segments, while faithful to pro-wrestling, doesn’t affect the matches whatsoever.

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“… BROTHER!”

We’re then taken to the match, which is shown in a side 2D view, with a bottom panel with two health bars, a 5-minute timer counting down and the number of credits left (you start with 2 credits).

If you’re used to fighting games, then wrestling games aren’t much different. In this game though, you can move in 4 directions and you can punch and kick the other wrestler. But you also have the ability to grapple your opponent when close to him. But the moment you grapple an opponent, two joystick icons appear in each lower corner of the screen. In that moment, you have to wiggle your joystick/gamepad left and right in order to build up a red bar. Whoever fills the bar first, performs a special grappling move unique to each wrestler (although said move doesn’t seem take a lot of health compared with the other attacks).

When a wrestler (either you or the opponent) is on the ground, another icon appears, of a finger pressing a button. This icon informs you to press your attack button as fast as possible for your wrestler to get up. While an opponent is on the ground, you can kick him or pin him, although the latter is only recommended with a low health bar. The less health a wrestler has, the longer it takes for him to get up and the easier it is to pin him. Any match ends when a 3-count pin is performed, the timer reaches zero or any wrestler reaches a 20 second time limit when outside the ring. But you’re only declared the winner if you successfully pin your opponent.

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FIGHT!

Yes, you can also go outside the ring, but each wrestler can only stay there for a maximum of 20 seconds. And outside the ring, you can find and grab chairs to use against your opponent (in fact, it’s the best attack due to its fast rate). Any wrestler can also climb a turnbuckle to jump on the opponent (or against the ropes) or even run towards him for more attacks (although again, they don’t seem to deal more damage compared to a normal punch or kick). But careful though, because running attacks can be countered.

After winning a match, your opponent returns to the TV screen for one last taunt and it then moves to the next opponent. To win the WWE Championship, you need to defeat a total of 5 wrestlers: Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, The Warlord, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, The Mountie and finally Sgt. Slaughter, presented here during his controversial Iraqi sympathizer heel phase. It would be great if you could also face the other two wrestlers you didn’t choose.

Now to the technical aspects. The graphics are okay and although the sprites are big, they’re also ugly and the animation is awful. The sound effects are also bad, but the music theme is good (although there’s no music during the matches). The controls, either keyboard or joystick/gamepad, aren’t very responsive and you’re going to lose the grapple wiggle a lot of times.

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In conclusion, WWF WrestleMania isn’t a good game. It has a hard difficulty setting and the controls, while intuitive, aren’t very responsive which makes the game unnecessarily harder. And there should also be more wrestlers available, not only to choose from but also to face and more variety of moves and attacks (you can’t even do irish whips). In other words, I can’t recommend it, not even to wrestling fans. But if you want to try it, then go here to play it in your own browser.

The Amiga version, although having better music (but worse sound effects), is equally bad in all other aspects. The other console and arcade titles with the same name are different games made by different companies, so I won’t even mention them in this review (although the ones I played are definitely better).

Well, what’s your favourite wrestling game? Tell me below in the comments or on our social media. Till then, enjoy WrestleMania 35 and keep on playing, brother!

Batman: The Caped Crusader DOS review

Do you know what day is today? It’s Batman Day! That’s right. And I’m taking advantage of this opportunity to review a DC Comics licensed game (since I’ve already reviewed Marvel games). And I’m reviewing the first game ever to be released on the PC of my favourite DC superhero: Batman.

Batman: The Caped Crusader is an action-adventure game developed by Special FX and published by Ocean in Europe and Data East in the US. It was originally released in 1988 for the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It was re-released the following year for DOS.

Although this is the first Batman videogame released for the PC, it’s also the second Batman game ever made (the first one being Jon Ritman’s Batman, published in 1986, also by Ocean, but never released for PC). These two games, along with Batman: the Movie, are part of Ocean’s Batman game trilogy.

But, like always, let’s first take a look at the bat-cover:

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Not going to lie, the cover art looks great! It really looks like a comic book cover, with Batman fighting the Penguin with laughing Joker cards in the background. It’s probably more action-packed than the game itself (as you’ll see in a minute). And one might think that such cover was made by a comic book artist, seeing that the art style is very close to Neal Adams’ but it was actually made by the late Bob Wakelin, one of the best video game cover artists of the 80s.

But it’s about time to boot this bat-sucker:

The game is divided in two independently bootable sections: A Bird in the Hand, where Batman must stop Penguin’s robot penguin army and A Fete Worse than Death, where Batman must find and disarm the Joker’s bombs and then find and save Robin. In each section, we’re treated to probably the worst title screen I’ve ever seen. When I first saw it, I thought it was a pre-title screen. And I recommend reading the manual before playing as it not only has the backstory but also explain the menu icons and the control scheme.

The action occurs on screens of different sizes, reminiscent of comic panels. And every time you move to another panel, the new panel appears on top of the old one. It’s a novel presentation that would appear on some later comic-inspired games. But because a lot of panels are very similar, it’s very easy to get lost. I recommend drawing maps to avoid it. The art style in the game is very reminiscent of the Silver Age Batman with some Bronze Age elements here and there.

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“I am vengeance. I am the night. I AM BATMAN!”

Both sections are very similar gameplay-wise. You control Batman and you have to grab items lying around the floor and use said items to solve puzzles to progress through the sections. But your health is constantly depleting and Batman can only carry up to 10 items. I guess Penguin and Joker must have poison Batman and stole his utility belt before the game. To replenish your health, you need to eat food. You can find it lying around or you can defeat enemies, of which some drop food. However, food dropped by the enemies only replenish some health, unlike the other food you’ll find that fully replenish it.

You use the directional arrows (or pad, if you’re using a joystick) to move Batman and an action button along with the arrows to fight, grab objects and access the menu. In the menu, you can check Batman’s health at the bottom (where it slowly turns into a skull), your progress percentage on top, your inventory on the sides and other options in the middle. Like I said before, I recommend reading the manual to understand the meaning of each menu icon.

One of the first objects you can grab is the batarang, which I highly recommend because it’s the best way to confront the enemies. And talking about the enemies, there isn’t a lot of variety (usually henchmen and smaller enemies, apart from the Joker and Penguin) and every time you defeat one, another one appears when returning to the some panel. Unless you need to get food from enemies, most of the times is just easier to avoid them and concentrate on solving the puzzles.

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“What are you?” “I’m Batman!”

The puzzles range from easy to hard and personally I found the Penguin section easier than the Joker section. On the top of some of the panels, there’s a short description which not only provide some clues but also helps distinguish similar panels and make for good references. But sometimes the clues aren’t enough to solve the puzzles and because of the limited inventory space, you’ll end up backtracking a lot (especially in the Joker section). And of course the debilitating health makes the game even harder! Is almost like the developers added this last feature to increase the difficulty tenfold.

And of course, if your health reaches zero, it’s back to the start of the section. There isn’t a save option nor checkpoints throughout the game. And I did found a point of no-return near the end of one of the sections. Meaning that if you reach that point and you don’t have the necessary objects to finish said section and enough health left for it, you might as well restart the entire section. At least, every time you solve a puzzle, you can drop the object used because you won’t need it again.

Graphically wise, the game looks nice, albeit with some small sprites (especially of the objects lying around) that almost blend in the background. They are also quite colorful but I wish there would be more variety with the sprites because, like I said before, most of the panels are very similar to each other. The animation is okay, but I wish there would be more of it during the action to know when we’re being attacked and Batman walks too slow, which sucks in a game with constant debilitating health.

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The title music isn’t bad but because it’s in a continuous loop, it gets old very fast and I don’t blame you for turning it off in the menu screen. The sound effects are almost non-existent, with some sounds when using the objects correctly when solving puzzles and the sound effects during the action.

The best part of the game for me are the controls, of which the keyboard is actually quite responsive, although Batman needs to be in the perfect position to go through doors or climb stairs, but apart from that, I didn’t had any problems controlling Batman. I don’t know how the joystick scheme is because I couldn’t configure my gamepad.

So, in conclusion, Batman: The Caped Crusader is a game that although it had a good success when released (mainly because there was only one other Batman game), it aged quite poorly. It isn’t very action-focused, with the real focus on the puzzles. Yes, I know that Batman is DCU’s greatest detective, but he’s still a superhero and I think there should be more action in the game (ironically, this wouldn’t be the last Batman game with puzzle elements, and I’m not talking about the Arkham series). And the constant debilitating health is an unnecessary feature. Some of the puzzles are hard as they get without the need to add more frustration to it.

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“Who the hell do you think I am? I’M THE GODDAMN BATMAN!” – Crazy Steve

So if you’re a Batman fan, you might feel some curiosity towards Batman’s beginnings in the videogame realm, but honestly I can’t recommend it. I haven’t played any of the other versions, but the Amiga and the Atari ST versions have better graphics, sound and music and the Commodore 64 version is considered by some the best version out there.

In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman would be released in cinemas worldwide and it had such a success that inspired several games in all platforms (home computers, consoles and arcade) that would overshadow all previous Batman games and begin a slew of action-oriented games (albeit with at least one exception, which we’ll take a look at a later date).

I hope you’ve enjoyed the review and I hope you have a great Batman Day. Until then, prowl the night and keep on playing!