MeekinOnMovies on BookingRevolution
IOS / Android / PC - $4.99 (Pro Version)
Perhaps due to the lingering spectre of Kayfabe, pro-wrestling games have always been about making a staged competition seem real. Thus, when you buy your Smackdowns, or WWE 13s, or TNA Impacts, you’re not really getting the quintessential pro-wrestling experience. The number of high-quality wrestling games that have come out -Fire Pro Pickaletter, WWF No Mercy, a few others - that make wrestling *real* by turning it into a legitimate competition number in the dozens and are really a game genre unlike no-other. These games are so good in fact, that it’s nearly impossible for me to play any sort of fighting game because wrestling games hold so much more depth, excitement and appeal to me. But pro-wrestling games, regardless of quality, are also missing out on what makes wrestling awesome for the hardcore fans.
Imagination. Your normal wrestling game doesn’t care if you spent 40 minutes in an epic battle to the near-death with The Undertaker, or spent 5 minutes spamming The Bronco Buster with X-Pac before pinning your opponent. Wrestling fandom celebrates a most bizarre creativity, and it’s a real shame that most games in the genre have a hard time capturing, quantifying, and rewarding it.
(Hopefully) fans yearn for the ability to have a great match, with unexpected moments and death-defying and creative moves. And just like how our eyes grow wide in anticipation when CM Punk ascends the top turnbuckle and gives props to Macho Man before leaping Elbow First at a 40+ year old man who pretends to be a zombie laying on a paper thin announce table, *we* want a chance to create some of that magic ourselves from the inside out.
So, to fill that void you may not have known existed in the wrestling-game scape, I present to you, “Booking Revolution”, now available on the Appstore and Android Marketplace for less than the cost of a pack of cigarettes.
For the un(or under)-informed, Wrestling Revolution was the latest in a series of wrestling games by Indie Dev Mat Dickie, who was “indie” before “indie” was a thing. After starting out on PC with varying degrees of success (utilizing Blitz Basic and Blitz 3D of all things), he took his game-development expertise to Mobile Platforms (and switched to developing via Flash). As of today Wrestling Revolution has been downloaded somewhere in the neighborhood of one-hundred thousand plus time via the Appstore and Google Play.
While Wrestling Revolution was a great warm-up and a pretty decent wrestling game, it’s sequel (or counterpart) Booking Revolution is the game I’ve been waiting for. Booking Revolution has you create your booker, has you choose from a variety of available promotions (Ranging from the super-popular All American Wrestling, to the lowly Federation Online), then hands you the the keys to the book.
But, who is the best person to take the reigns of a wrestling empire?
|You may have heard of him...|
Once your booker looks tough enough to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of fake half-naked guys pretending to hit each other, you’re given a status screen that displays your promotion’s money, popularity, current champion, booker, owner, and whether you’re booking a PPV or a TV taping. The options to hire talent, edit your roster, or check out that evening’s card (which we’ll get to later) are also displayed.
The editor is pretty self-explanatory, but a caveat here is that if a wrestler has “creative” you can’t edit them (in career mode), which is a pain-in-the-ass, but in a cool way - and you can’t change their face/heel alignment either, which is accomplished through in-ring promos.
Hiring talent is pretty self-evident too, but once you get a gander at the absolutely massive roster available to you, you may just fall in love. I’m not exaggerating when I say that pretty much everyone of note who has stepped in the squared circle, is represented in Booking Revolution. Albeit in a bit jerry-rigged sort of way, much like the old “Fire Pro” games.The Brock Lesnar-esque character has tight-red tights instead of his MMA shorts, Stone Cold has blonde hair (which is so offensive I changed it immediately), Mankind has an eye-patch, and there are similar idiosyncrasies sprinkled across the massive roster to keep things exciting (and I imagine to escape legal action). But once you customize the roster’s appearance to your liking, you’ll be amazed how authentic the big-names really feel - despite a relatively limited move list.
|I may have made...one or two additions to the roster|
Using the roster properly, and booking quality matches is Booking Revolution’s bread and butter. In addition to the Yokozuna-huge roster, there’s a Rikishi-big number of match options. Singles, Triple Threat, Fatal Four Way, Battle Royal, last man standing, Steel Cage (Blue, Black, or Gray mesh), Inferno, Barbed Wire, ropeless (hell, ringless is an option), Furniture smash (Tables match, anyone?), and literally dozens of other match modifiers like 2/3 falls, escape the ring to win, Sumo, and a few others - unfortunately there’s no Hell in a Cell, or Ladder Match but if you can’t find a match type you enjoy, you’re not trying hard enough. You also have a number of pre-match promos to select from, too: including face turns, heel turns, arguments over drugs or stealing friends, farewell announcements, team formations, and some more to add a little extra juice to a match.
Setting up a match properly can take a bit of time considering all the options available - but the game tends to reward sound logic. If you throw two nobodies into a regular 1-on-1 match with no promo, gimmick, or feud behind them, the crowd will crap all over it unless they’re highly skilled. If you toss two hugely popular wrestlers into a barbed-wire, steel cage, inferno match, you’re sure to get a quality match rating, but your two competitors will likely end up injured or worse (wrestlers can die in this game, and they do somewhat regularly). This is probably the first game that gives you a reason to play as marginally skilled, but “hardcore” wrestlers who can take ridiculous abuse.
Matches are rated on a scale of 1-5 stars (with half-stars being included in a forthcoming update), and have a whole slew of factors that go into exciting the crowd. Ideally you want to strike a balance between hardcore, in-ring work, and the popularity. A match between the highly skilled and highly popular “Slam Dunk” and “Cody Massacre” needs little more than some quality back and forth, an occasional elbow drop off the top rope, and an exciting finish to get yourself to a four-star match rating. Similarly a match between “Ralph Zipper” and “Les Miserables” might need a guest referee, some hardcore brawling, or a third party to obtain a quality match rating.
Matches themselves are wildly unpredictable. The gameplay is a mix between Fire Pro Wrestling and the old WWF Raw games on the SNES and Genesis. You’ve given a straight-on perspective of the ring (ala Raw), and the punch / kick / grapple system may seem rudimentary at first, but once you get into the flow of a match, the countering and grappling mechanics become deceptively deep and sometimes out of your control, leading to more genuine “OH MY GOD!” moments than any other wrestling game I’ve played.
This is accomplished in three ways. First, while you’re wrestling to have a great match, wrestlers do have health meters that can be depleted, therefore, as you approach the end of a match and both you and your opponent’s meter is in red, each-near fall elicits Oohs and Aahs from the player, and eeks out precious match rating points. Second is the intuitive chain-grappling / reversal system that is completely out of the gamer’s control. At first the inability to counter a move via direct input seems like a missed opportunity, but it adds incredible drama to a given match - going for a late match powerbomb through the announce table, only to have itcountered into a hurricanrana or back body drop is wildly entertaining - counters can come out of no-where, too. I’ve had top-rope moves countered into pile drivers, a spear countered into a suplex, and had a pretty stellar re-enactment of Rock v. Cena where every other move was a Rock Bottom or Attitude Adjustment counter. Thirdly, and most important, is the ability to control any of the competitors at any given time. What this does is allow you to control the flow of a match, to ensure back-and-forth fighting ensues to pop the star-rating and to make sure “Gold Bolder”’s 15 match winning streak doesn’t end on a fluke win by “Petrol” and his magical stun-gun of doom. But even with the control of both wrestlers, and the referee, unexpected results occur, especially if you’re counting on a quality near-fall that never comes (switching to the pinning player and “letting off the pin” doesn’t pop the crowd), or a big move gets countered into a submission that results in an immediate and shocking tap out. The A.I is pretty great here, and on more than one occasion you'll switch to playing as your opponent just to give the other guy a breather.
There's also some light business management elements that will certainly become a bigger factor in gameplay as the updates are released (Mdickie has a way of updating his games like a mad-man. Wrestling Revolution today and when it was released are amazingly different), there's backstage drama and politics to deal with ("Ripper Ace" came to me the other day and wanted to change his name to "Golden Balls" and, well, I had to let him because he had creative control), and it's pretty amazing the whole shebang fits in your pocket.
The game does have it's share of issues - weird glitches, if you do a 3 person promo with two wrestlers the Ref acts like the world champion, sometimes wrestlers will intentionally get themselves DQed (which may be intentional) - and the game threw a weird bug (or intended consequence) where all my matches for one TV taping had to take place without a ring - which was incredibly annoying. I fully expect these bugs to be fixed, and more robust management / feuding elements to be implemented too - but regardless, the game is an absolute blast.
Simply put, with a little imagination on the player’s part Booking Revolution becomes the quintessential wrestling game for wrestling fans. I know I’m approaching Mick Foley/Tori Amos on the creepy scale, but what Mat Dickie has done with this game is sort of profound - essentially showing up every other wrestling game, ever, simply by rating your performance. Wrestling is never about winning and losing, it’s about entertaining audiences, and that's what connects with people. This is why Caliber Winfield's bizarre star-ratings garner such scrutiny, and Scott Keith’s rating of Punk v. Bryan from Over The Limit was quote unquote controversial, it’s why we buy the PPVs, it’s why we complain Bryan is being held down while Triple H gets to waddle around the ring with Brock Lesnar. We’re fans after all, and we want to be entertained - and to be honest, with a little logic and quality matches, it shouldn't be that hard to do so.
Booking Revolution gives you a chance to prove it.
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