80s Wrestling Mania Returns
In my 5-plus years of writing this column; I've never reviewed a mobile game before. The main reason behind that is, up until very recently, I'm one of the (assuredly) few people who had never owned a smartphone. I just never did. I'm not a very social or outgoing person and I only really talk to a few people so I never had much need for a phone outside of my regular house phone. Nowadays, though, I spend more time working at my "day job" (60-plus hours a week) then I do at home so, I finally invested in a phone to have "on the go". With that recent purchase; I've been digging into what games are available on mobile platforms and, of course, the pro wrestling genre is one that I'm always interested in and I happened to run across the gem in the store.
80s Mania Wrestling Returns was developed and released by Checkmate Creative LLC sometime last year and they really put a lot of effort and love into this game. I know mobile games often have the stigma of being "casual games" when it comes to hardcore gamers but I've never held that opinion myself. There are all different types of video games that fill all different purposes and genres and you either like them or you don't. That's all it boils down to. Also, to be fair, this game is very in-depth so, you can hardly refer to it as "casual".
First off, to be clear, this isn't any sort of action-based wrestling game. It's a sim of being a booker/GM (however you'd like to phrase it) which is actually one of my favorite styles of wrestling games. Even on other "regular" wrestling games over the years; I would often just book matches and feuds and watch them play out as opposed to always participating in the matches. Admittedly, maybe I'm just strange like that but maybe some of you guys also share that opinion. Regardless, booking a virtual wrestling promotion is definitely what I call a fun time.
Aside from just being a booking sim; half of the fun of 80s Mania Wrestling Returns is that it's also a collectible card game sort of like Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh!. When you first start the game, you pick which federation you want to run, and then you are gifted with a few wrestler and venue cards of places that your events can be held. You slowly try to build up your promotion and then either earn or buy further cards to enhance it.
You can either buy cards through the virtual currency that you build up in the game by putting on good events or through investing real money into the game. This is also where a lot of people complain about mobile games - the microtransactions. I, for one, won't complain. This game (like almost all mobile games) is free so if you feel so inclined as to give the devs a few bucks to unlock some content; that's awesome and I'm sure they appreciate it. If not, that's also cool and you can continue to enjoy a great, free game with no investment.
My only minor complaint about the system in place here is that I always enjoyed buying "booster packs" in other collectible card games and opening them and getting a random five cards or so at a time whereas with this game; you seem to only get one card at a time and you usually know what it is when you're purchasing it. That takes a little of the mystery/fun factor out of buying packs of cards at a time as opposed to just one card.
Since this is a collectible card game; everything here is represented by cards that you collect. Everything from the venues you can run, the wrestlers on your roster, the types of interview segments and vignettes you can have on your show and, even whatever different match types you are allowed to have. My favorite match-type card that I've personally collected is a hair vs hair match. That's something you never really see in any other wrestling game and it adds a little flair to whatever show you include it in.
As far as the wrestlers included in this game; the number almost seems limitless. There is a shitload of wrestler cards to collect and they're all funny and entertaining because they're all parodies that are based on real-life wrestlers and pop icons of the 80s and 90s. Any particular wrestler card could pay homage to anything or anyone from wrestling legends of the era to The Smurfs, a Cabbage Patch Kid, Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, Punky Brewster, Mr. T, Andy Kaufman, or even Starman and The Amazon from the classic game, Pro Wrestling, for the original NES. Seriously, when it comes down to it, this game may have the best and most all-inclusive roster that's ever been included in a wrestling game and that's saying a lot!
Basically, the game plays out with you booking events and trying to build up your TV ratings to compete with the other two wrestling promotions that are also running shows. The timeline of the game itself runs from 1980 until 1999 but some wrestlers are only allowed to compete for certain years. For example, you may have a wrestler card in your deck but they "retired" in 1989 and you're currently booking shows in 1993 so, you can no longer use them. There are always exceptions to this, though, because you can bring back retired legends for a one-shot appearance at the yearly battle royale (a/k/a Royal Rumble) or there is one particular card you can collect that lets retired legends come back for a "swan song match" of your choosing. All of this adds more and more layers of depth to the gameplay and lets you decide when you really need to "pop the crowd" by introducing the return of a legend that your audience loves.
Final verdict - this seems like a really fun and worthwhile game to check out even if you never invest any real money into it. I find myself playing it a lot during the downtime of the many, many (seriously, way too many) hours that I spend at work each week earning money for all of the other consoles and games that I buy that I never seem to have enough time to play. This game has humor and depth and as much strategy as you'll find in any console wrestling game. If you're a fan of booking sims then I would seriously suggest checking this game out. It truly provides hours of entertainment on the go.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!