Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling
"Pin your opponent in a zany free-for-all match! Chase 'im through the blood-thirsty crowd! 12 tough, bizarre characters to become or to battle! 26 different moves to master, from the defensive Possum Roll to the devastating Power Kick! Play One-On-One or Tag Team! 6 skill levels for constant challenge! Battle a friend or a merciless computer-controlled opponent!".
I love to unearth wrestling games that either people have never heard of or that people haven't thought about in a long time. I think I've succeeded in that, this time around when I dug deep into the crates to fish out this forgotten relic from Mattel's Intellivision console.
The Intellivision was originally released in 1979 and mainly competed with the Atari 2600 during this part of its lifespan. In 1984, Mattel sold its video game assets to a former executive and a group of investors. These folks went on programming and releasing new titles for the Intellivision until 1990, competing with the NES and Sega Master System but, to be fair, it wasn't much of a competition. The Intellivision's closest competition was probably still the Atari 2600 that was also re-released in a "Jr. model" in the mid-80s that tried to present itself as a "budget gaming console" with a huge library of games. All that being said, let's face it, neither one of these consoles was causing Nintendo or Sega to lose any sleep at night. It was, however, during this era (in 1988) that Body Slam Super Pro Wrestling was programmed and released by INTV - the aforementioned new owners of the Intellivision license that bought out Mattel.
For the sake of clarity, although I own my fair share of retro consoles and games, an Intellivision is not something that I've ever owned. I've played this game over the years (like most any Intellivision game that I've ever played) on the "Intellivision Lives!" compilation for the PlayStation 2. I can't give that compilation a full review, obviously, but I would strongly suggest checking it out. It's a great compilation featuring a ton of games and it's also assuredly the easiest way to get a chance to experience this forgotten wrestling relic, nowadays.
When you fire this old thing up, you get two choices of how to play - a singles or tag match. Hey, at least this game gives you two choices. That's more than a lot of wrestling games gave you at the time. As classic as Pro Wrestling (NES) is; you could still only wrestle in singles matches.
When we get to the wrestler select screen, we can begin to see what the Intellivision lacks in graphical capability, the developers are trying to make up for with strategy and unexpected "layers" to the game. For example, the 12 wrestlers you can select from (which is quite a lot, considering) all have different stats. The taller a wrestler is, the more they hurt their opponent when slamming them. This makes sense since your opponent is being thrown from a taller height; it should hurt slightly more than being slammed by a short guy. The heavier your wrestler is; the slower they move but the harder they hit. There's also a strength stat that determines the damage of all of your moves, a coordination stat that determines how likely you are to perform a successful move, and, finally, an ego stat that determines how often your wrestler may taunt and celebrate after performing a successful move. The taunting gains you stamina but leaves you open to an attack from your opponent. Quite a bit of strategy going in, I must say.
All of the available wrestlers on the roster seem interesting even if none of them come with any sort of backstory. You can choose from the likes of Barf The Caveman, Rambeau, Gorgeous Gordon, Mister Ugly, and even Judge Injury. Judge Injury (judge and jury) is either a very bad pun or a very good one. It's still up for debate as far as I'm concerned.
Once you choose your wrestler; you can choose which moves you want to utilize in the ring. There are 26 moves in all and, depending on the difficulty level you choose for your match - you can choose between 4-9 moves to pummel your foe. If you choose the easy difficulty level then you only get 4 moves. If you choose the hardest level then you get 9. As the difficulty increases, so does your move-set. I guess that's sort of a way to balance the gameplay.
The matches themselves are pretty entertaining and over the top. When you punch someone; a little "speech bubble" pops up that says "Sock!". Kind of like the old, Adam West Batman TV series with its various "Boom!", "Pow!", and "Bam!" effects whenever anyone got punched. You can also throw your opponent out of the ring with various moves like the "giant swing". When your opponent is down on the outside of the ring, you can even leap off with a "giant splash", crashing down onto them, complete with a nice "Pow!" effect.
When it comes to controlling this game, there is a learning curve. The Intellivision controllers are laid out like no other controller for any other console in history so, it will take a little getting used to. The Intellivision controller has a numeric keypad with numbers 1-9 on it. When choosing your various moves, you assign them to a certain numbered button. You have to use these buttons to perform your moves so, if you're not familiar with the controller layout, you'll constantly be looking down at it to see where the button is that you need to press next. It's difficult to get a feeling for the controls at first but, if you give it enough time, it'll become second nature like any other video game controller that you've ever used. It just so happens that Intellivision has what is probably the most complex and "non-user friendly" controller ever designed. Still, just a hurdle to get over in order to appreciate this game.
My final verdict - I wouldn't run out and try to procure an Intellivision and a physical copy of this game just to be able to play it for yourself. Your best bet would be to find a working PS2 and a copy of Intellivision Lives! to experience this on. It's far cheaper and easier to get your hands on that way and you also get all of the other Intellivision games in the compilation as a bonus. Regardless of how you're able to play; I would suggest everyone check this one out. It's a forgotten gem of a wrestling game with surprising depth and strategy given its limitations.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!