Bop 'n Wrestle
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"You've seen 'em on TV. You've seen 'em in person. You've seen 'em flying into the aisles. Now you get to climb into the ring with 'em. For the first time in any arena, you get to join the mayhem of professional wrestling at it's best. Bop'N Wrestle puts you in the ring with 10 of the meanest, baddest, biggest, toughest, ugliest pro wrestlers you've ever seen fly off a turnbuckle!"
The game we're looking at today began as a wrestling game known as Rock 'N Wrestle that was released for Commodore 64, Amstrad, and ZX Spectrum computers in 1985. The version I played as a young kid, and the version we're talking about today, was known as Bop 'N Wrestle and was an early MS-DOS game released in 1986.
Bop 'N Wrestle/Rock 'N Wrestle was developed by Beam Software and the DOS version was released by Mindscape. I remember Beam Software fondly for releasing two of my favorite "cult classic games" - Nightshade for the NES and Shadowrun for the SNES. Those two are classics everyone should check out but let's take a look at how well they did when it comes to creating a pro wrestling game.
Well, to start with, this game features an interesting cast of characters with funny, detailed backstories. Small touches like that always made some games more special to me than others, back in the day. The graphics might not be the greatest but with colorful characters and detailed backstories in the manual; you can still immerse yourself in the game. In this game, we play as Gorgeous Greg and take on the likes of Vicious Vivian, L.A. Bob, Molotov Mike, Redneck McCoy, and others. Ten in all: you vs your nine equally wacky opponents.
Once the game starts and we get to the title screen; some of the worst theme "music" (notice the quotation marks) I've ever heard begins to play. I guess it somewhat has a melody but the tones are awful and it's sort of janky. I'm afraid whoever was programming it at the time may have been having a stroke. Either that or maybe they had literally never heard music before in their life. Seriously, it's pretty rough on the ears.
Also, for the sake of honesty, the graphics aren't great. It's pretty much what you'd expect from a DOS game from 1986, though. Considering the era; you can't really complain. All you can see past the ring are a few spotlights hanging from the ceiling. Not even a live crowd can be seen but hey, maybe these matches are just being contested under "empty arena rules" like The Rock vs Mankind or Jerry Lawler vs Terry Funk. You can apply whichever of those metaphors you like best based on your age.
The controls for this game are very simple yet very layered and complex if that makes any sense. I'll try my best to explain: the controls are simple because, like a lot of early '80s video games, there is only one "action button" to concern your self with and the arrow keys to move your wrestler around. The complexity comes in with how many different ways you can utilize that one button. Pushing the "action button" (which was the S key on the keyboard, by default settings) allows you to headbutt, kick, or grapple depending on which directional arrow you pushed along with it. Once you initiate a grapple, you can pull off a couple of different moves or you can get a different "grip" on your opponents like a front face lock or a "power lift position". If you choose either of these positions to put your opponent into it makes different moves available to you.
Once you get the hang of it; it's not bad and it opens up a larger move set for the wrestlers than what would otherwise be available.
One thing I will say is, although fun at the time, this game doesn't have the highest replay value nowadays. There plenty of moves to punish your foes with but there aren't any different modes to play and you can't even change the wrestler you're playing as. You're always stuck being Gorgeous Greg. There isn't even a tag team match option. Every time you start the game it's the same. You just take on your nine challengers, one at a time, until they're all defeated. That pretty much sums it all up.
I must say, I enjoyed revisiting this game after all these years. I had almost forgotten about it because it had been so long since I played it and other wrestling games of my childhood had overshadowed its memory over the years. Six-year-old me used to enjoy it quite a bit but I will admit it doesn't stand up very well against other '80s pro wrestling games today. Its counterparts are much more fondly remembered and, in a lot of cases, much more fun to play.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!