Popeye 3 - WrestleCrazy
Ladies and gentlemen; this is by far one of the strangest wrestling games that I've played over the years and that's really saying something because I've played more than a few weird ones in my time. FMW Onita Atsushi for the Super Famicom always comes to mind as one that tops the list but this game may give it a run for its money in the "bizarro factor". Let me just start by giving you the game manual's official backstory for this game...
"Our hero POPEYE has been kidnapped by the evil KRAGGS who wish to conquer the universe. To find out which planets are vulnerable, an intergalactic wrestling contest has been arranged. Popeye has been chosen to represent Earth, and must wrestle against 5 different vicious aliens to save our world from the KRAGGS! The wrestling match is on a desolate asteroid at the edge of the galaxy. Popeye faces his first of five unearthly opponents in front of a hostile alien crowd. Can you help Popeye beat his wrestling opponents and save the Earth, or will our world be overrun by the marauding KRAGGS!?".
If nothing else; it sounds like a very interesting premise for a wrestling game. I'm not sure what the developers were smoking when they decided to make a pro wrestling game utilizing the classic, beloved Popeye character attempting to out grapple his intergalactic kidnappers but it's a different and fresh approach to a wrestling game, that's for sure.
Popeye 3: WrestleCrazy was developed by Bizarre Developments (I'd say that's a fitting title for the devs of this particular game) and released by Alternative Software, for a variety of home computers in 1992. The version we're taking a look at here today is the one released for the ZX Spectrum. I'm not super familiar with video games on the Spectrum but I have played a few so I know what to expect going in. Out of the few ZX Spectrum games that I have played; I've spent hours playing the classic "Jet Pac" by Ultimate Play The Game a/k/a Rare. Long story short, ZX Spectrum games can be really fun but its capabilities for colors and sounds are very limited. All ZX Spectrum games have a certain "look" and you can spot one as soon as you see one due to it's very limited, yet bright, color palette.
Once the game starts; we can see that the sailor man's first opponent appears to be a xenomorph (from the Alien franchise) named Torqos who hails from the volcanic planet of Czykel. I didn't expect to come face to face with a sci-fi/horror movie monster (especially as my first opponent) but we'll see what I can do.
I quickly realize how limited the moves are for this game. It's always disappointing but it's also always expected for an early PC wrestling game like this. The devs of old-school PC wrestling games always seemed to be all bout putting in interesting characters and backstories and not so much about programming an actual, playable wrestling game. Here, you grapple by pushing O or P on the keyboard and then repeatedly pushing those buttons in order to fill up your power meter before your opponent. If you're successful then Popeye applies a headlock and you repeat the process. If Popeye is successful again; you can finally pull off the one grappling move in the game aside from Popeye's finisher - the piledriver.
Other than this, Popeye just walks around the ring giving his opponents Orange Cassidy style shin kicks (which admittedly is a pretty dreaded move) while it sounds like he's farting with every connected strike due to the ZX Spectrums terrible sound quality. Aside from various aliens in the live crowd; Olive Oyl and Wimpy are there to provide assistance and throw cans of spinach and hamburgers into the ring. If you're able to snag a can of spinach from your lovely love-interest then Popeye's attacks become more powerful and you're temporarily able to pull off the other grappling move in the game, Popeye's finisher, the Turbo Typhoon. Brutus is also in the audience to be the all-around asshole that he is by throwing exploding bottles into the ring at you.
Even if the game itself isn't very good; all of your other opponents are just as interesting as Torqos the xenomorph. There's Vantarga, who looks like a dragon, from planet Syzygy. The Plasmatic Shadow Man hails from the distant planet of Pirexiss. Flug Durch (who looks about as weird as you'd expect having a name like that) hails from the Zarkab Valley. Finally, we have Andrek 5 who is a robot that was allegedly assembled in a distant corner of the galaxy. It also resembles Robot B-9 from Lost In Space. If you can vanquish all of your alien assailants then you're treated to a cutscene and the ability to go back to your home planet of Earth.
This game was fun to take a look at for a few minutes but it ends up being like most early, PC wrestling games - all sizzle and no steak. The premise is wacky. The characters are interesting. It's just not that fun to actually play, though. Still, if you're an avid collector of wrestling video games; this would be an interesting conversation piece to add to your collection.
Until next time... keep mashing those buttons!