Sgt. Slaughter's Mat Wars
"ATTEN-HUT! Listen up, you wet recruits. I'm your new Sergeant and you can call me Sergeant Slaughter. So ya think ya got what it takes to make it in my platoon, heh? Well, I seen scrawnier wrestlers than you, but none as inexperienced. You got a lot of work to do, skinny!"
Nowadays, you can use your computer to do anything. Back in the 80s, there wasn't much to be done besides balancing your books or writing a term paper. However, gaming was always a viable option and the Commodore 64 was one of the most popular home computers to use to get your gaming fix. There were many classic games that were C64 (or at least home computer) exclusive that owners of consoles at the time never got to experience. There were even quite a few pro wrestling games released for the C64, one of which is the game we're taking a look at today.
Sgt. Slaughter's Mat Wars was developed by Beam Software and released by Mindscape in 1989. Beam is responsible for a few of my favorite, classic games. Most notably, the dark, superhero comedy game "Nightshade" for the NES and the cult classic RPG "Shadowrun" on the Super Nintendo. We'll see if they put as much time and care into crafting this vehicle for Sgt. Slaughter to flex his muscles as they did with those two.
First off, this is more of a "wrestling sim" than a straight forward wrestling game. Yes, wrestling is involved but throwing down in the squared circle is only half of the game. The other half gives us a glimpse of what it's like to be a wrestling manager. Well, more accurately, what it's like to be a wrestling manager in an over-the-top, 80s movie, style way.
When you start a game, there are five different managers you can choose from to play as, each of which has different personalities and strengths/weaknesses. The five you can choose from are:
Dolores - "She may be the only woman but she's hardly a lady". Dolores is your typical "buxom beauty" character who may seem weak to play as but sometimes she can use her feminine wiles to her advantage.
Fast Ed - "Usually when you're ugly everyone still says, "But, he has a great personality." Not Ed; he's ugly and nasty". Eddie is an arrogant and disliked con man but he's smart with his money.
Big John - "A former wrestler himself, Big John loves everything about the sport - especially the big bucks he can make off of other wrestlers and the Surf and Turf Special that they serve at The Bullpit every Tuesday". Big John is a former wrestler who loves the business but he's also a little too kind-hearted at times so he gets taken advantage of.
Abdul Makask - "That kooky Abdul, shunning the spotlight again. He's broken more cameras then Sean Penn". Abdul is your basic "crazy sheik" character like the Iron Sheik, Sheik Adnan Al-Kaissie, and a slew of others.
Lucky - "Lucky hasn't been, especially with Dolores, but he keeps trying". Lucky is a "mobster" character and is very popuar - with the local police, that is.
Once you select which manager best represents you, you're taken to the auction house to buy your first wrestler. At the beginning of each game, you're given $15,000 which you must use to purchase your wrestler (in this odd, slave auction way) and to set up your first match. One wrestler will randomly be available for bidding and you have to outbid the other managers to gain his services. If you're unable to do so in the first round of auction, you can try again in a second or third round where the wrestler costs are cheaper but the wrestlers also have less stamina. Like most things, when it comes to wrestlers, you get what you pay for.
After this, you can line up your first match. The game takes you to a menu that looks like a poster for the current event you're wrestling on. From here you can pay to start your current match. Yeah, you have to put money up to be able to wrestle on even the smallest cards. That's an even worse deal then what goes on in the indy scene in real life. To be fair, though, if you win your matches, you get paid much, much more than any indy wrestler has ever made so I guess it evens out. You just gotta win.
From this "poster menu", you can also bet on matches to win extra money and even try to pay off other managers to make their charges "take a dive" and lose their upcoming fights. This is where a lot of the strategy of the game comes in because if higher ranked wrestlers lose matches, you can advance in the rankings without actually having to beat them in a match.
If you think you'll ever be able to manage the man himself, Sgt. Slaughter, you'd sadly be mistaken. He's basically just the poster boy for this game but the game's manual has plenty of his personality inserted throughout and he does pop up in the game at various points to make observations or to give advice. The actual wrestlers you can manage are folks like a ninja named Krusha or a former sumo wrestler named Irok. Irok.. (you rock?) Okay, buddy. I'll take your word for it.
To be honest, once you get down to the actual wrestling in this game, it's pretty lacking. All wrestlers basically share the same moves and the old joystick for the C64 was set-up like an Atari 2600 joystick; only one "action button". This makes the grappling pretty hit and miss and it (*shudders*) gives me the feeling of playing Title Match Pro Wrestling, all over again. Not exactly a fun time.
All in all, this game is as ambitious as it is uneven. It has a great concept and a sense of humor that is actually pretty funny, especially in the manual. The "sim" part of the game is also well done. It's fun to bid on a wrestler and bet on matches and bribe other managers to get their charges to throw a fight so your charge can move up the rankings. This game also looks really nice as far as C64 and early computer games games go.
The part the game fails at, though, is the atrocious wrestling matches, themselves, which is pretty unforgivable for a wrestling game. It is still fun enough to play through at least once, though, and experience if you ever get the off chance.
Until next time.. keep mashing those buttons.