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Action Arcade Wrestling review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One


Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Reverb
Developer: VICO Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1-4
Online: No
ESRB: T

As I’ve written before there’s a very low bar for quality wrestling games on the Switch. WWE 2K18 was atrocious even by the low standards of WWE games. WWE 2K Battlegrounds was at least functional, but very much geared towards separating players from their money. I enjoyed Wrestling Empire, but I’ll also readily admit that it’s very much an acquired taste. There are a few other titles beyond those, but my point remains: it’s pretty much a wasteland if you’re a fan of the squared circle.

Action Arcade Wrestling is just another game to add to that list of mediocrities. It’s designed to scratch the itch of anyone who pines for the days of basic, no-frills wrestling games from the NES, SNES, and PS1/N64 days, but falls well short of filling that niche.

For one thing, its performance is lousy. Hits don’t always register. It’s easy for wrestlers to get stuck in one spot. You need to be in just the right spot to grapple, and even then, it doesn’t always take.

Worst of all, any time you do multi-person matches – which, in this game, is a lot of the time, for reasons I’ll get to in a moment – things slow down to a crawl, and if you do a Royal Rumble-style match (or, as the game calls it, a Battle Rumble), then the game freezes up for about 5 seconds every time anyone new joins the match. If we were talking about some incredibly complex game I could at least understand why it was so glitchy, but given this is meant to be a throwback to the ‘90s, the reasons are a lot less clear.

The reason you’ll do a lot of multi-person matches is because all Action Arcade Wrestling has is exhibition matches. While I’ll never say no to a fun battle royale or tornado tag match, it’s nice if they’re in service of something greater, even if it’s something as minor as rankings. I’m not asking for storylines or a giant career mode, but anything would be more interesting than just a series of discrete matches.

The game also suffers from not being totally clear on what it wants to be. Some of its characters are true-to-life grapplers, while others can do crazy, mystical things like fire lightning bolts from their fingers. While this may be reflective of real-world wrestling federations – whether it was Undertaker and Kane co-existing in the same Attitude Era WWE universe as Ken Shamrock and Steve Blackman, or Malakai Black doing his horror movie thing in modern-day AEW at the same time as Bryan Danielson is trying to convince Jon Moxley to create a team of pure wrestlers – in a video game setting it just feels off. It gives some wrestlers a pretty huge advantage, and it gives every match a really odd tone – like, there’s nothing wrong with games like WWE All-Stars or Battlegrounds, but you can’t really compare them to No Mercy or Fire Pro.

Just about the only thing Action Arcade Wrestling that’s even kind of worthwhile is the fact you can download created wrestlers, rings, and federations. Mind you, that’s not exactly a point in the game’s favour as much as it is an acknowledgement that the game can access the server where creations from the PC-only AAW Wrestle Lab are available. It’s neat to see that some people have gone to the trouble to faithfully recreate WCW Nitro rings or their favourite wrestlers, but that hardly tells you much about whether Action Arcade Wrestling is worth getting on the Switch – particularly since, as mentioned, you can only use them in one-off matches.

As I said up top, there’s a paucity of good wrestling games on the Switch, which means that it’d be very easy for a half-decent one to break through and feel like it’s Game of the Year-material. Action Arcade Wrestling, unfortunately, isn’t up to that task.

Reverb provided us with an Action Arcade Wrestling Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: C-