We've definitely been starved for good wrestling games on Xbox over the past decade, but if you're looking for something a bit more old school, RetroMania Wrestling finally has you covered. The game is an official sequel to 1991's arcade classic, WWF WrestleFest, boasting a highly detailed style of 2D presentation, from the wide array of visually impressive and creative arenas to the unique caricatures applied to each wrestler. Without a doubt, you can really feel the love that has gone into developing each and every element of the game's art style.
In the ring, RetroMania Wrestling adopts somewhat of a Fire Pro type approach to its controls, where button mashing won't get you very far on its own. You're given weak, medium and strong attacks to use as you see fit, however performing them successfully is based on timing, and the medium and strong options only become unlocked as you build up your momentum meter. It all (mostly) works well in practice, and the animations for each move are well crafted, leading to some fun and smooth matches. Strangely, there's a lack of in-game explanation about how to perform finishers, as well as how the auto reversal system works, but you can find details about this online for now.
The roster is primarily made up of indie talents - some of them ex-WWE stars such as Tommy Dreamer and Matt Cardona (Zack Ryder), and while it's a bit of a random selection, they're put to really good use in the game's story mode. You play as Johnny Retro (WWE's John Morrison), and you're surprisingly given free reign on how to act, with the narrative adapting along the way. If you want to be the biggest heel of all time and tell everyone you're better than them, you can do that. It's a lot of fun while it lasts, but unfortunately the story is very, very short, and while more chapters will be added down the line, the length is disappointing for now.
There are some other great modes - Ten Pounds of Gold sees you trying to win the NWA championship and then defend it, and the 16-man Retro Rumble is good, chaotic fun - but elsewhere, the options do feel a little lacking in general. Customisation is limited, with no create-a-wrestler option, no method of booking your own show, and only one real 'gimmick' match type (the cage match). This could change down the line, as the developer seems committed to releasing plenty of new content in the future, but for now, it feels like a game to play in short bursts.
Perhaps the initial asking price is a bit high, then - we think $19.99 would have been the sweet spot for RetroMania Wrestling at launch - but it's still nevertheless an enjoyable game. The art style is fantastic, the gameplay is classic 90s style fun, and you can tell it's been made by people who really love the business of professional wrestling. It's not going to replace WWE 2K's series for casual fans, but hardcore wrestling aficionados might just fall in love with it.