This review is based on the iPhone version of TNA Wrestling.
For pro wrestling fans, Total Nonstop Action Wrestling is the first real alternative to the dominant World Wrestling Entertainment brand in North America in many years. I have a lot of respect for Ring of Honor and other promotions, but TNA is the only competitor to the WWE with national programming on a major network, and a roster that even casual to moderate fans would recognize. From original stars such as AJ Styles and Jeff Jarrett to relative newcomers such as Samoa Joe and former WWE headliner Kurt Angle, TNA presents some unique matches with exciting performers; check out the Classic Matches section of their YouTube channel for some awesome ring work.
TNA Wrestling on the iPhone does not translate that experience for gamers whatsoever. I wasn’t expecting a miracle of mobile gaming, but this title by Longtail Studios doesn’t capture any of the excitement or energy that the Impact Zone projects to the home viewer.
It takes an interesting vector for its gameplay: it’s turn based, simple moves like punches and kicks chain together to form bigger moves or even finishers, and each match or interview sequence provides experience to level up with. That’s right, it’s a turn based role playing game! It actually works fairly well as you push through the move list in each match from clotheslines to chokeslams by performing timing sensitive, movement based and patterned button presses to execute the moves. I also liked the face (good guy) or heel (bad guy) dialogue choices presented in the interview segments, which let you choose your alignment and also available special moves based on your decisions.
The problem is that it’s presented in a way that barely resembles the TNA organization. The departures of some wrestlers such as Christian Cage, Booker T and Scott Steiner are understandable, as the game has been available for over a year at this point. Less acceptable is the choice to make every wrestler model a steroid smashed bundle of bulging muscles, which is historically the antithesis of the TNA way and wildly inaccurate for many of the performers in this game. The dialogue is extremely goofy, and feels like it got torn out of a Clash of the Champions special from the 80’s. The gameplay becomes repetitive very quickly, and the high CPU and memory usage of this game ends up bogging down your iPhone (and probably iPod Touches too) to the point that the control interface sporadically doesn’t recognize your input, leading to failed moves that can cost you a match.
It also has an odd error where the game doesn’t find the frame properly. You can tell as soon as the Longtail logo loads; if it’s off centre, reload the game repeatedly until it is, or the rest of the game will be similarly skewed. I’ve been playing it through 3 different versions of the iPhone operating system, and it still happens about 20% of the time when I pull it up.
TNA Wrestling isn’t without merit, but a single player only experience that gets repetitive very quickly isn’t a formula for success in the squared circle. It gets points for ambition and a unique gameplay mechanic, but only the hardcore wrestling fan will get some fun out of this.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars