Game Review: Wrestling With Emotions
A dating simulation by Team Lazerbeam lets you make choices for a wrestler who has moved to a new town by helping him to create a new identity for himself so he can go looking for love, with surprising - and very quirky - results.
Wrestling With Emotions
is a dating simulator in which you play as a wrestler who is in a new town. No one knows who he is, there's a new wrestling league for him to join, and he can start his life over. (Why he needs to is a mystery back story that we're not privy to.) He decides to go to a speed-dating event to look for love and your job is to help him make the right choices to find the perfect mate. The game is free (although a tip via itch.io is appreciated) and is available for Windows
and Mac OS
Since wrestling is all about over-the-top identities you start by making some customisation options, such as head apparel, mask, tattoos, and facial hair, which also results in an appropriately outlandish wrestler name, to build your wrestler's new persona and amp him up for his dating adventure. Then it's off to meet other wrestlers looking for love.
Through the course of the speed-dating evening you're introduced to eight men who you get to know via a question-and-answer dialogue system that gives you choices that result in positive, neutral, or negative reactions from your potential dates that help you gauge whether they are interested in you or not (and vice versa). Once the bell rings for the end of the round you can make notes on a rating card, whose categories, such as "funny", "heart pulpitating", "handsome", "hardcore", "clammy", and "smells good", are randomly generated for the card each time, and then make a mark as to whether you think the prospective date is a stud or a dud.
After you've met all the wrestlers you can review your notes and then you have to select your three favourites. If you're lucky one of them will have selected you, too, and then it's a match. I won't spoil what happens if you are successful on the evening but I must say the happy endings, while they make sense within the theme of the game, seem a bit brutal and over the top. I would have picked endings that are more subversive and unexpected just to enforce the game's intention of smashing stereotypes.
Sadly there's not much variety in the game beyond the dialogue options, which admittedly do result in a vast range of possibilities to discover. On multiple playthroughs you'll encounter the same set of wrestlers again, and in the same order, so the only aspect that differs is your choice to customise yourself, which results in the wrestlers making different comments about your appearance, your ability to pick different answers, and ultimately the decision to opt for different favourite matches - but there are still enough dialogue options that you'll likely play the game a few times to see what the responses are as the writing is funny and entertaining.
You can also be rude in your responses, although that isn't within the spirit of the game, but I'm not sure that it ultimately reduces your chances at finding a match. These are wrestlers, after all. Who knows whether they respond better to civility or aggression: all the characters are both fairly unique and yet also caricatures of (in most cases) hyper masculinity.
The dialogue options and responses range from double entendres and metaphors to very overt and direct comments, some of which may make those who have delicate sensibilities or who are squeamish or conservative blush, but it's all in good fun as the intention behind this game is to portray a positive message about conquering self-doubt, building self-worth, and putting oneself out there. It just uses a very subversive storytelling method to do so.
The game was developed by Team Lazerbeam, which is known for its collection of positive, inclusive indie games that play with people expectations and preconceptions with really outlandish scenarios. The team comprises Ben Rausch (art and writing), Jason Sutherland (music and sound), and Richard Pieterse (code and feel).
You can see from the screenshots that the game features a very quirky visual aesthetic, courtesy of Ben Rausch (as are all the spelling mistakes, which he acknowledges but I must still point out). South African comics fans may know Rausch's work from Red Air
, which appeared in multiple issues of Sector
I must also make special mention of Wrestling With Emotions
' soundtrack, composed by Sutherland, which comprises 10 tracks, including a unique theme for every wrestler that works as a musical extension of their visual identity. The music really is wonderful and you might find yourself playing the game again just to have another chance to enjoy some of the wrestlers' theme tunes, which run the gamut of musical styles.
A game will take 15 to 20 minutes to play, so it's not too taxing or time consuming, but at the same time it won't save your progress so be sure that you have the time available for a playthrough. Wrestling With Emotions
will challenge your preconceptions via its broad selection of identities, some of which you'll feel drawn to, in contrast to others that you'll feel you have nothing in common with. At the same time - and by design, which is the genius part of this game - as you get to know all the wrestlers through multiple playthroughs you'll find you'll develop a soft spot for all of them. You'll soon start hoping that not just you but everyone manages to find a perfect match.
Wrestling With Emotions: itch.io (download)
Team Lazerbeam: Official Site
Ben Rausch: Blog
Jason Sutherland: Bandcamp
, Mobygames Profile
Richard Pieterse: Twitter
, South African Games
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