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Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home
Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: Paradox Development
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:
Do you remember the movie Fight Club with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, where these 'two' guys start getting together just to beat the snot out of each other, and soon more people join in? Well, Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home is a lot like that, except in the movie, there were rules. Here, pretty much anything goes. See a TV lying around? Throw it. A hay bale dangerously close to a gas pump? Light 'er up. Anything you can get your hands on is fair game.

The highly detailed arenas are enough to make you start to drool, not to mention the wide range of characters and objects that are at your disposal. With fairly realistic fire effects and blood flying everywhere, this game's graphical prowess is matched only by the size of its soundtrack.

Backyard Wrestling contains songs ranging from Hate Rock to Heavy Metal to Alternative, and the ability to cycle between the 41 different songs in the middle of battle with just a flick of the L1 and L2 buttons is great. The game features songs from Insane Clown Posse, Sum 41, American Hi-Fi, Biohazard, Anthrax and many more. The wide assortment of artists allows you to head bang your way through the many enemies that will cross your path.

As far as the rest of the sound is concerned, the voiceovers are basic, but the sound effects are at least diverse enough to keep you from taking a 2x4 to your head (instead you will probably take one to your opponent's). Though, truth be told, if you have the sound on, you probably won't notice anything over the music.

There are several modes in Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home which include Exhibition, Talk Show (essentially the Story Mode of other games) and Survival Modes, as well as a couple unlockable Multiplayer ones.

Exhibition pits you against an opponent (either the computer or your friend). Both characters are chosen and you pick one of the opened arenas to do battle in - it's just that simple. The story of the game is done from the point-of-view of a local 'Jerry Springer'-like talk show where different people involved in backyard wrestling (mostly victims) express their feelings. In the videos, which are shown between locations, you hear from many different types of people (everything from strippers to the Insane Clown Posse themselves). As you reach each location, you must fight several opponents in one round matches where you can use basically anything that isn't nailed down (and a few things that are) as weapons. After defeating the lineup for an arena, the game cuts to a clip from the talk show and then you get to go to the next interesting setting.

In each location, you are also given several objectives that you must meet in order to unlock various features (mostly videos of backyard wrestlers). These goals include finishing a match with a certain amount of health left, winning a match in a set amount of time or causing a certain amount of damage in various ways. Also, by beating some people, you unlock new characters.

Survival Mode is your basic run the gauntlet type of setting. You pick your character and fight opponent after opponent with just one bar of health, though after defeating a character, you do regain some -- emphasis on some -- health.

There are two unlockable Multiplayer Modes that include King of the Hill, where you try to stay in a certain area, and Tag, where one character is 'it' and loses health, until he or she knocks the other player down and transfers the 'it' status.

There is also a Create-A-Wrestler feature, where you get to customize a wrestler in everything from sex and clothing, to slams and throws, though this is a long process. The one thing I found lacking in Backyard Wrestling was the Training Mode (as in there wasn't one). This would have been a big help. Instead, in order to prepare myself better for the Talk Show Mode, I went into the Exhibition Mode with the book and the long (not to mention slightly confusing) list of moves at my side.

The only other real gripe I have with the game is the loading screens. There's a hell of a lot of them and at times it just gets flat out annoying (especially since they aren't the quickest loads out there). But this fact is almost forgivable when you first set your eyes upon the rich arena that you are about to do battle in.

Tough as hell, is that direct enough for you? Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home is not a button masher, and anyone who just jumps into fighting games without looking over the combos or moves will not do well. Trust me, I should know.

Even after putting many hours of play into the Exhibition Mode and getting as much practice with the different moves and reversals as I could, I still found it tough to go through. Each time I faced a new opponent, I would either whip his or her ass right then and there, or I would have my head handed to me on a cattle prod time and time again. And, just because I was able to take someone down the first time I went up against them, didn't mean I would be able to do it again the next time we faced off in the ring. Okay, there isn't actually a ring; that would be to structured.

To make things more interesting, because of the fact that you have to beat all of the opponents at a location before you can move on (in Talk Show Mode, that is), if you fell to one enemy, you had to start back at the beginning of the gauntlet. This is one of the features that made Backyard Wrestling a hard game to get through.

Game Mechanics:
The controls in Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home are about as complicated as the graphics, with several different 'states' that your character can be in and a large assortment of moves that can be done in each state. It will take a lot of practice to get everything down (if that actually ever happens, that is).

There is one more aspect of Backyard Wrestling that I wanted to talk about before I started wrapping this review up, and that is the physics. This game has Havok (as in the physics engine) written all over it, and it shows. You can see it in the way the bodies fall (or fly) as well as how all of the objects interact with the environment. The best way to view this spectacular engine at work is to go into the Press Room and go through all of the different throws and slams. One of the characters performs these moves on a gray dummy -- it is flat out amazing. Though there is one thing about the physics of this game that did bother me. When objects are thrown, they are nearly impossible to dodge - it is almost as if the projectiles change their path in mid-air just to make contact.

So, should you get Backyard Wrestling? It basically comes down to what kind of gamer you are when it comes to the fighting genre. If you are a button masher, and have no intention of changing, then don't bother getting this one because it will be a waste. If you are a hardcore fighting gamer, then this is definitely a good buy. Personally, when it comes to these games, I am typically of the former type, but when I sat down and forced myself to learn the moves and combos, I found it really easy to get into Backyard Wrestling and find my groove.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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