[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/rumbleroses/cover.jpg[/floatleft][i]Rumble Roses[/i] is a simple, yet fun, all-female wrestling game. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the game is aimed at a male audience, but it has the perfect attitude for a game of this sort. It makes no attempt to conceal the exploitative nature of the game, yet never actively enters the kind of creepy realm that you see in similar games. There is no tacked-on dating sim or gift-buying system here-just a fun and fairly goofy wrestling game.
The characters were designed purely for male entertainment and have themes based on such classic fetishes as the nurse, schoolteacher, schoolgirl, and…uhh…Mongolian chick? OK, maybe scratch the last one. Just like in real pro wrestling, characters can be face or heel wrestlers (that’s good guy and bad guy, respectively, for all the rest of you folks). Each persona has her own theme, giving you almost twice the characters. They even have an elaborate entrance sequence for each character.
Each character has a complete story you can go through in story mode, and a more basic alternate story mode once you complete that. The stories are not necessarily from the height of writing talent, but they are entertaining enough. Unfortunately, the exhibition mode (which is also the multiplayer mode) only allows you to unlock one version of each character at a time. You can take vows before each exhibition match. These are conditions, which if met during the match will move you closer towards face or heel status. It’s a neat system, but I would prefer it if there were some way to unlock both variations at the same time. The exhibition mode also keeps track of who is the current champion, and defeating the champion in a championship match gets the challenger the best, but this doesn’t do much beyond helping to unlock things.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/rumbleroses/ss05_thumb.jpg[/floatright]There are only three match arenas, and there is very little difference between them. There is, however, an excellent mud match mode. The mud is a little watery, but this is the first attempt I have seen at creating realistic mud. The fact that it clings and flows off the characters so well is very impressive. The mud mode doesn’t play too different from a normal match, but it does look kind of neat if you want a little variety.
The controls to this game are pretty simple. Although they may seem a bit too simple for those used to fighting games, anyone who is familiar with a wrestling game should feel right at home. New players can actually jump in with minimal ramp-up time as well. Your character can attack with a strike or grapple, with the other two face buttons being used for running and general actions like leaving the ring or pinning. There are also super moves (more on that later) and a simple counter system based on hitting R1 and then either the grapple or strike button, respectively. This counter system basically gives the matches a large rock/paper/scissors strategy element, which can lead to a few rounds with excessive reversals, but is mostly very enjoyable and easy to pick up. The game is more heavily submission-based than any recent WWE game, and those are handled with a nice button-tapping system. Sadly, the manual doesn’t explain all the controls perfectly (mostly leaving out non-combat controls), and there is no training mode.
The game also has weapons, but they are somewhat poorly implemented. They are a pain to get a hold of and easy to lose. At least one of the items is a glove on a stick, which has a hilarious tickle attack. There’s really no other way to explain the tickle stick. It needs to be seen in action to really understand it.
Each character has a wide variety of hilariously elaborate throws and submission moves, as well as some more basic ones. Different grapple moves are chosen by holding the D-pad in different directions as you hit the grapple button. In addition to normal moves, you can fill up your super meter as you beat up your opponent, and each time you fill it you can store a super move. These are often crazy-looking grapple moves that pretty much guarantee a pin afterwards, or less frequently are powerful submission moves. If you use your super attack in a specific situation, you will execute a different super move, which will basically have the same effect, but it will usually look even more impressive. Of course, each character has an even better move, which requires a stored super move, and it requires you to fill your opponent’s “humiliation gauge.” These humiliation moves are always almost unbeatable submissions and are some of the most amusingly spectacular wrestling moves you will see in a game.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/rumbleroses/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]There’s plenty to unlock in the game, such as character galleries and the ability to use the second player colors and bathing suits at any time, but there are no special game modes beyond the mud match. The game could stand to use at least a few different match types and maybe more elaborate alternate costumes. Also, it makes no sense to me that you cannot unlock the face and heel versions of a character simultaneously for multiplayer. I hope in a sequel they put the face/heel and championship elements into a league mode, or something similar, so you can use any character you’ve unlocked in exhibition mode.
The biggest strengths and weaknesses this game faces are the inevitable comparisons to the current WWE games. I found that the slower pace of the game made it much easier for new players to learn and get into, but the lack of many gameplay modes may potentially hurt the long-term staying power of the game. Still, I haven’t been a huge fan of any of the recent WWE offerings as they tend to have a painfully high learning curve. This game looks a lot prettier than Raw vs. Smackdown (I mean graphics-wise, honestly!), and I don’t have a huge personal attachment to the WWE franchise.
Overall, the game is a nice, simple wrestling game with a well-done theme that’s just perfect for playing with the guys. It could use a better selection of game modes, and maybe the ability to unlock all the face and heel versions of the wrestlers at once, but that doesn’t stop it from being a nice party game. The single player will undoubtedly get a bit stale after you have beaten most of the story modes, but that really isn’t the main reason to have the game. I’m hoping we see a sequel that corrects some of the deficiencies of the game without hurting the simple underlying gameplay model or the fun theme too much. This game will stay in my rotation list until then.