TNA iMPACT for the iPhone Reviewed
Wrestling games have a tradition of disappointing fans with nearly every release since their inception, as game developers have always had trouble capturing the spirit of pro wrestling within an engaging combat system. Is TNA Wrestling iMPACT one of the rare games to buck the trend? Yes, and no.
Namco is the latest in a long line of developers attempting to bring a quality wrestling game to the mobile market. Retailing at $4.99, there is a certain expectation of A-List quality, even if there is some value added by the fact that you can play this game on any iOS device you own without additional purchase. This TNA wrestling game for the iPhone offers a surprising amount of depth, but not entirely in the right places.
The game offers 3 basic play modes: single player career mode, single player exhibition mode, and multiplayer exhibition mode. Multiplayer can be played either locally, via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or online via Apple's Game Center. Single player exhibition has 6 different modes: Cage, Final Submission, Tag Team, Impact! Zone, Bound for Glory, and Turning Point. Career mode has 3 division options: Heavyweight, X-Division, and Tag Team.
The selection of wrestlers is impressively sized for a mobile game, with over 20 to choose from, including the welcome addition of some old favorites such as Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair. Each wrestler also has his own attributes which consist of wrestling style, finisher move, slam 1, and slam 2. As is standard these days, you can also create your own wrestler. The creator has a decent amount of appearance choices, but it may feel limiting to some. Finally, you can build your wrestler's play style as well. You can use either your created wrestler or one of the real wrestlers for career mode, as well as in any multiplayer or single player matches.
Grappling with Folding Chairs
TNA iMPACT uses a virtual control scheme consisting of a circular D-Pad on the left side and three buttons that trigger grapple, attack, and run. Basic controls suffer from a lack of screen real estate, which only becomes more crowded as the player unlocks special moves.
Once you have landed enough hits on your opponent, your special move bar will fill up, which will cause another button to appear on screen when you are in position to pull off the moves. The fourth button will also appear when you are in position to climb, pin your opponent, or other special circumstances. The simplicity of controls make for a lot of button mashing, only occasionally broken up by a grapple, special move, or object taken from outside the ring to bash your enemy's head in.
The game does, in fact, do a good job at teaching the player how to maneuver through an instructional session with Hulk Hogan. You can return to this section at any time between matches if you need a refresher, but remembering how to pull off moves isn't the issue. The sluggish, muddy controls make positioning your character with any fine accuracy a challenge. The overly slow movements of the characters seem like they may be the result of a designer trying to compensate for poor control feedback, but it may be its own issue. In either case, both issues combine to create a fight where you are frantically mashing one or two buttons, while your character only moves once for every four times you've hit the button.
The Sound of One Man Cheering
The graphics are well-rendered, and should scale well on an iPad if you choose to make use of Apple's universal license. The background animation is more than acceptable for a mobile game, and does its job well, keeping life in the setting without being distracting. Character contact is nearly flawless, with no noticeable intersection of animation models, which helps to lend the action a sense of convincing weight and physics. The animations are also well realized, and capture the wrestler's movements and mannerisms well.
The sound design is noticeably more flawed. Aside from the loading screen, T NA iMPACT does feature each wrestler's music as they approach the ring, but that seems to be the extent of any musical content within the game. The sound effects are lackluster, mostly consisting of crowd noise which more closely resembles ocean surf than a live audience. The developers did at least make an effort to program crowd reactions to special moves and the like, which is the only point at which the crowd begins to sound human. The other general wrestling thuds are as expected.
TNA iMPACT delivers a depth of options but not on actual gameplay. Once the basic operation of your character's talent profile is learned there is nowhere else to go with the experience. Although not problematic at first, as there are an array of play styles to explore, not even the 20 achievements can forestall the boredom sure to set in soon for all but the most hardcore TNA fans. The hardcore fans of TNA or any pro-wrestling fan in the mood for a mindless button-mash fest of action, will enjoy this title. For the casual fan, the lack of depth is not worth the cost, despite it definitely being the best TNA wrestling game on the iPhone and possibly the best wrestling game currently on the mobile market.