Backyard Wrestling Review
Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home is so unpolished that it's far more of a chore than a pleasure to play.
In an attempt to appeal to the fans of wrestling games who have grown somewhat weary of the less-than-stellar WWE products, numerous companies have been licensing their own non-WWE wrestling games. Everyone is starting to get in on the fray, including EA, Bandai, and, now, Eidos Interactive. Developed by Paradox Entertainment, the development house behind the Wu-Tang: Shaolin Style and Activision's X-Men fighting games, Eidos' first effort into the wrestling genre is Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home. The game is licensed by the Backyard Wrestling franchise, which specializes in DVDs that compile footage of average kids bludgeoning each other with every blunt object they can find in the relative comfort of their own yards. While Backyard Wrestling certainly has qualities that could make for an interesting wrestling game, Don't Try This at Home is so unpolished that it's far more of a chore than a pleasure to play.
Backyard Wrestling doesn't actually feature any teenage grapplers from actual backyard wrestling federations. Instead, what it does feature is a collection of independent federation wrestlers, including a number of talents from rap group Insane Clown Posse's own wrestling federation, the JCW. Some featured wrestlers include Mad Man Pondo, Sabu, Tom Dub, Rude Boy, Josh Prohibition, MDogg20, and the wicked clowns themselves, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope. Other noted appearances include Miller Lite spokesmodel Kitana Baker and former WCW valet Tylene Buck. Considering the license, it only makes sense that you won't be wrestling inside a ring of any sort in the game, and, aside from the standard backyards, you'll also have a truck stop, a slaughterhouse, an outdoor parking lot, a talk show set, and a strip club at your disposal. Every environment is littered with barbed wire-laden bats, fluorescent light bulbs, breakable tables, steel chairs, and pretty much any other object you could possibly think of to use for injuring an opponent.
In between the barbed wire maulings, you also have to occasionally wrestle in Backyard Wrestling. The wrestling mechanics aren't all that dissimilar to most recent wrestling games. You have two strike buttons as well as a grapple button, and you also have a button that picks up weapons. When you're grappling an opponent, pressing a direction on the analog stick, along with one of the strike buttons, performs a striking grapple or a slam, depending on which button you hit. You also have a unique special move that can be performed when your life meter begins flashing red. Grappling an opponent and then pressing both strike buttons while the meter is flashing performs this move. Aside from the ability to drag a fallen opponent around the level and the option of climbing onto tall ledges to leap onto your foes, that's about all there is to the wrestling portion of the game. Although the system isn't very deep, it's serviceable for the type of game it is. In fact, the biggest problem is not the system itself, but, rather, it's the execution of it.
When you're playing Backyard Wrestling, everything in the game feels extremely loose, repetitive, and sloppy. Moving your character around can be a bit of a task, as the analog stick's sensitivity level is pretty unforgiving. So, for the most part, all you'll be doing in the game is running around at full speed. This can be a bit unwieldy when trying to approach an opponent. Another problem is that matches never feel particularly engaging. All you have is a standard life meter--the match ends when it's depleted--and there are no real momentum swings or any other wrestling-like elements to be found. You have the option of pinning your opponent at any time. However, the only time you can generally get a successful three-count is after you've dropped your opponent's life bar to practically nothing, so it doesn't serve much purpose. In effect, all you'll be doing is running around the level for a couple of minutes at a time, beating people with random objects and occasionally suplexing them. As you can imagine, after the initial novelty wears off, this becomes very dull.
Add to this the fact that there just isn't much to do in Backyard Wrestling. The game's main feature is the talk show mode, which basically acts as the game's story or season mode. Here you have to play through a number of survival-type matches against multiple opponents in each level. These matches are interspersed with cutscenes that take place on a fictional talk show called "Today's Topic," where today's topic is, of course, Backyard Wrestling. The show's host interviews a number of different guests, including a billionaire who allows his son to participate in backyard wrestling in his mansion's backyard, and the Insane Clown Posse, who lament about backyard wrestlers inadvertently destroying their tour bus. Unfortunately, none of these interviews are particularly funny, despite being overtly tongue-in-cheek. In fact, nothing about the talk show mode is terribly worthwhile, except that completing it a couple of times will unlock all of the game's hidden wrestlers. The whole mode is only a couple of hours long, so once you've unlocked everybody, there's no real reason to ever go back and play it again.