Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This at Home
System: X-Box
Publisher: Eidos  
Developer: Paradox Entertainment
Released: October 2003
Genre: Pro-Wrestling/Fighting
Capabilities: Memory Unit, Custom Soundtracks

Review Written: October 28, 2003

I didnít know what to expect when I first heard the announcement of Eidos publishing Backyard Wrestling: Donít try this at Home (BYW). While the enormous amounts of BYW DVDís that are on the market do have a little cult following, it is nowhere in the same league as the popularity of the WWE, or to even a lesser extent, NWA: TNA. Regardless, I canít argue with the fact that this is a much needed fresh twist to the wrestling genre of video games. Unfortunately, BYW fails to be a serious wrestling title, and while there are a few good parts about the game, they probably wonít leave any lasting impressions for you to buy the game.

Chances are you have probably never heard of 90% of the roster of grapplers that appear in BYW. The most recognizable wrestlers in here are the rap group, Insane Clown Posse (ICP). Besides having stints in the former WWF and the now-defunct WCW, the ICP also started up their own wrestling organization, JCW (Juggalo Championsh** Wrestling). Eidos also managed to get an agreement from former ECW Champion, Sabu to appear as a selectable wrestler in the game. So other than those three, the rest of the roster are a bunch of unknowns from JCW and BYW that combine to form a roster of 30+ wrestlers.

BYW plays out more like a fighting game with a few wrestling elements thrown in the mix instead of a pure wrestling game. Youíll notice this right away as there is no ring whatsoever to be found in gameplay. This is the first game to take this bold step since the not-so-memorable WCW Backstage Assault. Next, there arenít that many actual wrestling moves that can be performed. Each wrestler can do only eight grappling moves. BYW takes a page out of DefJam Vendetta by exaggerating the average move by throwing in some flashy animations of the wrestlers being tossed around in an unrealistic manner, and by renaming the moves (one example is the Death Valley Driver now being known as ďOver the RainbowĒ) to fit the atmosphere of the game better. The finishing moves especially standout the most, as the developers gave them a bunch of slow-motion effects to really hammer home the impact. A decent reversal system is also implemented, where the character who is being dealt the damage must press the B button when he is briefly flashing in order to pull of the reversal. .

Just like Backstage Assault, BYW makes the multiple amount of stages interactive. Throw opponents into a gas pump and watch it rocket off into the air, or give an earth-shattering slam right through a table. Certain collisions can trigger events, slam a guy into a motorcycle outside a bar, and its owner will magically appear with a baseball bat and will harm anyone who comes near him. Almost any object can be picked up from the ground; they range from your common baseball bat and steel chair to awkward objects such as mannequins and basketballs to yield damage with. Characters can also instantly maneuver across any platform such as ladders or boxes if they seem climbable, and donít even need to press a ďclimbĒ button as in most other wrestling games.

While Backstage Assault still focused more on a wrestling engine, BYW seems more fighting-based, as my friends and I end up whaling on each other with the versatile amount of weapons and interactive environments more so than the slim amount of wrestling moves available. All this mayhem also causes life-bars to drain ridiculously fast, and the average match usually lasts under two minutes before a wrestler is KOíd. Heck, the inclusion of a pin button in here is practically useless because of the fast paced matches.

The main way to play BYW is Talk Show Mode. Where the host of a television talk show that is dubbed ďTodayís TopicĒ introduces characters and interviews them to set up the forthcoming matches. The actual matches are your basic one-on-one bouts, but with maybe a stipulation or two thrown in like beating two or three wrestlers with the damage dealt in one round still being sustained into the next. There are also some bonus goals to achieve like getting X amount of reversals and so on that unlock some of the hidden wrestlers and venues. Even though the cut-scenes of the talk show are pretty witty and funny, they really do nothing to effect the matches overall, and the lack of interactive storylines makes this main single player mode seem just like several random matches against the computer.

There arenít that many extra match types available due to the non-ring nature of the game. So donít be disappointed when there is none of the fancy Cage or Ladder matches to be found. There is a Survival mode, where you must face a countless string of opponents on just one life-bar until you lose. There are also two extra modes to be unlocked, the self explanatory King of the Hill and Tag modes, which are two-player match types only. Surprisingly, a Create-a-Wrestler (CaW) mode is included, but sadly it is lacking in almost every creation element there is. All there is to it is selecting one of 15 character models and giving them one of several costume colors. You canít select specific shirts, tattoos, or accessories to deck your ďcreatedĒ wrestler out with. Nor can you select their hairstyle, or add text to their costume. This mode just seems rather tacked on, and is the most limited CaW mode to ever grace a wrestling game.

Just like the gameplay, the graphics have their own ups and downs. The character models are moderately detailed, albeit having a slight cartoon-ish look to them. The models do look decent in their own right, but they look a few generations behind when compared to the stellar models found in current wrestling games like RAW 2 and Smackdown. There is plenty of blood that is spewing out of the brawlers, and even though it is outrageously exaggerated, it fits the zany nature of the gameplay. I was kind of shocked to notice continuous facial damage to the character models considering that matches were pretty short. Regardless, seeing clothing ripped apart and stained with blood does leave some good impressions.

I loved the exaggerated move animations in DefJam Vendetta, and they look just as sweet in here, it is just too bad there is not that many of them in comparison. There really isnít much in terms of presentation in BYW. The menus are fairly basic, with no splashy effects. The entrances consume of a short pose from the wrestler with the occasional audio threat from some of them. The FMVís for the Talk Show mode are what stand out the most. The CGI quality in them is top notch, and it is just too bad the actual in game models donít look anywhere as close as the ones seen in the cut-scenes.

The sound effects for all the slams and punches arenít anything we have heard before, and they got the done just fine. The voice acting in the Talk Show mode cut-scenes are well done and actually sound like the voice actors care for once. One of BYWís main features is its whopping 41 song soundtrack. Unlike the wrestler roster, a lot of these artists are fairly well-known with groups like Sum 41, Andrew WK, and (obviously) ICP contributing to this massive soundtrack. An impressive Jukebox feature lets you enable and disable which songs you want played during matches. The developers also capitalized on letting players adding their own custom soundtracks to the mix as well. Interestingly, BYW is one of the first Xbox titles that lets you copy any or all of the songs in the included play list onto your Xbox hard drive.

Surprisingly, there is a bit of stuff to keep you hanging onto your copy of BYW, though not for that much longer. There are the standard wrestlers and arenas that need to be unlocked by completing Talk Show and Survival modes. Regrettably, both modes can be fully completed in less than two hours apiece. There are extra music video packages of BYW highlights that need to be earned. The well-put together videos sadly are the only highlight of the extras. The locked Tag and King of the Hill modes are decent multi player modes, but they get stale after awhile with just two players. I have no idea why the developers didnít make this a four player game; it seems it would have been a perfect candidate considering the small stages that the action takes place in.

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.0
Sound: 8.5
Gameplay: 5.4
Replay Value: 6.2

Overall: 6.7

BYW tried really hard, but didnít really pull off being the next big wrestling title. What is here though is more of a fighting game, with some wrestling elements thrown in to round off the package. It can be fun for awhile, but the frantically fast-paced matches get stale too fast. This is a good two-player game, but it is just a damn shame that no four player options are to be found. If the developers get things right and listen to the feedback, a sequel can improve all the shortcomings here and can make a fantastic game. As it is, this is a nice fresh change of pace from your standard WWE title, but after a few days youíll impatiently want to go back to them. I simply cannot recommend Backyard Wrestling: Donít try this at Home for its $50 selling price, but you can easily make the most out of it with a rental.

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