The match-3 genre just keeps getting better.
From good ol’ Bejewled to the controversial Huniepop, the world of match-3 games is constantly growing. Pro Puzzle Wrestling is trying to fill the niche I didn’t really know existed: match-3 wrestling.
Currently with only a multiplayer 1-on-1 variant in the game, I got to play Pro Puzzle Wrestling at EGX Rezzed against the developer. Players must pick a character and then use typical match-3 methods to create combos and deal damage. Many characters are based on different wrestling clichés: a patriotic American, a very British man (who has the wonderful name Tommy Tanker “British Banker”) and a ginger Scottish man.
The final version aims to have at least 24 characters, 12 men and 12 women, all based on exaggerated stereotypes within the wrestling world. There are a number of nods to wrestling tropes too, such as each character being either ‘face’ or ‘heel’, good or bad respectively in wrestling terminology. Along with modes around different fights such as cage matches, there’s a lot that the wrestling fan can enjoy. Upon using a successful move, these characters will insult the other in character, a memorable line from Tommy Tanker being “If I lose I’ll sue your parents!”. They all have well-written biographies, without straying into explicit rudeness about each character.
Each player has 4 moves in a turn, and if they manage to match 3 colours a set number of times and in a set order, they will execute a combo on the enemy. Different characters have different combos, although light characters will have a wider variety of small combos while the heavy characters have a wider variety of long combos, forcing players into a strategic choice.
The aim of the game, as in wrestling, is to pin the opponent. When you knock the enemy down, you are given the choice to pin, to begin a segment where the player can try to end the match and win, or elbow drop the enemy to deal a hefty amount of damage. The pinning segment is a push and pull where players aim for set colours in order to either hold the pin or escape. Each player is given 3 turns (as in “1…2…3…you’re out!”) before the character pinning will win for managing to hold it up. Characters with lower health will find it hard to escape a pin, so there’s strategy in knowing when the right time to pin is, as the enemy might just pin you next turn (which is exactly how I managed to beat the developer..). The pinning segment was simple, it acted as a type of placeholder in the demo for something that will be expanded upon throughout development, although it made clear how the game aims to create a crescendo at the end of each match to win it.
The combination of these mechanics create a unique blend of the typical match-3 genre with the tug-of-war style enhanced through the turn-based gameplay. Players are constantly battling each other for an advantage, and there’s enough available to even allow one player to have a turn with little damage, as this can prevent the enemy from performing a good combo. Looking at the game in hindsight, there are many different strategies possible for the players. Building each match up to a final battle to pin the enemy gives the game its much needed tension, to make it unique.
Pro Puzzle Wrestling won’t be limited to a multiplayer mode, however. A ‘rogue-lite’ singleplayer campaign will be available, allowing players to use a wrestler and rank up, going from warehouse brawls to primetime television wrestling. Alongside a number of different modes available, the singleplayer campaign aims to have enough variance to keep the gameplay enjoyable, without relying too heavily on just the basic match-3 formula to keep you interested.
Pro Puzzle Wrestling is in pre-alpha, everything is subject to drastically change. Balancing, gamemodes, and the benefits of a light or heavy character will be most likely changed heavily. What I saw at EGX Rezzed was the framework of a very enjoyable match-3 game. With the right mix of tongue-in-cheek and competitive gameplay, it could be a fantastic game. There are few multiplayer competitive games for just two players, Pro Puzzle Wrestling will hopefully really take off in that area.
Pro Puzzle Wrestling has the most potential out of everything I saw at EGX Rezzed. With fun additions like improved animations, the right sense of humour, and insane modes like a Royal Rumble, it would really stand out in the genre. Match-3 is a genre that does incredibly well with innovation, taking the ideas and applying them in new ways, Pro Puzzle Wrestling will hopefully become another fantastic addition to the list.
Pro Puzzle Wrestling has no release date, what did you expect, it’s pre-alpha! You can find a trailer on the website here. I’d highly recommend checking it out, as both a multiplayer and singleplayer game it should be a lot of fun.