Full Review: Follow the subtitle, and don't try this game at home. Or at work. Or anywhere.
Thanks to the choke-hold the WWE has on pro wrestling, there's very few opportunities for creating a wrestling game. EA has gone the ?rap & wrestling? route with Def Jam Vendetta (and they now also have the NWA/TNA license for the closest thing the WWE has to compeititon) with enormous success and praise, while Acclaim has struggled to remain relevant with the Legends of Wrestling franchise. Eidos is the latest to take the dive into wrestling, and went an unusual route, acquiring the license for the Backyard Wrestling league (apparently, it's a real league), and decided that WCW Backstage Assault was crappy enough to emulate, with Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This At Home. Rarely has a subtitle been so accurate describing the game; Backyard Wrestling should never be tried at all. BYW is the epitome of an unpolished, unfocused game, which does very little even decently. It's a unique entry into fighting games, but if you think it's going to resemble wrestling in any shape, you're going to be heavily disappointed with this poor, uninspired effort.
The central focus of the game is the Talk Show mode, which is basically your career mode. Within this, there's a cutscene on how Backyard Wrestling is bad and it makes kids all messed up because something happened to them because of it. Personally, this whole thing rubbed me the wrong way ? I suggest that you make a game, not a product that is only out to try to evangelize this silliness. It's as if BYW was simply made to attack the people who find the idea of Jackass to be appaling and useless, not made to be a good game. Anyway, you then fight in the area where the guest on the talk show is based at, whether it's a nightclub, strip bar, or an actual backyard area. You defeat a set of opponents and you advance to the next level. This is also where you unlock new wrestlers.
The lineup of ?wrestlers? is interesting, including such luminaries as one of the Miller Lite girls (the ones who fight in the pool, naturally), Major Gunns of WCW fame, and a bunch of no-names who aren't coordinated enough to be a real pro wrestler. Lest I forget the inclusion of the Insane Clown Posse, which of course means the game automatically sucks. Seriously, why do these trailer trash end up in all these damn wrestling leagues anyway? Perhaps they've been with Ken Kaniff all this time after all. Of course, you can also create your own character, but that would mean subjecting them to the stench of the game, when they'd be better off placed in a real wrestling game like Smackdown.
For those of you who are smart enough to avoid Backyard Wrestling, the fighting takes place somewhere that does not have a wrestling ring. Yes, there was once a WCW game like that, and it blew as well. Plus you don't read well as this was already mentioned. To compensate, the characters use all means of weapons to destroy their opponent, be it via barbed wire, setting a mattress on fire, going through tables, pulling a Mick Foley and leaping off the top of a house, or even using a basketball to cause damage. There are wrestling moves, but there's more in WWF King of the Ring for NES than in this game. There's 2 ways to win, via pin or knockout ? funny about a pin though, since the other claim (besides no ring) is that there's no referee. How do you count to 3 without a ref? If you do score a knockout (and you will because the health will eventually get to zero), the match is over, so no toying with an opponent for fun like real wrestling games.
This is the first strike with Backyard Wrestling. Hell, we should sue for false advertising, as there is little wrestling. Had they passed this off as a fighting game, it would be different. It's like saying Tekken is a wrestling game because King uses suplexes and stuff. In WWE/F games, there was emphasis, on you know, wrestling action, while BYW is more about just beating the crap out of people. Where's the complex grappling moves and submissions? There are no technical wrestling strategies, or even physical wrestling strategies; instead you get a barbed wire bat and beat people up. Even ECW had actual wrestling mixed in with their violence. BYW is simply a shallow fighting game that only wishes it could be a wrestling game.
The gameplay on its own is okay, I suppose ? the only real problem is the characters move like they've just drank a 24 pack of Jolt Cola, and are on a severe sugar high. If you ever thought the Smackdown games were fast, they're downright turtle-ish in comparison to BYW. This means that the characters are pretty tough to manage as the action goes so fast that there's no time to stop and strategize. It's just one big blur of violence and that's about it. The limited amount of moves only hurt it more since there's no reason to bother with any attempt at actual wrestling. Had Eidos and Paradox decided to actually spend some time slowing the pace down and making the game a tad more playable with some polish, perhaps it would be possible to overlook the insane lack of wrestling in Backyard Wrestling. The level of interactivity is nice as nearly ever part of a level is at your disposal, but that's one of the few positives I can find in Backyard Wrestling.
There are many other problems with the game as well ? the characters can get nearly murdered by their opponent only to get back up like nothing happened, for one. Not only are they on a sugar high and running around everywhere, they've got so much adrenaline that they don't feel pain! This is only topped by the moronic AI that does nothing while you kick their ass or set up for a high-risk move, and tends to perform silly repetitive moves over and over. Even in a multiplayer contest (which is the only way to marginally have a decent time), the insta-recovery of the wrestlers just drags any sort of believability out the window. Is the game trying to say that Backyard Wrestling stars are super-human and have a higher threshold of pain than the legendary Mick Foley or something?
The main flaw with Backyard Wrestling, though, is that it simply isn't fun. The whole time I was playing, it was excruciatingly boring and lacking any kind of thrills. Since the pace is so fast, there was little feeling of being in control of the game, and it got awfully repetitive to use a barbed wire bat or a basketball or whatever over and over, instead of picking some wrestling moves up and having a decent contest, especially when you do something really powerful only for them to get back up a second later. Lame. With the name Wrestling in the title, you damn sure better have some wrestling in the game ? if not, it's just a violent 3D fighting game that would love to play like a Power Stone-esque game, but is simply too hokey and boring to waste more than a few hours on. It has slightly more value as a multiplayer game, but even your friends will wish you'd have popped in Smackdown instead.
For all its flaws, Backyard Wrestling does at least have decent graphics. Great for Paradox, they got the least important part of the game right! As mentioned, the interactivity is great and there's a LOT to use as weapons or whatever. The large arenas can be altered by the action and remain that way. There's at least a few cool effects like lighting the mattress on fire or throwing someone though some glass at the strip club, which accounts for something. However, the psychotic pace of the game covers up the constantly repetitive animations of the characters, and demonstrate the lack of detail in most of them. Granted, the game stays at a solid 60 FPS even with the crazed pace, but the characters themselves look like first generation PS2 quality design. Compared with the stunning-looking Smackdown: Here Comes The Pain, BYW looks decent, but vastly outclassed.
Backyard Wrestling does also come with a pretty strong soundtrack. They managed to fit 40 songs in the game, including numerous major and minor musical outfits, even a great cover of I Ran (So Far Away) by Bowling for Soup, which is bizarrely out of place but a good listen anyway. Unfortunately, it includes ?songs? by ICP, which drops 10 points from the cool factor. Otherwise, the soundtrack is loud and fits the whole theme of violent backyard fighting. Not wrestling, however. On the other hand, the sound effects are sparse and forgettable, but not awful either. The voice acting and taunts from wrestlers are also here, but many of them are pathetic and poorly voiced.
Backyard Wrestling: Don't Try This At Home is not a good game. Period. It's an interesting concept for a game that was tried 3 years ago by EA, but it fails as it plays more like a hyperactive fighting game and not a wrestling game. Simple truth is, if you promise a wrestling game, and put wrestling in the title of the game, you damn sure better have wrestling in the game, and not a fighting game with a few wrestling moves in it to pass it off as a grappling game. There's so many things wrong and screwed up with the game it's almost sad, leaving a very unpolished and unfinished game in the hands of the public. In short, BYW is more like a lame attempt to glorify and pimp the Backyard Wrestling league rather than actually make a decent game. Follow the advice of the game and Don't Try This At Home.