Mat Mania Review
The sport of professional wrestling enjoyed one of its most notable high marks of popularity in the mid 1980s. “Mat Mania”, developed by Technos of Japan and published by Taito rides the wave of popularity with a timely 1985 release. WWE (then still known as the WWF before the liberals made them change it) gambled its future on the first WrestleMania event in 1985 and it paid off in spades. Hulk Hogan was a household name. Major networks like NBC featured pro wrestling specials. It was the right time to get some pro wrestling video games out into the arcades and home consoles. The expected result of this would typically be a ton of poorly planned shovelware, but “Mat Mania” managed to buck that trend.
The gameplay holds up quite well and it is not terribly difficult to control your player or execute any number of the included wrestling moves. Far too often these games are either far too complex for the average toddler to figure out. Or, as we’ll see in other pro wrestling games of the period, it is so dumbed down the action in the pixelated ring does not even remotely resemble the real thing.
The thing “Mat Mania” really has going for it, is that it appears to be based on the style of pro wrestling that was popular during the 1980s; specifically family-friendly heroes and villains. The WWE, circa 1985, featured larger than life “babyface” Hulk Hogan, who still praised God for his successes and loved America with all of his heart. As many of you probably know, the Clinton-era WWE devolved into a hedonistic, sex-fueled freak show of epic proportions. But, “Mat Mania” does not reflect any of pro wrestling’s ugliness and focuses on a simpler time when a masked man in black leather pants called the “Insane Warrior” was obviously a “bad guy”. Your character, simply called “You”, is a standard wrestler in blue trunks and beyond needing a haircut is completely appropriate. The other villains in the game are also not too objectionable, a karate master, a tribal man from Africa, and a crazed man in a piranha mask. The main villain is called “Golden Hulk” and doesn’t really resemble Hulk Hogan, so points to the game developers for sticking that reference in there without blatantly stealing Hogan’s likeness.
The sound of “Mat Mania” is also quite well done. The music is fitting and not too annoying and the digitized voice of the referee counting the pinfall is unforgettable. The challenge level is adequate for an arcade game. Once the player figures out the move set of the opponent, victory comes easily. Also, worth a mention is the announcer shown prior to each match. He resembles newsman Alex Jones of Infowars in both his appearance and tenacity. I can only imagine that Alex Jones subconsciously patterned his gimmick after “Mat Mania” announcer, Cory. The resemblance is uncanny.
Probably the most telling moment of how much the world of pro wrestling has changed is when you defeat “Golden Hulk” for the world championship. Your character stands in the middle of the ring while the referee hands over the title belt. A smartly dressed woman holding a bouquet of flowers walks up to your character and plants an appropriate and family friendly peck of a kiss onto his cheek. Had this game been based off of the later “Attitude Era”, the player would have kicked the referee in the stomach and given him a finishing move and then poured beer all over the belt. The woman, clad only in revealing underwear would have then walked over and simulated a sex act with the new champion. Thankfully, “Mat Mania” is based on a more wholesome period of pro wrestling and I can safely recommend it for all ages.