CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling, shortened to CHIKARA moving forward, is presented for review by developer VICO Game Studio and publisher Reverb Triple XP. VICO Game Studio aims to inject the wrestling game landscape with a healthy dose of arcade action, a bit of technical skill, and enthusiasm. Through a colorful arcade palette and character creation suite, players can bring their imagined wrestler to life with a wealth of moves.
CHIKARA is going to live and die based on adjustments from VICO Game Studio and whether the audience will pick back up. The CHIKARA roster on display is fine, showcasing what the character creator can do, and the downloadable options are many. Most of the popular downloadable characters or rings aren’t original creations but copies of wrestlers from other promotions. Playing is a rough state of affairs with most action coming from combinations of a strike and grapple buttons, but without good flow between the arcade strikes and blocking akin to fighting games versus the grappling and limited submission options of wrestling.
Given the abysmal state of WWE’s 2k series, CHIKARA is in a prime spot to provide a fresh video game alternative. It’s not in a bad starting place since it’s based on the Philadelphia promotion of the same name. One gander at the history of their hardcore title shows that there’s already a colorful array of directions the game could be taken in.
Let it be known that CHIKARA at least has enthusiasm aplenty. From the energetic voice acting, to the strong lines around colorful figures, and ending with a robust user creation engine – the possibilities for silly wrestling fun are wide. I had a No. 2 Pencil fight Solo Darling while Finn Balor spent most of his time getting pummeled. This was a temporarily blissful way to spend an evening.
Beyond those outlandishly cartoon matchups, there’s not much fun to be had with CHIKARA the game. The targeting system is a mess, making matches involving four participants or more a guess about who I’m going to be striking. This is not helped by the decision to include blocking as a directional move that’s more out of Street Fighter‘s playbook than it is existing iterations of wrestling gameplay. So when I’m trying to move only to block and unsure about who’s strikes I’m blocking or who is going to grapple me, there are enough variables in the air that make larger matches the un-fun kind of chaos.
Not that one-on-one bouts fare much better. The plane of action is extremely flat, requiring your wrestler to be on almost the exact same horizontal section of the screen for moves to land. Adding to the already spastic nature of moving and blocking is an unnecessarily complicated attacking system. Stronger attacks sometimes involve just holding the button in longer, combining the strike and grapple buttons, holding a direction, or hoping that what little tracking exists with moves will actually land. How this translates to online play I can’t say as of this writing, as my multiple attempts to connect with a single other player ended in perpetual searches before dropping off.
CHIKARA: Action Arcade Wrestling
CHIKARA would have done well to lean into the cartoonish extremes of wrestling minus the fighting game mechanics. The blocking, movement, targeting, and majority of attacks are suited to one-on-one combat instead of making use of a wrestling ring. I'm content leaving the fighting game wackiness out of wrestling, but, if you're looking for some temporary silliness, a night with CHIKARA isn't awful. Just don't mistake it for good either.
- Engaging cartoon style with strong lines and colors that heighten the arcade flavor.
- Arcade flavor is badly implemented in a ring where the participants can move in any direction by forcing most action on a single plane.
- Cumbersome control scheme.
Prognosis is Fair