Hip-hop culture has already had a profound impact on mobile content, and it's poised to take the whole shebang over. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs caused a furor at a recent industry conference when he told the audience that he, in effect, was a vital mobile brand. And, given the position of hip-hop on the ringtone charts, he can hardly be argued with. The tide has spread quickly to mobile games, too. There's already been a Snoop Dogg game, and Marc Ecko and G-Unit games are on the way. Hudson Entertainment wants in on the trend, so
it has leveraged its relationship with The Source to lock down the license to D12--Eminem's somewhat ridiculous but always entertaining rap band. We got our hands on a preview version of D12 Pro Wrestling to see what all the fuss is about. It's a couple of atomic elbow splashes later, and we've got a big grin on our faces.
First of all, Eminem, D12's centerpiece and founding member, didn't make it into the game. Apparently it would have cost Hudson an extra million bucks for the rights to Em's likeness, so his bad self was left out of D12 Pro Wrestling. That's OK, though, because the other five members of the band are there--Bizarre, Kon Artis, Swift, Kuniva, and Proof--as well as a few clever additions, such as a rough and tough character called Groupie, who's sort of a composite picture of D12's infamous female fans, plus two unlockable fighters.
The rappers of D12 hail from the wilds of urban Detroit, and they know how to scrap. Each fighter makes use of a unique set of moves and combos, all of which are accessible via the phone's nav pad. Up, right, and down perform light, medium, and strong attacks, respectively, while left is your block, and the action key charges up your "juice meter." Since stronger attacks require more juice, timing your charging in between attacks is the most important part
of the game. At the same time, if each opponent attempts the same level of attack at the same time, nothing will happen and they'll both lose some juice. At times, D12 Pro Wrestling plays like a violent, fast-paced game of rock-paper-scissors.
You'll have to sustain some damage to pull off your strongest attacks, which can take away three-quarters of your opponent's vitality with one blow. Also, every fighter has some mean combo attacks that play almost like a rhythm game. You initiate a regular attack, and then hit the action key at exactly the right time to start another attack, creating an extra-nasty beatdown. While you're throttling the other sap, you get a black starburst background,
suggesting that you've hit the guy hard enough to tear open space-time. The fighters also get one "savage attack" per level, which takes up all of your juice and turns the screen bloodred. Some of the techniques are downright awe-inspiring, like Kon Artis' triple sole kick, which is an off-the-ropes running attack that seems to set off an atomic explosion. A quick three-count pin is almost inevitable after such a blow.
On the LG VX7000, D12 Pro Wrestling sports a neat, cartoonish look that gives each fighter its specific trademark appearance. Bizarre's definitely lost a lot of weight, but he's still wearing that weird shower cap thing, while Kon Artis is decked out in a magenta tracksuit and headband. The character sprites are pretty homogenous otherwise, as are their combat animations, which consist of a few different frames of animation put together in various sequences. On
the other hand, the game's got six different arenas to fight in, and it makes great use of music, including a few tunes licensed from D12. Each fighter has its own theme music to help pump them up, too. The game ran great on the 7000, and it seemed quite playable on the midrange LG VX6000, too.
We like what we've seen from D12 Pro Wrestling so far. It's a goofy, fun little game that reminds us a bit of Sumo Wrestling, another fighting game on Verizon. It's a pity that Eminem isn't making an appearance, but it hardly ruins this game's streamlined, humorous approach. We'll bring you the full review once the game's out in October.