Magic doesn’t always need to be like, cauldrons of bubbling newts. I’d say building a romantic connection with a wrestler entirely formed of green ooze, or training your MEAT at Mrs. Muscles gym counts as magic – pure magic, even. And that’s what Wrestling With Emotions: New Kid On The Block offers. It’s a wrestling dating sim with a splash of RPG, and almost certainly a game that’ll pin your heart in a bear hug and never let go.
Wrestling With Emotions (WWE; perfect, isn’t it?) is being developed by Team Lazerbeam, a 10-strong band behind surreal music adventure Teenage Blob, and WWE’s precursor of the same name. For New Kid On The Block, they wanted to expand on the original WWE‘s speed dating focus and explode it outwards to answer the question: what would it be like to live in the wrestling universe for a bit?
And from the looks of things, New Kid On The Block will be an absolute treat. I’m very into the way that you’re not immediately a famous wrestler, but some awkward person whose journey begins watching from the sidelines as their faves suplex each other. Of course, you’ll develop as the game goes on, but it’s nice that you can choose whether to lean into being confident or someone who’s more introverted.
Building your MEAT (Muscle, Elegance, Attitude, and Theatrics) is crucial, as it’ll act as your way to navigating the toughest social situations and winning over the wrestling fans. You can build them up at certain locales across – get ready for the best name for a town ever – Cuddle Town. One of the bosses of these gyms is literally called “Muscle Chihuahua”, who is both adorable, literally a chihuahua, and has a slightly unhinged glint in her eye. I love her
There are seven “Dateable Dreamboats”, all of whom are stunning individuals who you’ll be able to form the deepest of relationships with. Irresistible Steve and King Pretty Guy have my heart. Oh and Outburst. And arms, especially arms.
While WWE is anarchic and funny, I like how it seems to wrap this all up in a game that celebrates inclusion and diversity. You get to be you, with all the messy struggles and victories that may come with it.
I asked Team Lazerbeam’s Ben Rausch why they chose wrestling as the right medium to not only tell a story, but to celebrate LGBTQ+ inclusion. “Wrestling has a dark history of racism, misogyny and homophobia, but today it’s incredible seeing people completely flipping the script and kicking the shit out of those regressive attitudes,” Rausch explains. “We were tired of seeing wrestling (and wrestling games) presented as really serious and hyper-heterosexual and we just wanted to say “wrestling is gay, and colorful and surreal, and that’s awesome.”
Rausch and Lazerbeam also view wrestling as “a carefully crafted piece of art that portrays an image of pure chaos”, but is actually a “series of predetermined outcomes”. Dating sims, Rausch says, are similar in the way players are given agency and freedom, but they’re still stuck within the confines of a game’s design. WWE plays off this tension, as “all through the game we have a lot of these moments of harmony between the narrative and gameplay, telling a story about individuality battling inescapable restrictions and authority”.
It’s tantalizing that Lazerbeam haven’t even touched on extra stuff that affects the simulation. The “hidden stat pools”, “BONES”, “GUTS”, and what looks to be a lovely sketchbook you document all your adventures in.
The game looks like straight magic and I’ve speared it straight onto my wishlist.