WWE All-Stars doesn't take itself very seriously. Want to set up a match between the 7-foot-4 Andre the Giant and the 5-foot-6 Rey Mysterio Jr.? Well, don't worry about any pesky height and weight restrictions getting in your way--just make sure to watch out for Andre's vicious butt-slam if you happen to be playing as Mysterio. Want to kick a dude so hard in the ouch zone that he goes flying 10 feet into the air and then grab him to send him violently back to the ground with a one-armed choke slam? Well, that's awfully specific, but please feel free to go ahead and do so. WWE All-Stars won't judge you.

That lack of pretense is exactly what makes WWE All-Stars so intriguing. Developed by THQ San Diego, the game is an arcade-inspired brawler that uses exaggerated wrestling techniques as a starting point and then layers in concepts from 2D fighting games like combos and timing-based counters. The result is a game with a fairly simple control scheme that still manages to offer--and encourage--a variety of methods for battering and bruising your opponents. For example, the best way to build up to your signature and finishing moves is to avoid repeating the same types of attack. The same goes for playing against a human opponent, as you can counter an opponent's attack with a carefully timed button press; constantly mixing up which attacks you use will keep your foe from settling into a nice rhythm.

Then there are the wrestler styles, which is another way All-Stars seeks to keep the action varied and, depending on how you mix and match them, just plain silly. The four styles in the game are brawler, big men, grapplers, and acrobats. Brawlers are guys like The Rock and Sheamus; those who mix speed and strength while seeking to unload on opponents with a flurry of devastating punches. Grapplers are guys like Bret Hart who look at four limbs and see the makings of a delicious pretzel, tying people up in a variety of painful submission holds. Big men, as the description implies, are the slow-and-steady wrestlers like Andre the Giant and The Big Show who have the luxury of absorbing most attacks like a brick wall at the cost of reduced agility. Then there's the acrobat style, which includes high flyers, like Rey Mysterio Jr., who sprint all over the place and make their homes at the top of the turnbuckle.

The game doesn't tell you who you can and can't wrestle with, which makes these style designations interesting. As mentioned before, you can go big man against acrobat, brawler against brawler, or any other combination you'd like to see. Every style has its strengths and weaknesses, so what looks like a comical mismatch from a physical perspective doesn't necessarily have to be from a controls perspective. And beyond that, many wrestlers lean heavily toward an alternate style, like Macho Man Randy Savage, who's predominately a high flyer but can use his massive physique much in the way a brawler like John Cena can.

But no matter your style of choice, each wrestler in the game is capable of pulling off moves that his real-life counterpart could only dream of doing. We mentioned the ability to kick someone straight up into the air and juggle him around before slamming him back down, but that's one of the more vanilla maneuvers compared to each wrestler's signature and finishing moves. Guys like Rey Mysterio Jr. can grapple onto an opponent and twist, flip, and swirl around him like the Tasmanian devil. Others might kick a guy in the chest, bounce from that into a full backflip, and kick him again on the way down. The acrobatic possibilities are extensive, but for the traditionalists out there, you can also just hop out of the ring, grab a folding chair, and smash a dude's head with it. Ahh, the classics.

We only got to see one game mode (a simple one-versus-one exhibition match), but judging from the number of locked-out options on the mode-select screen, it looks like there should be a number of other match types from which to choose. It should be fun to see what THQ San Diego can cook up in terms of match types that fits the eccentricity of the basic gameplay. You'll be able to find out yourself when WWE All-Stars is released this March.



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