The Hungry Gamer Previews Cage Match!
Before I begin, I was sent a prototype copy of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview.
If you would prefer to watch a video review of this game check it out below.
Back in my college days, and a few years after my buddies and I watched a lot of UFC. We were all about it, we got most of the PPV’s, watched the Ultimate Fighter reality show, and consumed about as much of it as we could. We went nuts when Matt Serra shockingly won the title, were in love with Rampage Jackson, and ridiculed Kimbo Slice when he tried to make the jump to the UFC.
Then, I fell out of it. I just stopped watching it. I think when my buddies and I all started getting married, and moving away the fun just fell out of it. However, when I got the chance to preview a MMA game I was jazzed for it. Skeptical at how you could possibly fit in everything you need to fit in to make it work, but jazzed none the less.
Now I am not going to spend a ton of time going over how to play the game, but the basics are pretty simple. Each turn, each fighter will select an attack they want to attempt on their opponent; options are determined by the positions of the fighter-standing, or on the ground. Each fighter reveals their selection and consults an easy to read chart which will tell you if your attack hits, if the opponents attack hits or if dice need to be rolled to determine who hits who.
Some attacks might result in you going to the ground, which unlocks various other options. Once on the ground in a dominant position you can go for submissions, or just try to ground and pound, while if you are in the submissive position you are just doing your best to get out of there, or protect yourself. The game ends when one player has their head or body HP reduced to zero, or gets submitted.
Now I have deliberately made that very short and quick and concise. Why? Because when you look at this game it seems like it is really complicated, but at the end of the day it is just that simple. It looks like there is no way that it could possibly take 5-10 minutes, but it really does. I will also say that I have a video preview coming that shows how to play in a little more detail.
So what do I think?
The game does an excellent job at capturing the feel of MMA. It gives you enough options as to how you want to attack to feel like you can do anything you might see in a real fight, without giving you so many options that you struggle to make a choice. You want to do a head kick? You can. Throw against the cage? You can. Jab, or cross? You can. Want to play a female fighter? Grappler? Boxer? Muay Thai fighter? Yes, yes, yes, yes.
However, at the same time it is really simple. The genius of the game lies in the results charts that you consult each round. I know, I know that sounds painfully dull, but it is quick and easy. Say I jab, and you shoot for a takedown. Well, bully for me! I punch you in the head, and you fail to do anything to me. At the same time if I jab and you do a low kick, we both take damage, done and done. The only complication comes when a take down or submission is involved. When this happens you roll dice, based on modifiers clearly written on the board. Whomever wins these rolls gets to take their chosen action and the other player winds up on the losing end. The end result is that the game becomes much more than a slug fest, where you are hoping to roll higher dice than your opponent. There is real strategy here!
I also love the huge variety of fighters you can choose. Not only are there male and female fighters, but the ethnic representation is excellent. I am heartened by this. Games are for everyone, so let’s make sure everyone can play a character they feel represents them.
Finally the game is fast. It never overstays its welcome. You are done in 5-10 minutes. This is a game that does not drag on, does not become boring.
The artwork is solid. It is not brilliant, but it does the job, and does give you a feel for the personality of each of the fighters. Now, I do feel it is also important to point out that these are not real fighters, this is in no way a licensed MMA game. This did not bother me, but I quit following MMA long enough ago that the fighters I knew have since retired…or should have.
This is a niche game. If you are not a fan of MMA, then this will, unquestionably not be a game for you. I also am not a fan of having to use a pencil and pad of paper to track your health, and the prototype version of the paper seems to small, or laid out oddly for it to be completely useful.
Bringing it all together
Cage Match! is a game that does an excellent job of capturing the feel and nuance of MMA. It really feels like your choice of fighter matters. You never feel like you are pigeonholed into being a striker or a grappler if you do not want to, and it does a good job of giving you that feel of being able to exploit the advantage a grappler might have over a boxer and vice-versa. The game plays in a fast 5-10 minutes. The game has a full complement of male and female fighter of varying ethnicities, and the art does hint at personality behind the fighters. If you like MMA, this is a game for you, if not then it is not. There is no in between on this game in my opinion.
We could go to the judges scorecard faster than I could read all that
*Really captures the feel of MMA
*Unique chart which determines outcome of attacks, rather than always relying on dice
*Unique feeling fighters, but plenty of options
*Tracking of health is a somewhat awkward pad of paper
*Fast, fun and worth checking out if you like MMA