There’s something special about wrestling games that are purposefully bad. These games don’t miss the mark – they saw the mark, noted where it was, and went in the other direction. The joy that comes out these games is the kind that comes from subverted expectations and sheer bloody-minded stubbornness. The game shouldn’t work, and thus it becomes fun to try to make it functional. It’s very easy to do one of these games wrong, of course – being bad in a fun way is fiendishly difficult. When all the stars align, though, you can get something incredibly special. Puppet Wrestling is one of those few games that does terrible gameplay terribly well.
Describing Puppet Wrestling is something of a fool’s errand. The closest one can get is by comparison – this is QWOP if QWOP was about wrestling instead of puppets. It’s a simple game of wrestling, one that pits two articulated puppets against one another. Played entirely on the keyboard, two players can (somewhat) control the basic forward, backward, and up/down movement of the puppets – that’s it. Beyond that, gravity and physics do the rest of the work. The goal is to get the other puppet on its back long enough for its life bar to go down.
Objectively, this is not a good game. The controls are frustrating at best and make no sense most of the time. The gameplay is so simple that it might as well not exist and you’ll feel frustration more often than any other emotion. Despite all of that, it works. It’s clear what the game is trying to do so you’ll have fun trying to gain some measure of mastery. Most rounds will go by quickly as one of the two players makes a critical error early on. In time, you might get to the point at which both puppets flail wildly across the screen.
Puppet Wrestling is a must-play for fans of purposefully bad games. It’s not going to win any awards and there’s certainly not much of a gameplay loop, but it is fun. You’ll find yourself chuckling at how absurd the whole thing is, especially when you find yourself on the losing end of a match. Definitely play this one with a friend so you can both enjoy how weird the game can be. A single round only takes a few seconds, so that’s all you’ll lose if you really can’t be bothered playing more.