I once spent half an hour chasing a man who vaguely resembled Hulk Hogan. I was at Reading Festival at the time. Word spread around the campsite - "Hulk Hogan is working at Dunkin' Donuts!" - and then about a hundred of us descended upon a battered trailer in the corner of a muddy field. As the mob began to chant, the lookalike fled - and then we hounded and pursued him across the festival, until the poor bugger received an escort of security guards.
If there's any part of you that feels you might have done the same, then WWE All Stars might be the game for you. When the main menu pops up for the first time, you'll be greeted by the welcome sight of his Hulkiness, bathed in a celestial light like a wrestling Messiah. Venture to the character select screen and you'll find that half the roster is filled with grappling icons from the 80s and 90s, including The Ultimate Warrior, Rowdy Roddy Piper and Andre the Giant. If you're in your mid-to-late twenties you may not have thought about these characters for a good 15 years, so don't be surprised if the memories come flooding back like a wave of Tab Clear.
Meanwhile the other half of the roster is taken up with more recent WWE stars, like John Cena and Rey Mysterio. The idea is to pit the old guys against the new in a bid to create epic, history-defying match-ups - or if you're more cynical, to cash in on two fanbases instead of one. What Star Trek: Generations did for geeky sci-fi, All Stars does for oversized men in spandex, and the resulting bootmash is surprisingly effective.
Even by the usual clownish standards of professional wrestling, WWE All Stars doesn't take itself seriously. The first clue is in the caricature-like appearance of the participants themselves, who seem so swollen with cartoon testosterone that they resemble action figures - perhaps the same toys we played with before the Ninja Turtles came along. Then when you finally enter the ring, the game reveals a light arcade sensibility, with a scant disregard for Isaac Newton's Greatest Hits. Hulk Hogan swiftly makes good on his Jesus-like appearance by picking up Andre the Giant - ANDRE THE GIANT, for pity's sake! - and hurling him into the air. And just to add insult to injury, Hulk juggles him via a quick melee combo. Has he no shame?
In short, All Stars sets out to be a pick-up-and-play grappler. It seems strange to think of Yuke's WWE efforts as simulations, but that's certainly what they are in comparison to the game THQ's in-house staff have made here. Producer Sal Divita also worked on the 1995 Wrestlemania coin-op title, which may explain the arcade-like simplicity of the design. Strikes and grabs are each governed by a pair of face buttons, offering light and heavy variants. The precise style of your moves varies depending on position and your use of the directional stick, but there's little need to remember the specifics. Certain "basic" attacks can be charged for fuller effect, and there's an upper tier of spectacular moves and finishers that rely upon you charging up an energy meter, but the basics of play can easily be learnt within your first match or two.