I started playing a fan-made adaptation of Pokemon called Glazed a few weeks ago. After swearing off Pokemon for the last time again 2 years ago, before I knew it, I found myself raising a new squad of loyal pets to meet the challenges of the Pokemon world. The game does a great job of ensuring they all have their own strengths, abilities and most importantly, character. This depth comes both from the developers and the user. For example, certain aspects are controlled by the developer: how each creature looks and sounds, what moves it learns and what its stats are etc. More importantly however, are the spaces left intentionally blank for the user to fill in. Moments like the difficult time you had catching them, that one time one of your Pokemon survived that gym leader’s attack against all odds and won, when that frog thing keeps dying despite intense training, the real and imaged aspects of your squad over the course of the Pokemon adventure enrich the story and invest you in these digital representations.
While I would highly recommend finding a method to play this adaptation on your device, I mention Pokemon not purely to endorse, but to provide a point of contrast for MMA manager. Pokemon was perhaps the best example of how to get a player invested in a team of virtual characters and provides a good handful of lessons games like MMA manager could use as an example. MMA manager starts off with a pretty dry tutorial, forcibly grabbing your face and shoving it into big texts boxes and arrows. You are eventually presented with a choice of starter fighters whose various stats in grappling or striking are bold facedly displayed for you. Then, you’re whisked away to your first fight where you tell your fighter what to do: whether to stay standing or try and wrestle, how intense you want to fight as well as what kinds of moves to attempt. Naturally, I instructed my punching fighter to punch and avoid wrestling so of course I got knocked out by the other guy who was inferior at punching.
It’s true that you might have a moment where a fighter eeks out a tight victory, the payoff is lessened when it seems like an outcropping of chance rather than training or tactics. Here I’ll have to note that I’m not into MMA but understand basic concepts. I get that things like this happen, but it doesn’t feel great when you make the right decision and lose anyways. You eventually build a squad of generic angry looking dudes up, each with different stats which increase based on how much money you’re willing to spend on a punching bag. Call me lame but there’s something empty in watching the stat number of a grimacing tattooed clown rise by one point because RN Jesus arbitrarily thought your imaginary facilities were up to snuff. Raising a barn full of these creatures is just unrewarding. You manage their happiness either by getting them sponsored by a lame fictitious brand or ponying up for better plane seats. There’s an opaque layer of separation between player and game world, most notably the fighters being blatantly reduced down to numerical values whose predictive potency is unprovable.
That being said, I think the lack of immersion is a bigger issue for me and less so for who I think this game is geared towards. Someone who is more in tune with MMA would probably also choose better tactics from the impressive array of techniques and make better ringside choices, but the game does nothing to indicate what exactly would be good to someone who doesn’t know the practical implications of the superman punch. Honestly, I pretended to be tactical or strategic about what moves to use for a while but ended up getting beat most of the time. Choosing random techniques without correlation with my fighter’s skill seemed to be equally effective if not moreso.
While this game is really not that great, it’s made much worse because it’s just not geared toward your average person. If you’re into MMA and have dreams of owning a quality stable of fighting men to brutalize other fighting men, you could do much worse than MMA manager. Otherwise, you’re much better off playing Pokemon.
While MMA junkies may get some thrills by utilizing their knowledge and ignoring the interface, the average person won’t be quite as lucky.