In a recent bout of sales, I picked up a few games on my wishlist one of which was Punch Club. Now this is one of those games that I knew very little about when I bought it, I didn’t watch videos, read other reviews or anything. I thought the game might be some sort of boxing management simulation, something akin to an old game I used to play Barry McGuigans Boxing where you controlled a fighter moving his way up through the ranks to fight the champ. I was wrong, so very very wrong.
The game is more of a street-fighter management/strategy game where you take control of the life of a fighter in his quest to rise through the ranks to stardom and maybe get involved in some interesting side quests along the way. When you start you are shown a storyline cut scene that sets the background story with your father being brutally murdered. Then several years later you start in your house and after a telephone call, you are allowed to start to roam the city which opens up more as you play. Now I hate to criticise a game so early on but I can’t help but feel that the developers missed something by not allowing you to customise the look of your character.
Your begin to manage the day to day routine of your fighter which consists of juggling time and money between training at the gym to increase your stats, earning money (which can also increase your stats) so that you can train, sleeping and eating to revive your energy so that you can train more and fighting to increase you rank and try out new skills. When one day rolls into the next you lose a bit of your stats. This makes days that you cannot or don’t train really expensive and made the game feel like a bit of a grind. With every fight that you take part in you gain skill tree points that can be spent on learning new moves or focussing your fighter into one of the major disciplines of Bear, Tiger or Turtle. This is where Punch Club will get it’s replay value in that you can play the game through several times and change the focus points for your fighter. You could make them a powerhouse by putting a load of time and energy into weights and focussing your skill points on power or aim for a more speed oriented fighter who might focus more on kicks and their dodging ability. Whichever road you choose for your fighter you need to choose it early on because being equally balanced is not the way to go here. However given the fact that the main storyline does not seem to change between one play and another I probably would not bother with a second play though unless I am missing something.
Money plays a very serious part in the game and I think (although yet to prove it) the faster you can save up for your own gym equipment you will begin to feel the benefits in all areas. A session in the Gym costs $10 per time which means you should try to go there when you are full capacity to get the most out of it. Doing this is a lot harder than it sounds as I found myself always timing it wrong at first and my first fighter suffered from it greatly. But you don’t want a game like this just to give the answers to you straight away. The fights themselves are automatic and the only influence you have is at the end of every round where you can change your fighters tactics. Graphically the game has a polished pixelated 1980’s style. I think if it went a different way with super high resolution graphics it may even lose some of the appeal. My brain complains that there is no day/night cycle, time and days do pass but locations always seem to be the same, beautifully sunny at home while at the bar it’s perpetual night, it just feels weird. Adding a very subtle weather change or day/night cycle might have added to the immersion for me.
I really enjoy the amount of references to TV and film that there are in Punch Club. The Quick Store which never shuts is owned by a certain Apu, outside the store are two recognisable figures that look and act an awful amount like Jay & Silent Bob. Your mentor is Micky, which reminds me very much of Mickey from the Rocky series. The Pizza store is owned by Casey who is the spitting image of Stephen Segal and looks handy with a knife. Then you meet Biff, the mutant Crocodile who loves Pizza and not so subtle references to Fight Club. There are a lot of these dotted about which makes the game feel a little familiar, if you know any of the references that they point to.
While playing the game I found myself asking the question “am I having fun?” which is never a good sign. To be honest I have to say that for me it was not that fun. Maybe I just have the wrong sort of mind to care about the stats? It feels like a grind without a real purpose, the lack of interaction with the fights and the training just mean the game misses with me. At times it feels like an improved and less pay to win version of any of the free to play farming games out there which may sound cruel but that’s how I feel about it. I don’t find myself being drawn into the world but if you’re into stats based games and don’t mind a bit of a grind then I am sure you will love it.
TLDR: Graphically nice, good potential for storyline but lacks interaction and involvement.
Overall score: 5/10
Love and rockets