From the few screen shots I saw of Punch Club, I was expecting a shallow, pixely scrolling beat-em-up. A blatant attempt to cash in on nostalgia for games like Double Dragon and Metal Slug.
I was wrong, very wrong. At its core, it’s about resource management. With a point and click interface you guide your super rad, tough guy, fighter man through brawls in various tournaments. These tournaments are against teenage mutant ninja crocodiles and when I said guide I meant guide. You don’t actually take part in the fights and instead find that the gameplay boils down to deciding how much time to spend either working, training, eating or sleeping.
Your goal is to win fights which are scheduled every couple of days in-game. To win fights you need to improve your stats (which decay fairly rapidly) by training. Training makes you hungry and tired, so you need to sleep and eat, which in turn cost money and time. To get money you have to work which again, takes time. You’ll find your days being eaten up very quickly with all these activities and traveling between the various buildings which house these tasks. Traveling costs you either time or money as well. In the beginning it can seem very difficult to get enough training done to actually win fights.
Speaking of fights, instead of the button mash I was somewhat looking forward to, your character and your opponent automatically kick and punch each other for as many rounds as it takes for one of them to run out of hp. This is where the types of training you’ve elected to complete pays off.
The stats you’ve trained will determine which types of skills you can allocate to your fighter, and how effective the’ll be. For example high kicks require a minimum agility to pull off. The fights have the potential to go for up to 20 rounds, and even with the 4 x speed option, they can be very long. Considering it’s basically a long, drawn out animation representing the calculation of your stats versus the opponent’s, a skip button would have been great.
The overall flavour and style of Punch Club is really nice. It has lovely art especially the backdrops and character sprites. The sound is excellent too, though the chip tunes soundtrack gets a little grating. Surprisingly the dialogue, at times, can make you laugh out loud. There’s an in-depth skill tree to unlock and the promise of multiple story lines, but in the end, I still felt like all I was doing was managing a spreadsheet.
I’m sure some people will love it. Just look at how popular football management games are, and they don’t even have half the artistic style or the sense of humour. Unfortunately I have never been able to quite grasp the appeal of that type of game and so this really isn’t for me.
Punch Club was reviewed on Steam using a promotional code provided by the publisher.
Game title: Punch Club
All Pizza Diet - 9/10
Soundtrack embedded in my genetic memory - 5/10
Surprise Crocodile KO - 7/10