Punch Club is great. It also makes me very mad. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to be and does a great job in doing that, but also can be frustrating and tiring at times.
What Punch Club does well is engagement, every action you do has meaning to it and you can see the direct consequences of your work through coloured orbs floating on the screen.
The key to doing well in Punch Club is finding balance between everything in your characters life. When you train hard for a couple of days you can immediately feel the improvement in your next fight. However, the days after that will be fraught with making up lost money and sleep. Working will reduce your happiness and increase exhaustion but you’ll be making money needed for food and other important needs.
If you train hard you’ll gain happiness but also increase exhaustion and hunger. Sleeping will reduce exhaustion but increase your hunger. To make things harder, at the end of every day your main three stats, Strength, Agility and Stamina, will decay. Trying to balance all these things is a very challenging task and the game does not hold your hand at all.
Another interesting thing to note is that all the fighting is not in your direct control. You can pick your abilities and moves at the start of each round but once it begins, it’s up to RNG to decide how well you’re going to do.
Most of the time, you’ll get the desired result for how difficult your opponent is compared to your own ability, but other times you’ll just get the wind knocked out of you by a seemingly simple opponent. This frustrates me but it takes away being able to win every match based solely on a players skill, and more on the training done outside the fights.
As for the fighting styles, there are three to choose from; Strength focused Way of the Bear, Agility focused Way of the Tiger and Stamina focused Way of the Turtle. All the statistics have advantages to levelling them up but it is encouraged to maximise in one.
At the games current build, the Agility focused skill-set is entirely overpowered, with the other two lacking significantly unless you build Agility. Agility is directly tied to your accuracy. So if you’re building high Strength, you’re not going to be able to hit people enough unless if you build your agility.
Same goes for Stamina which is directly tied to energy consumption, if you waste your high Strength moves and also miss, you’ll drain a large amount of energy in the process. Yet another aspect of the game that requires careful balancing between the statistics.
The pixel graphics in Punch Club are fantastic. You can switch between normal and retro style which will slightly change how the game looks. The amount of detail the developers have put into every nook and cranny is phenomenal, as even after several hours of gameplay in areas I’d been to countless times, I was still discovering tiny little references to the 80’s fighter films that it so perfectly parodies.
The animations are masterfully crafted, the entire aesthetic of the game is perfect and ticks all the right boxes for what it is going for. The sound is another great aspect of Punch Club, there are different looped tracks for each different area and they all sound wonderful. I never found myself getting tired of them and each one is different enough to add a nice touch to the art.
The controls for Punch Club are very straightforward, everything is controlled by the mouse, from moving around the scene, to selecting things. You can tell that it is more suited for a touch screen, but it isn’t detrimental by any means. Speaking of touch screen, the game is also available on iOS, and it translates perfectly.
The story for Punch Club is also rather good, the throwbacks to classic 80’s and 90’s fighter films that it so perfectly parodies. The main plot is finding the man who killed your father, and it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. There are pop-culture references everywhere, but they aren’t overzealous or annoying enough to detract from the overall nature of the game.
There aren’t any memes either, which is always a good sign. The characters all have their own unique personalities and have entertaining dialogue too. They help bring everything together into a solid game, setting aside the mechanics.
In conclusion, the games mechanics are solid but it’s just not what I find fun. The balancing between work, training and other activities was difficult, and much like in my real life, I ended up binging on frozen pizzas and getting my ass kicked by sewer crocodiles.
If you can handle those things, then you’ll probably love this game. The story, graphics and sound however, were all top notch, and definitely make this game worth trying.