When you look at a game called Punch Club, it's easy to assume that it's going to be some sort of fighter. However, it's actually a training simulator and an addictive one at that so drink a raw egg and get ready to enter the ring.
Punch Club stars a young shirtless man who trains hard to be the best fighter around. The story starts with a tragic scene that explains why our hero wants to be the toughest dude on the block and everything that happens after that is mostly just him training. You play by simply selecting different menu items and actions for your character to perform. From the map, you can go to places such as your construction job to earn money, the gym to increase your fighting stats, the grocery store to buy food, and your home where you can sleep, eat, and watch TV. The reason to do these activities is to maximize your parameters that include aspects such as life, hunger, happiness, tiredness, and money. The constant juggling between these locations and activities is a bit odd at first but once you get into the swing of things, it'll sink its hooks into you and you'll find it hard to put down.
The retro visuals of Punch Club are done quite well with pixel-perfect characters and environments that are reminiscent of the 16-bit era. It may look old-school but everything is impressively lively with smooth animation, detailed sprites and backgrounds, and appealing colour schemes. However, one thing I found to be rather strange is the fact that Punch Club seems to have 3D support yet I couldn't see any scenarios that were actually in 3D. Anyway, to complement the graphical style, retro chiptunes and sound effects form an undeniably authentic early-'90s feel. Overall, Punch Club is full of enjoyable sights and sounds that'll make you smile as you train.
Speaking of smiling, Punch Club has a very dry sense of humour that'll appeal to those who enjoy that sort of thing. For example, a character named Apu runs the convenience store and there's a movie poster for "Stoney" in our hero's garage. Some of the funniest moments arise when your character awkwardly interacts with his friend Roy's sister. It can get embarrassingly goofy.
On the downside, Punch Club's biggest problem is that the gameplay is so minimal. Sure, you can earn extra moves by purchasing them with earned coins but everything still devolves into just selecting menu items. Basically, your enthusiasm will go from "What's this game all about?" to "Hey, this is pretty addictive" to "Is that all there is to it?" within a couple of hours. In the end, I wish there was more variety to keep you immersed in the gameplay such as mini-games that you have to complete in order to accomplish the activities.
Punch Club's difficulty can be a pain, too. Sometimes, you'll face an opponent who's way too powerful to overcome and keep in mind; you never know what's coming once you enter the ring. After battling an overpowered fighter, the next one might be a weakling who falls almost immediately. Also, sometimes you're obviously stronger than your opponent yet they end up winning. This sporadic difficulty is incredibly unpredictable. On top of that, your fighting stats decrease every single day. This ensures that you keep your training regimen up but it can also be disheartening having to work all day so you can eat then having your levels decrease as a result.
Punch Club is the kind of game that's addictive in short bursts. Therefore, if the idea of a training simulator appeals to you then it may be worth picking up but keep in mind that it likely won't inspire you to train every day.
- + Simulation gameplay with constant juggling is surprisingly addictive
- + Great retro graphics and sound
- + Plenty of dry humorous moments
- - Minimal gameplay starts to overstay its welcome after playing for a while
- - Difficulty is far too random
- - Frequent level-downs are annoying