I wasn’t sure what to expect when starting Punch Club as I’m not normally a fan of sports games. I was pleasantly surprised by this game, which focuses more on management and progression. Punch Club starts with an opening cut scene that is a story we have seen many times before.
Things are tough from the get go, as your father is murdered at the start of the story, and with his last dying breath he tells you to train hard, be strong and avenge his death. The premise of the game is about building up your character and his abilities. This basically felt like Batman’s origin story, but I think that it worked well anyway. The story in general is simple, but they are some interesting choices and dialogue options to be made.
I will start by saying that Punch Club has a real retro charm bout it, and I absolutely loved the tone and setting. The game cleverly uses references to popular iconic things, like Rocky Balboa, Fight Club and Jay and Silent Bob. The game may not appeal to everybody, as a lot of time is spent grinding and taking time to earn money. The game is basically a life simulator, seeing you working, going to the gym and talking to people. The game may have a quirky, lighthearted look, but it does have some serious undertones and narrative. You are basically having to work your way up from nothing, whilst dealing with the loss of your father.
During the game you will meet a range of characters that help push the narrative forward. You can earn cash from your job at the construction site, and then have to manage your money. You have to take into consideration that you need to travel, go to the gym and eat. It’s important to keep a good balance to stay fit. The game a skill system, which I thought worked well. As you progress you gain points to upgrade your character, and as you get further you can start to really customize how you want your player to be.
The gym is an essential and core part of Punch Club. Firstly, it costs you money to get in, and once you do so there are various machines and exercises to choose from. It’s also important to note that hunger and fatigue will impact your workout. This is where you need to consider what workout is best for you, whilst maintaining food supplies from the vending machine. If you manage to figure out a well-balanced workout, then your stats will increase, making you faster and stronger. It took me a while to really get to grips with this, but once I did it was very addictive and satisfying.
The training is all preparation for the scheduled fights that take place. These tend to take place every few days, within the game. This is where it becomes clear that you need a good balance of stats. The fights are not played out in real-time, and actually happen through a turn based system. You select a sequence from your moves available, and then take on your opponent. The game does a good job of slowly seeing you progress, and earn the wins that start to come your way. Each fight gains you points, that you can then use to unlock abilities, moves and attacks. This is where you can really start to customize your character and craft the style of fighter the you want.
The presentation of Punch Club is great, with 16-bit like graphics, nostalgic references and chip-tune soundtrack. The colour palette used is vibrant and suits the game perfectly. The story is a bit empty, but I really enjoyed the satisfying progression and management aspects. I would recommend this game, but don’t expect a fighting game. Its more a life simulator, with turn based fights. Punch Club may not hit you at first, but with some time you will start to see that it has some interesting and addictive gameplay.
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