Games for Lunch: Wade Hixton's Counter Punch
0:00 Like most of you readers, I had never heard of this oddly named game, but I decided to rent this game after a guy I interviewed for a totally unrelated story mentioned he had worked on it.
0:01 Weird, synth-y techno plays over a cartoony title screen. The art style reminds me a bit of Dragon's Lair.
0:02 "Meet Wade Hixton ... just an average guy with no particular hopes and dreams..." He has the ability to fix anything with duct tape, though. O...K. He's wearing boxing gloves AS HE DRIVES. Anyway, his car breaks down. A tow-truck driver luckily comes by. It'll take a while to fix. The tow truck takes him to a pub. NO. Don't take rides from strangers, Wade!
0:03 The pub is "where folks come for the drinks and stay until someone gets their face bashed in." Wade orders a grape soda -- but he sat in Rocco McScrub's seat. Rocco calls him "fizz-guzzlin' trash." BURN! "Put on your gloves and protective mouthpiece," Rocco suggests, in an uncharacteristic display of kindness.
0:04 Into the game. It has a very Super Punch-Out feel -- Wade is seen semi-transparently from behind. Stick and move, dodge and punch is the name of the game. The animation is excellent... lots of frames and good, large, expressive 2-D characters. Nice character design, too. I can feel it when Wade gets hit.
0:05 Rocco just threw a raccoon at me! More as it develops.
0:06 I knock Rocco down, though I'm almost done for, myself. A weird-looking ref comes out and gives a ridiculously slow nine-count before Rocco gets up. So far, it's kind of hard to judge when to dodge.
0:07 Rocco's up and back at full health. Lame. I get knocked down quickly, but I get up and dodge a second raccoon. Round one ends. "Has anyone seen my left kidney?" asks Wade. "I'm gonna recycle you, punk." Is Rocco a planeteer?
0:08 I could do without the trailer-trash ring babe announcing round two. The wolf whistle in the background also seems gratuitous.
0:09 Only an eight-count this time. I'm filling up a green bar with each connecting punch, but I don't know how to activate whatever power it represents.
0:11 I lose my focus and my third trip to the canvas is my last. Rocco has only three or so moves, and the timing is a bit tricky on dodging all of them. I get booted out to the bar.
0:12 Seems the ref is also the bartender. He laughs at me in my defeat. The trailer-trash ring girl tries to encourage me to try again. They won't serve me drinks until I win a few bouts.
0:13 Line of the moment. Bartender: "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to find my pants." Wha? Never mind, back to fighting.
0:15 A discovery! The R button uppercuts. More as it develops.
0:17 I just noticed you have to dodge each punch in the correct direction, or it'll still hit. No wonder I thought the timing was weird.
0:19 Knockout! Took long enough. The uppercuts helped get in more damage with each set, but I still don't know what that green bar does. Rocco uses a similar bar to throw a raccoon... I want to throw a raccoon too! But how?!
0:21 This game has gone from weird to freaky. Don, a boxing manager, tells me to take a beeper so I can find out about fights, even though I seem reluctant to want to fight anymore, at all. A map screen opens up with a bunch of locales, and I pick one. Suddenly I'm fighting a guy named Sweetness who talks like Snoop Dogg and dresses like a pimp.
0:25 Sweetness' fight goes a lot like Rocco's, except he's faster, and no raccoons. "My bruises complement my shoes," he says. Um...
0:28 "Izzle fizzle wizzle," Sweetness mumbles after I defeat him. One thing I like: mashing buttons to gain energy when you knock down the opponent. One thing I don't like: You can't uppercut when holding "up" on the d-pad.
0:30 The bartender still won't give me a drink, even though I have two wins! Lame.
0:31 Mac's still working on my car. Or, rather, his "best guy" is. He's working "twenty-five/seven." Heh.
0:32 At the gardens, I accidentally trample some pansies and anger the gardener, Jobu, who looks like a stereotypical tribal African if ever I saw one.
0:34 Blocking up or down works just as well as dodging. Good to know. You know what else would be good to know? HOW TO DO MY GREEN METER SPECIAL MOVE!
0:35 Jobu's knocked out after hitting the mat twice. Those wacky tribesmen...
0:36 Guess I'll check my pager messages. Jobu challenges me to a match where I can win $5 if I win without blocking. Doesn't sound too hard, especially since I hadn't been blocking at all till about five seconds ago.
0:37 And... it wasn't that hard. Go fig. I have no idea what that $5 gets me. I don't even see it represented on-screen.
0:38 A-ha... Hitting the R button on the map screen gets a status menu. I have $95. Intriguingly, it says "Hired: Nobody." Do I get to become a manager later?
0:39 Gus Incubus in my next match. "Only the finest all-beef franks, charbroiled on the fire of hell." Heh. The writing is cute.
0:41 Damn, Gus is fast, and hard to read. Four quick knockdowns and I'm done for.
0:42 I give in and decide to look up how to use the green bar power on GameFAQs. There's only one FAQ for the game. Better than zero, I guess.
0:45 I'm already learning. Hitting "select" lets you buy funny hats for the ref. Finally, something to do with my hard-earned cash.
0:46 This FAQ reads like a doctoral thesis! Apparently, I can buy special green bar moves later. For now, it's superfluous. Sigh.
0:49 The ref looks funny in his funny hat. Tee-hee.
0:52 Gus Incubus goes down in the rematch, though I got knocked down three times in the process. Characters all seem pretty similar, with four different punches and a special move. There's lots of animation, but not much "character" to the characters, especially compared to Super Punch-Out.
0:53 Wade calls a rave girl a "clown," and she's so insulted that they box. You can't make this stuff up.
0:54 Rave girl's special move turns the lights go out and makes me dodge her glow-sticks. That was kind of cool...
0:56 I'm down for the count. She's difficult, mainly because I can't see thin frame her behind my transparent form.
0:59 And I lose the rematch. She's just too quick, and hard to see. Have I already hit the wall?
Would I play this game for more than an hour?: No.
Why? Excellent animation and some witty writing aren't enough to save painfully simple, repetitive and uninteresting game play.
This column based on a retail copy of the game rented from GameFly.
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