Games for Lunch: Punch-Out!!
Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: March 18, 2009
ESRB Rating: E10+
Official Web site
0:00 I loved loved LOVED the first two console Punch-Out!! games, but was underwhelmed by my 15-minute demo of this new one at GDC. It felt way too easy, and too much a carbon copy of the original game with updated graphics and bad motion controls.
0:01 I'm digging the looping bit of the remixed original theme that's playing on the preview screen. Dun ... danana... dun ... dananana!
0:02 Little Mac punches the air in a silent room bathed in soft light. The camera zooms in and gets punched to pieces. A wall of light bulbs pops into view in the background as the title appears. The awesome remixed theme has been replaced by some odd horn-filled tune.
0:03 Heh ... the Wii pointer on the menus is a little boxing glove that punches the menu options when I click the A button. Cute.
0:04 At the GDC demo, I found that punching the air with the Nunchuk and Wii Remote was more annoying than engrossing. I'm instead holding the Wii Remote alone like an NES controller. It's just simpler. Also, I'm a lazy weakling. What of it!
0:05 Let's dive into Career mode. Glass Joe is up first ... I TOLD you this was a lot like the original game.
0:06 A short series of still pictures shows Glass Joe in front of the Eiffel Tower, sipping coffee and holding up a long roll of French bread. "Bonjour, bonjour, je suis Glass Joe!" he says as he walks over from his corner. Funny, I don't remember him being this ... French in the original game. No time to ponder that now ... "FIGHT!"
0:08 He's already down. I'm just punching with abandon ... if he blocks high, I go low, and vice versa. He did manage to hit me once when I messed up the timing on my dodge to the side. Hey, who's this referee doing the count? Where's Mario?
0:10 And three knockdowns means Little Mac's first TKO! The camera cuts to a side view as Joe flies through the air in super slow-mo, and croissants fly around him, for some reason. "Ha ha ha ... I sure wouldn't want to get in the ring with you, son. Not after that last fight!" says trainer Doc Louis, patting his red tracksuit in the stomach. Um ... you're my trainer. I wouldn't hit you?
0:11 Von Kaiser's up next, in his full-mustachioed, be-suspendered glory. When I click him, he says "PONCE!" in a big German accent (at least I think it's "PONCE!"). A short vignette shows him training kids in a gym, then getting beat up by those same kids. Children can be so ... so cruel.
0:13 "Achtung!" His first punch hits me. His second punch I throw a counter-jab, which he blocks. His third punch I counter successfully, getting an uppercut star for my trouble. I dodge his fourth punch, then throw the uppercut with a tap of the A button. He's already down. Wow!
0:14 I get too fancy, trying to counter his punches and taking some licks instead. When I do get a counter in, though, it gets me another free knockout with an uppercut. This is waaaay too easy.
0:15 Another uppercut and it's a TKO in under a minute! He goes down, rigor mortis-straight. Kind of amusing. I'm really digging the expressive, vibrant animation and the old-school sound effects. Now if only the game would bring the hard a little bit.
0:17 Disco Kid is next ... Hey, a character that wasn't in the original game! A new character! On the pre-match screen, he bobs his head to some unseen music and flashes a big toothy grin. He has short cropped hair and mesmerizing tan pecs. The character design so far is really top-notch.
0:19 He starts off with a big disco pose, just standing there begging me to hit him in the jaw. Later, he gets a few hits in on me when I mess up my dodge timing, but mostly his punches are incredibly telegraphed. For one of them he even says, "Here it comes," before it, er, comes.
0:20 Ha! I take the Kid out with a big uppercut, sending him pirouette-spinning around the ring, bouncing off the corner posts and lighting them up like pinball bumpers. The visual design is outstanding. "You fight like a lion! A LION!" says Doc, a bit creepily.
0:21 It's Minor Circuit Title Bout time with the rotund King Hippo. He's from Hippo Island, you know. His intro video shows him eating a lot of food, then sleeping contentedly on a tiny hammock. Wow ... that's some deep characterization there. I love the bemused look he shoots at Little Mac as he lumbers over to the fight.
0:24 This plays out a lot like the King Hippo bout from the NES ... just wait for him to open up his defense, hit him in the face, then aim for the big X on his chest. Sure, he has a new double-fisted cheek-smack attack, but it's easily ducked. By the end of first round, I've got him down to about one-quarter health. "Serve this sucker a platter of Star Punches! He'll never want to eat again!" Thanks, bad voice actor, er, I mean Doc.
0:25 Early in Round 2, a flurry of punches sends the King stumbling over, amidst pineapples and bananas floating above his head. I hold up the belt while Doc gives me a bear hug from behind and lifts me onto his shoulders. "You're off to a good start, son! The belt's all yours! You're a Minor Circuit champion now!"
0:26 Back on the selection screen, the formerly cocky King Hippo now sits on the floor, holding his head in his hands and looking forlorn. A nice touch, that.
0:27 Wow, an animated training montage! "Hey, great work Mac. Now let's take on the next circuit!" Mac works the jump rope, the one-handed push-ups and the heavy bag as Doc cheers him on. Then ... YES! ... we get the classic shot of Mac running in a pink jogging suit behind Doc on a bike. Then it's over before I know it. Aww... Oh well, moving on.
0:28 Here's where the real game starts, I hope. First up in the Major Circuit is ... Piston Hondo? HondO? Oh come ON! Everyone knows he's actually Piston HondA. Is Nintendo afraid of a lawsuit or something?
0:29 In the pastoral Japanese countryside, Hondo meditates, puts on a headband, and is ready to fight. In the ring, he bows and says something in Japanese. My gloves are light blue now and the arena is much nicer in the Major Circuit. Moving on up!
0:30 Daaaaaamn. So I'm able to dodge his straight punches (preceded by a brief eyebrow flick) easily enough, but his big hooks somehow hit me even when I dodge right. I guess I'm supposed to duck instead, but I keep forgetting. Soon he backs up and prepares a flurry of punches that I can't dodge fast enough. I'm knocked to the mat for the first time, after a dramatic second hovering in the air. OK ... no more Mister Nice Guy.
0:32 Ah, it seems I can dodge the hooks to the left, but not to the right. Also, I can stop his flurry of punches with alternating high blocks and ducking. I get in a quick knockdown without even getting touched this time.
0:36 I don't think Hondo touched me the entire second round. I just keep sticking and moving and it's over before I know it."Great fighting, Mac. Scratch that. SUPER fighting, Mac. You ready for the next challenge?" Sure, why not.
0:37 Oooh, it's Bear Hugger. We're moving on to Super Punch-Out!! now, I guess. He's still pleasantly rotund, still in suspenders, still hasn't shaved. He gives a big bear laugh. His opening vignette shows him drinking maple syrup straight from the bottle, chopping down trees, running away from a bear, and then ... using the bear as a sparring partner?
0:39 What? I can punch him in the belly successfully? In Super Punch-Out!!, Bear Hugger's belly was like impervious Jell-O. This is UNACCEPTABLE! That said, I do like the way he cries "TIMBEEEER!" as he goes down.
0:40 Oooh ... he got me good with a nasty bear-hug attack. It has a little stutter step that throw off the timing on my ducking, and takes away a good half of my energy! I go down, and he gives a hearty laugh as I get up, pulling at the ropes.
0:41 Wow, he knocks me down AGAIN just before the end of the first round. I can't figure out how to avoid his bear hug. In-between rounds, Mr. Hugger says "I like raw fish" before falling away to sleep in his corner. "Check it out, son! This sucka's got a tricky hook!! If you dodge the wrong way, you're gonna get hit!" says stereotypical black man ... I mean Doc.
0:42 Two more bear hugs in rapid succession bring me down once more in the second round. Man, I am in deep trouble here. I just CANNOT figure out this timing, it seems.
0:43 Another bear hug does me in for the second time in the round. Instead of letting me get up, the camera cuts to show my battered face as I fall to my knees. It's a "KO." They don't even let me try to get up? Man, that's just not right... "Son, looks like this guy is giving you trouble. Come to Exhibition and I'll train you for a rematch," says Doc. Screw that. I'll figure it out on my own. REMATCH!
0:46 I finally figured out the timing for the bear-hug duck ... I don't know why it took me so long. I just had to be patient when he does his stutter step, and calm my ducking reflex.
0:49 Whew. So even though I know how to dodge the bear hug now, I still mess it up half the time. I'm down to barely a sliver of health, after getting knocked down twice in Round 2. I dig deep and focus, dodging every attack perfectly and countering to knock him down two more times for a TKO. I'm bruised and battered when the camera pans around to show my triumph. Doc runs in and grabs my outstretched arm. "He can always take a whuppin'. Hahahaha! You got heart, kid. That's what it takes to be a champ!"
0:50 Next up, Great Tiger, who hovers in the lotus pose in his corner of the ring. He has a mustache too. What is it with these boxers and facial hair?
0:51 Hoo. So his straight punch has a HUGE telegraph when the jewel on his turban lights up, but then he has this big hook that I can't seem to dodge effectively. He also has a special attack where he jumps to the back of the ring and creates a faded copy of himself. When both of them dash forward and attack in quick succession, I have trouble dodging in time. When he knocks me down, two clones stand near him and laugh at my downfall as he stands proudly with arms crossed.
0:54 Still can't find any answers to his hooks or his clone attack, leading to a quick TKO for Mr. Tiger. I've just got to learn the timing, I'm convinced. "Come on Mac, one more. I know you got what it takes!" You know it, Doc!
0:56 Oy ... three more quick knockdowns for another TKO. I barely touched him. I'm even missing the straight punches that I was having such an easy time with before. It's all about the timing... "Win one for Doc," Doc implores me. I'm trying, man!
0:59 So I finally figured out my problem. It seems my reflex is to dodge to the opposite side of where the opponent is winding up ... so if they charge a punch up to my right, I dodge to my left, away from them. This is the opposite of what I'm supposed to do against Great Tiger, as his big hooks and lunging dual punch both hit on the opposite side of the wind-up. The timing is still rough, but I make it to the end of Round 1 with my new knowledge of how to avoid him.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? It probably won't have much replay value, but playing through once to figure out the patterns, see the character designs, and watch the zany animations should be worthwhile.
Don't miss Scott Jones' review of Punch-Out!!.