Punch Club - A good punch of Nostalgia

Punch Club - A good punch of Nostalgia

Genre Simulation

By tiny Build Games

Available on Steam, Android, and iOS [4.99]

Punch Club is a fighting sim/tycoon where you train really hard, unlock new skills, and figure out who killed your father. Developed by Lazy Bear Games in Russia, and published by the Seattle-based indie publisher tinyBuild, Punch Club is set to release in January 2016 on Steam and Mobile.

Punch club has a very modern sim gameplay

Here’s the thing about Punch Club. It’s not just some retro inspired game. It’s not another Mario or Mega Man clone. It has very modern sim gameplay. But the story, and each screen, and most of the characters are just jam packed with references and memorable imagery. This is basically a sim of the 80’s fighter movie, so all the nostalgia is quite warranted. Melding classic fighting movie tropes with an air of mysticism centered around a powerful medallion, you play as a fighter whose father (also a fighter) was killed when he was a child. Soon after your twin brother has disappeared. Now you’re determined to become a great fighter yourself, and hopefully get to the bottom of your father’s murder. The only way this game could be any more 80’s is if the devs shipped you a headband and some legwarmers with every purchase.

Punch club looks and sounds good

This game looks good and sounds good, but how does it play? Sometimes, it’s pretty magical. Other times, you’ll deal with ­MMO level grinds as you try to overcome that next difficulty hump. So like in any sim, you need to keep your fighter fed, well rested, and happy. But you also need to work to earn money. You do earn money from fights, but not much early on. So you’ll have to do a construction or pizza delivery job, which can take up a full third or half of your day and really saps your hunger and energy. But you also have to find time to train your strength, agility, and stamina stats, either at home or on the superior equipment at the gym. You’ll also need skill points to learn new moves and new passive upgrades. You only get skill points from fighting or sparring. Sparring or training at the gym costs money, and it’s a while before free alternatives pop up.

Collect items along the way to improve your skills

There is a daily time cycle which determines when your fight opportunities come up, so you have to try to be fight ready on fight day. This means hopefully being at full health. Every time you take damage in a fight or while sparring, it takes time to heal, and going into a fight with low health will factor into your hit points for the fight. If you don’t want to spend a few of your precious hours each day walking around the city, you’ll have to take the bus, which also costs money. Oh, and walk around with too much money, and you’ll be mugged, and the muggers are very strong early game. But the thing that really makes this game hard? You lose some of your stats every single day. And the higher your stat is, the more you lose, based on multiples of 9. This can be so frustrating, and it really takes some time to figure out a good system for timing your training, work, sparring, etc.

Training hard can strengthen your power

It is absolutely vital that you participate in every fight you can. Stats don’t necessarily win fights. Skills do. Sometimes you’ll have higher stats than your opponent and still lose. There is a factor of random chance at play in the fights. The fights, I should mention, are basically non-interactive. You just watch them happen. You can change which skills your fighter takes into the fight each round, but that’s the extent of it. There definitely seems to be some rock paper scissors going on with the stats. My super high strength fighter dominated everyone unless they had ludicrously high agility. Different skills have various buffs and de-buffs, and take different levels of energy. You have to find a synergistic set of moves.

Even if you lose your fight, you’ll still get a couple skill points. Make sure you spar whenever you can. It takes time to save up points, but it really helps in the long run. Especially because there are skills that keep your stats from lowering below a certain threshold, at level 4, 8, and 13. Basically, you should try to get all your stats to a baseline of 4, and then just train your skills, not worrying about training your stats, because you’ll waste ages of time trying to keep your stats up. Once you reach a certain skill level, you can choose one stat to focus in with a unique corresponding ability tree. Then, when you have enough points to raise your main stat to 8 or 13, go train like crazy for a few days (and maybe buy some “magic potion” at the fitness shop). You can use the temporary stat boosts from the potion to reach that new skill floor.

When you reach a new stage of the story, and the formula is really shaken up, this game becomes really delightful. But the grind is just so brutal at times. Also, you’ll have multiple quest lines, and when you advance the story to a certain stage, those quest lines just disappear uncompleted. I wish the devs would have included that classic *Wink wink nudge nudge everything is about to change* that we so often see in gaming. I also wish the game wasn’t so brutal with sapping your skills at the end of each day. Some kind of system where you need to train every other day, or maybe train on upgraded equipment or something to see progress.

 

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