Review by Rocco Pepe
One of my favorite games to revisit every now and then is Nintendo’s classic Punch-Out!! as well as it’s 2009 remake.
It’s not only a thrilling, arcade style romp, but it also demonstrates a lot of fundamentals when it comes to designing a great, fair one-on-one style boss fight. I’ve always been surprised that more people haven’t tried imitating it. Instead, most boxing-themed games prefer to look as realistic as possible, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the simulation-style approach isn’t always more entertaining.
So, it’s somewhat exciting to see developers return to that simplistic, arcade-like feel with Boxing Champs. Outside of Nintendo’s Arms, there haven’t really been any attempts to do so. Unlike that game, Champs is much more traditional, giving you the option to customize your own boxer with a solid amount of options, ranging from one’s appearance to their individual stats.
The look is always cartoonish either way, which I chalk up as a good thing because I don’t really want to be reminded of how brutal prize fighting can be while I’m playing my video games.
Probably the game’s strongest aspect is its control scheme. I was initially hesitant about the top-down perspective, but it’s not much of a problem when you’re in the thick of the fight. What really works are the controls for attacking.
Just flicking the stick in certain directions to punch has a wonderfully simple and frenetic feel to it. The downside is that sometimes matches can just degenerate into just mashing the stick around to keep offense up, as there isn’t a whole lot of difference between jabs, hooks and uppercuts. I think that combat could have benefitted from having something like Punch-Out’sI classic Star Punch or at least some sort of super meter. But as it stands, it’s fun enough for a few quick matches at a time.
That’s not to say there aren’t bigger issues with the matches. Rounds are handled in an almost half-baked manner, as if the game was originally built around the fights not being able to go on for that long. Fighters with low stats will have basically no way to recover from getting knocked down, but if they do, they’re suddenly at a huge advantage, as they recover all of their health. This could have been mitigated by rewarding the opponent with some health recovery, but that’s not the case here.
The shortcomings found in each bout are only magnified by the game’s career mode, which is extremely repetitive to go through, even though it might only take you an hour and a half. I hate to keep referencing back to Punch-Out, but since the fighters appear to be pre-generated, they could have definitely been given some bits of lore and dialogue to make them stand out. But as it stands, it kind of just feels like you’re fighting against clones of yourself over and over again.
Boxing Champs will set you back about $15 right now, which I feel is just too much for the amount of gameplay that it offers. The developers have announced plans for things like online multiplayer to come to the game in the near future at no additional cost. But I feel that unless the core mechanics are made a bit deeper, there’s not much to keep you coming back for rematches.
Final Verdict: 👎