Unlike that other fighting club, we are not breaking any rules by reviewing and discussing Lazy Bear Games’ newest creation, Punch Club. Punch Club is a life management role playing game, where you take control of every aspect of your fighter’s life, from what he eats to how much he trains. The only time you don’t control your fighter’s every action is when he actually has to fight. The fights are completely run by the game’s artificial intelligence, based on the tactics pre-selected by the player and the stats that your fighter possesses. Is Punch Club any good? Let’s take a closer look.
Punch Club’s story line begins as many stories do, with the brutal murder of your father before your eyes. In order to discover your father’s killer, you must rise in the ranks of fighters, choosing different paths that are open to you along the way. Along the way, you will have to juggle all of life’s varied obstacles, including friendships, love life, training, work, and recreation. Finding that fine balance in Punch Club is what the game is all about.
Punch Club is full of 80’s and 90’s nostalgia bits, and the story line fits that feel perfectly. Punch Club feels like a martial arts movie from the late 80’s: murdered father, training montages, working your way up through the ranks of generic bad guys, finding love along the way and finally ending with a boss fight to gain vengeance. Lazy Bear Games went for a nostalgia piece, and it works just fine. While it’s not perfect in any sense of the word, with some of the humor just feeling forced or off a bit, Punch Club’s story line is great and fits the feeling that the developers were aiming for.
I called Punch Club a “life management role playing game” in the intro, and that description fits the game perfectly. In Punch Club, you have to manage your fighter’s daily life and choose what to focus on during the time you have each day. In the beginning, that’s fairly simple. If you hungry, eat. If you don’t have any money, go to work. However, just like life, the game gets more complicated when you have more obligations to manage. Do you spend time with your friends or your love? You need money to go out, but you haven’t eaten in a while. To make these choices even more crucial, your states will deplete if you are not training enough, so you constantly have to maintain what you have worked on.
When you train, you will get to focus on one of three stats: strength, stamina, or agility. Some exercises will increase small amounts of two stats, but it isn’t very efficient when you factor in your time management. You pretty much need to focus on one stat as a primary then one as a secondary, leaving the third stat almost untouched. So you have to decide what type of fighter will you be? Punches rely on strength, defense rely on agility, and stamina keeps you up and moving longer.
You have total control of your fighter, that is until it is fight time. You get to select a few fight tactics that your fighter can use before the match begins, but once those are in place and you start the fight, then the a.i. takes over completely. Whether you win or lose will be dependent on your tactics and your stats that you have trained in. As you fail, and you will, then you have to decide what other stat or tactic would work better in that situation.
For the first few hours, I really enjoyed Punch Club’s game play. I thought the life management game play was fun, and it was satisfying to see my hard work pay off. The problem with Punch Club comes a little later, when you find yourself grinding for hours on end just to win one fight. This makes the game absolutely no fun to play anymore and can lead to feelings of frustration and bitterness as you loose time and time again. The shine and enjoyment that I felt in the beginning of Punch Club did not last throughout my time with the game.
Because the developers were going for a retro style 80’s nostalgia piece, the game looks like it came out of that era as well, though much more defined graphically. Punch Club has pixelated graphics that reinforce the feeling of nostalgia, without actually looking like an 80’s game. I felt that the aesthetics of Punch Club fit the vibe of the game perfectly and did everything right, even down to the small little nods to popular culture you will find throughout the game.
Punch Club is a great game for the first few hours, then it turns into a complete grind fest that will try even the most die hard gamer. In the beginning, your fighter’s life is easy to manage, and the fights are easy to train for. As the game progresses, your life becomes a chaotic mess and the fights are brutal slug-fests that you are not prepared for. My life is complicated as it is, I don’t really need to play a game that replicates that complexity. I would still recommend the game for anyone who is looking for a game like Punch Club, because what is there is really well done. Just be prepared to grind through the middle of the game. Punch Club is available now through Steam for your PC.
[easyreview title=”Punch Club Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″]