If the first rule of Fight Club is to not talk about Fight Club, then the first rule for the recently released Punch Club for PC and iOS is to manage your time. It is not an action game, but rather a time management, role-playing strategy game. It’s an interesting take on a game title meant to be a little bit more active rather than passive. It’s almost like Cake Dash (or pretty much any time-management game) mixed with an idle game (where a game pretty much plays with little to no effort) and a little sprinkle of Tyler Durden.
In the opening scene, we find out that the protagonist’s father was murdered when he was young. Fast forward to the present, our grown-up protagonist is trying to follow his father’s footsteps as a legendary pugilist. He is also trying to find out who killed his father and take revenge. Oh, and he’s also trying his best to get through the reality of life as he is living off a friend’s couch and is trying to find a job to support his training.
One great aspect about Punch Club is that there is a plot and branching storylines based on which quests are completed. There’s an option to see the progress of the storyline branches and figure out which quests need to be completed to complete that branch. If the right choices and quests are completed, the protagonist will be able to join an underground fighting ring, find a girlfriend, and ultimately find his father’s killer.
As I mentioned earlier, Punch Club is not in the action or the fighting genre. The game is action packed, but it is not what you would think it would be. Let me explain. To train the protagonist to be the very best boxer he could be, you have to hit the gym with him. There are three statistics that he can build up: strength, agility, and stamina. Depending on which activities he does at the gym, certain statistics earn experience and, essentially, level up.
Ultimately, higher statistics mean an easier time fighting, since you really do not actively participate in battles. What I mean is that, when the protagonist is on a battle screen with a brute or a fellow competitor, you only get to pick which skills he will randomly use in the fight. Battles are pretty much an idle game of you hoping that the protagonist uses the right skills at the right time against the enemy. This is where higher statistics, like a high strength mean more damage, help out.
What is very frustrating, however, is that statistics can go down. Oh yes, statistic improvements are not permanent. The time management aspect of the game sets a number of hours in a day the protagonist can do certain activities. At the end of each day, a certain amount of experience from each of the statistics decreases. And yes, it can be punishing…
The protagonist also have another set of statics: health, hunger, happiness, and energy. When one of them is depleted, you can pretty much bet the protagonist will not be willing to train or do certain kinds of activities. To maintain these statistics are pretty self-explanatory: eat food for health, hunger, (and sometimes happiness), relax for happiness, and sleep for energy. But to do those certain activities takes away the precious hours the protagonist can use to train.
By the way, food, of course, has to be bought; so is a gym membership. So there’s another set of statistics: money. To earn money, the protagonist must do jobs, which also takes away time and energy. Also include the time the protagonist has used to travel to different locations. Are you getting the gist of how time is the most precious element of Punch Club?
So what happens is for the first couple or so hours of gameplay, you are trying to figure out a good routine to balance all the statistics the protagonist has: making sure health, hunger, happiness, and energy are maintained, training the strength, agility, stamina to good levels (keeping in mind these decrease as days end), and earning enough money for food and to go to the gym. Well, add the storyline plots and quests, and your routine is pretty much shot. That’s where it gets frustrating.
The design of Punch Club has some qualities that are neat. First, not only is the game utilizing the pixelated, retro-style design, but it is also utilizing a very upbeat retro-style music. There are also a ton of references in the game. I found some cool and funny homage to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to that Microsoft Office clip (you know, the one that used to pop up when you asked for help).
To Buy or Not to Buy?
If you love time-management games and love boxing, Punch Club is a sure winner. For most other people, I am not quite sure. It is an interesting concept for a boxing game, but I find it highly ironic that, for a game time begging to be action-packed, most of your involvement will be in the sidelines and time and statistics management rather than the actual fighting itself.
Train, Punch, and Find Your Father's Killer
Plot - 9/10
Gameplay - 5/10
Design - 7/10
+Storyline progress is depicted to find out what to do next
+Retro-style art and retro-style music designs
+Cool and funny homages
-Gameplay designed to manage statistics not battles
-Statistics are not permanent and decreases over time
-Battles are idle games