Indie developers Purple Tree have attempted a Punch-Out!!! style boxing game. Johan has investigated whether it is a knockout...
There are game series that have been placed at the bottom of developers' freezers and there they will remain. At Capcom we find the role-playing game Breath of Fire, Sony has the raccoon Sly Cooper, and Nintendo has F-Zero (no, the new battle royale game doesn't count). But Nintendo also has another classic game series that they seem to have forgotten about, namely Punch-Out!!! where the last game was released for the Wii 14 years ago in the form of Doc Louis's Punch-Out!!!. It was also only released as WiiWare in North America. And in all honesty, not many others have dared to pick up the discarded genre gauntlet. Until now.
Indie studio Purple Tree from Argentina, with nine people on the team according to their website, has previously made the Golazo! series, but decided to look at how they could revive this type of boxing game. The result is Thunder Ray, which appropriately enough is also the name of the main character in the game. It's very clear that the inspiration is Punch-Out!!. The setup is exactly the same. We see the fight behind Thunder Ray's back and with various opponents in front of us. It is then a matter of learning the patterns of the different bosses and when they will strike which blow. There's a bit of trial and error on the higher difficulty levels as you can't just mash your way to victory. For example, if one fighter starts charging with his right hand, you have to bend in the opposite direction to avoid the blow. Or another fighter will give sound-based clues to what's coming. Both our own boxer and the opponents have a gauge for remaining health. Empty it by throwing punches and sending the competitor to the floor. Whoever hits the mat three times loses. Most of it is recognisable from the old NES classic. But that's when the game throws some unexpected things into the mix.
After all, who wants to fight human boxers when there are aliens to pummel? Thunder Ray is getting tired of there being no human being anywhere near his level of skill and after another one in the opening fight, which serves as an instructional battle to all the buttons and stuff, he seems to have his prayer answered. A small alien comes and kidnaps Ray into outer space. There's a grotesquely huge monster, a witch, a shadowy figure that looks like something out of a Disney film (but with a knife), and other interesting characters. They also have different powers that we don't usually see in humans. The witch creates a light shield that must be broken before she can be harmed. Another character can poison us and a third can confuse us, causing the joystick and buttons to be reversed. It's things like these that keep the game from becoming repetitive, which is the basic formula of dodging and punching without moving around the ring. Purple Tree has therefore also thrown in extra movements. Right and left on the control stick is obviously the direction we lean to avoid punches, but downward allows some punches to the head to be dodged and upward puts your dukes up to block. All four buttons are also used in different ways. Two are for hitting high, with the left or right hand, against the head while the other two are against the body. By holding down LB or RB on the Xbox controller (and correspondingly on other hand controllers) it is possible to charge up for an extra hard blow. But you have to be tactical, because you also have to keep track of incoming blows. Eventually a special attack meter fills up and when it's full you can press both buttons at the same time for a big combo.
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Something that is particularly striking is the graphics. The colours really stand out and it feels like either reading a boxing manga or watching an anime. The backgrounds and characters really have just... character. Considering the opponents are aliens, it has also managed to create some really memorable fights. The aforementioned shadow character Lord Worw is my favourite. All the attacks and movements flow well. There are also some really bloody images mixed in, especially when certain characters are defeated and explode, sending blood and guts flying.
The game is good for what it is and if you were a fan of Punch-Out!! in the good old days, this might be something to check out. Especially since the game is relatively cheap. What drags down the whole experience, however, is the play time. There is only one game mode and that is to play the story against eight different characters. This takes around 2.5 to 3 hours depending on how fast you can complete the battles. After that, the only option is to do it all over again.
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7 / 10
Beautiful graphics, fun retro boxing, good mix of characters