Punch Club Review- Prized Fighter
Punch Club is a boxing sim dripping with charm. Developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by Tiny Build, the game focuses on the more mundane aspects of the sweet science: training. You’ll spend the majority of your time building your three stats (stamina, strength, and agility) as well as managing resources like money, health, and the ever-ticking clock to get the most gains before your fight.
The game takes place in a fictional pixelated city, as you live your day to day life working jobs, training, and participating in fights throughout the city. Locations range from trailer parks to back alleys to restaurants and more as you interact with the locals around you. The story is that you’re the survivor of a shooting in an alley one night that took the life of your parents. Your father’s best friend took you in and now you’re a man striving to be the boxing champion. While this narrative never gripped me, I was intrigued about how ridiculous things could become, with side events leading you to do things like become a super-hero and face off against a cartoon villain. Each reference I found made me crack a grin and is where the charm of Punch Club sets in, leading you to spend more time training in hopes to make it to the top.
Your fighter has three main stats: Agility, Stamina, and Strength. At the beginning, you choose your archetype of these three stats, which gives you certain moves. As you train these stats and win fights, you become able to spend skill points that give you new buffs and moves to craft the ultimate fighter. However to do this, you have to manage your resources wisely. You can’t train at the gym (or buy at home equipment) if you don’t have the cash, and you can’t do anything if you’re too tired or hungry. Jobs give you money, but also spend time, so is it better to train at home, even though more could be gained from the gym? Should you buy a speed bag for your garage, or steak so you don’t go hungry? Punch Club asks you to decide these questions in an effort to be the best, and I found the gameplay to be quite addicting. Making sure that I had enough food in the fridge whilst still going to the gym to build strength because I had a prize fight coming up was tense. Sadly, not all of this receives payoff when you face off.
During a match, fighters first assign skills and perks. These are based off of your stats and what your purchased with skills. The AI controlled fighters then square off in RNG gameplay. Each action preformed requires stamina, which is recovered every round and when idle. Your current health characteristics are important, as they will affect your fighter’s performance on that day. If they aren’t in healthy shape, they’re health and stamina will be lower, making it vital that they have rested recently. Once the rounds begin, all control is handed to an AI as you watch the fights play out. You can change skills and such in between rounds but you have no direct control over whether the fighter blocks, waits, dodges, or attacks, outside of the stats and skills up to that point. While this is slightly frustrating during more difficult fights, I felt I had enough control before hand to accurately prepare my character.
Fights are of three varieties: Gym league, underground, and street. Gym league fights are simple orchestrated matches for spots in the ranking to become the champion. Underground fights are similar, but your opponents are more dangerous and you run the risk of grave injury if you lose (hindering your training ability for a period of time). Street fights are outside battles that either take place during story events or random if you walk from place to place. These fights range from trivial to difficult, with some of the later story events requiring intense training.
Punch Club is a 90s inspired boxing blowout. From the scenery packed with references, the ridiculous events, and addicting sim gameplay, I found myself wondering what would happen next. Though the narrative may not be gripping, and the battles taken out of your hands, this fighting sim still has what it take’s to be the champ.