If there’s one thing that scares me in the App Store, it’s games that are “Free” from day one. For every game like Tiny Towers that seemingly use in-app purchases merely as a tip jar, there are another twenty games like Tap Zoo that prey upon a player’s impulsive nature.
Punch Hero, Gamevil’s latest game which bears a striking resemblance to Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out in stills, was released for free in the App Store. It, like many other free-to-play games, features a secondary currency and items that can only be purchased with that currency. Is this a harbinger of things to come?
Yes, there are a lot of things you can do to get ahead by purchasing Gold or Stars, but nothing is integral to the experience if you’re willing to play to level up your character. It’s a grind, mind you, and there are definitely times where you’re going to feel frustrated by how weak you are compared to your opponents. Diligence is a virtue, and you’re going to need it if you are to persevere in Punch Hero.Punch Hero plays like a mixture of Nintendo’s Punch-Out and Chair’s Infinite Blade. Controls are simple and responsive, with taps to throw jabs and directional swipes to throw hooks or uppercuts. There are dodge buttons on the bottom left and right of the screen that you tap to move. My only qualm is that blocking, which requires two fingers to activate, feels cumbersome. I’d like to see an option to add a block button similar to the one in Infinite Blade in a future update.
If you’re able to bob and weave, you get openings to counter punch. A successful counter punch deals critical damage and is the key to your success as you whittle away your opponent’s life bar. The game slows down when you evade, much like the “Dodge Break” openings in Infinity Blade, letting you know you have a window to attack. It’s a pretty simple formula early on, as you’ll throw the same kind of punch as your opponent used. Later, however, your opponent’s fight patterns change, as does their timing. You’ll have to change the formula or increase your punching speed if you want to keep using the same tactics.
When you start, there’s only an “Arcade Mode” to choose. This is the series of increasingly difficult opponents. Beating one unlocks the next. After getting through the first half of Arcade mode, where you question how you’ll ever get ahead with such limited resources, the game opens up “Amateur League” tournaments. Sometimes you’ll receive a side mission when fighting in a League mode. Successfully completing these missions, such as knocking out an opponent using a Critical Uppercut, rewards extra gold. Otherwise, it’s an endurance run, as you go through 14 continuous fights where damage carries over to your next fight unless you pay to heal it. However, the rewards m0re than make up for it, as they far surpass anything you’ve gotten to this point.
Even after you’ve unlocked Amateur League (and later, “Pro League”), you’ve a long hill ahead. Punch Hero spikes in difficulty; you’re constantly outclassed. From the tenth fight on, you’ll find that your opponents aren’t just stronger than you, but they’re faster as well. Unlike Punch-Out and Infinity Blade, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it aside from grinding for gold and experience as you raise your stats and purchase abilities.
Like HOMERUN BATTLE 2 before it, there are items to customize your avatar in the shop. Some items add to your stats, such as a new pair of gloves, and many have the same stats meaning the differences may be merely cosmetic. Moreover, if there are stat bonuses found on an item, then it can only be purchased via gold. Star purchases are mainly used to buy stat points, abilities, and cooler customizables, such as Sagat’s eye patch to complete the “Muay Thai” costume.
The game does have its fair share of problems, though. The graphics are surprisingly poor with a noticeable seam between your fighter’s torso and arms. The sound isn’t much better with few effects or tracks to be found. I find it odd that something as simple as a ten-count couldn’t get some voice work. Odder still is the lack of TKOs. While I’ve yet to have to knock down an opponent five times in a round, it’s not that uncommon to have to knock an opponent down four times in the same round before they stay down. It’s annoying and unnecessary.
Frankly, Punch Hero’s biggest problem is that your opponents don’t really differentiate themselves that much. The characters are all, basically, the same. If they’re all so much stronger and faster than me, why do they all have the same body shape? It couldn’t be that difficult to build a second 3D model for larger body types, could it?
There’s no personalities, either. Sure, they have costumes, and some are programmed to evade and counter while others are just aggressive, but there’s nothing truly unique about them. There’s nothing particularly memorable in Punch Hero. There’s no King Hippo or Don Flamenco quirky secrets to be had. There’s just a bunch of generic fighters doing the same exact moves.
It’s strange and unfortunate that Punch Hero will get Punch-Out comparisons, but Gamevil brought it upon themselves when they designed that logo. While it’s certainly an updated take on arcade-style boxing with well-done iOS controls, it’s also lacking in presentation and personality compared to a twenty-five year old, 8-bit game.
In the end, Punch Hero comes out a mixed bag. Yes, it’s fun and people who enjoyed Infinite Blade or Punch-Out may well enjoy Punch Hero. There’s a lot of game to be had here for free, but the sharp difficulty spike makes the first nine fights feel more like a really solid demo. From that point forward, it feels like there’s an awful pay wall standing in your way unless you don’t mind grinding out in the League modes for hours on end.
Despite all its shortcomings, Punch Hero is a solid game. If you have the time and the patience, or if you don’t mind paying a little bit of cash to save some time, then you may as well give it a try if you’ve already played the alternatives in Infinity Blade and Batman Arkham City Lockdown.(Punch Hero is a universal app. It does not support retina display graphics, but it does feature 71 GameCenter achievements that award gold or stars to help you on your way.)Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 308 posts on Delta Attack.