Developer: Next Level Games
Release Date: 05/18/2009
Available Exclusively On
Punch-Out!! is a Nintendo staple as it was one of the first established exclusives of the NES. Playing as Little Mac, you run through a gauntlet of characatures with varying difficulty to put your reflexes to the test. Punch-Out!! is a remake of that game and utilizes the Wii motion controls.
Let’s get down to the dirty business of this game. In essence, this is an arcade game you must perfect to the T without missing a beat. Your reflexes are required to be lightning-fast to get very far in this game. Each character has a unique set of 5 moves that require memorization and pattern recognition or you will simply never get past the Title Bout of the Minor Circuit which is when the game gets really hard. The first three characters aren’t very difficult and are just warm-ups for what’s to come. You can duck, dodge left or right, and block, but blocking is rarely used as most attacks can’t be blocked. You can then jab and hook left or right. The controls are the same as the NES version, and this makes the game overly simple for some or just enough for others. Newcomers may find this game too shallow while veterans will feel right at home.
That’s where the motion controls come in. For a game that requires response time in the milliseconds’ motion controls just don’t cut it. I got through the first two circuits with them, but after so long I had to switch to the buttons on the Wii remote as I need to be that much quicker. Using the nunchuck and remote you can jab left or right and then dodge with the C-stick. I found this to be more complicated than it needed to me and punching with the motion controls just doesn’t feel like punching but more mindless shaking. The Wii remote on its side is the best way to go here or even the classic controller.
That’s the essence of Punch-Out!!. Soda Popinski took me 90 minutes to beat and maybe two dozen restarts as you have to learn his patterns and when to dodge his moves. He also drinks soda to refill his health and you only get a split second to knock it out of his hand. There are also taunts that some characters do that can earn you stars for Star punches that do extra damage, but these are rare and hard to get. Outside of the main career mode, there is Exhibition and a two-player mode so it’s definitely light on modes and things to do. This game is not for casual players despite seeming like it is. This is for hardcore arcade goers or veterans of the original. I thought I was going to blow through this game in a couple of hours, but I spent that one a few characters alone.
It does get incredibly frustrating needing to have such perfect timing and reflexes and almost seems unnecessary. Sadly, there are no difficult changes, but there are a few hidden secrets that can give you an edge. When the ref is counting down you can rapidly tap 1 and 2 to regain health. At the end of each round, you can press – and hear a chime and you will refill your health. This only works twice though. This leads to my biggest complaint of the game: You never do more than a smidge of damage to each character and there’s no way to level up and get more powerful. I had to widdle away at the health when a character could knock me out in two hits. I found this heavily unbalanced and unfair. Shouldn’t Little Mac get stronger as he fights and shouldn’t there be a training mode with mini-games to level up? It just makes sense. This game is too similar to the NES version and carries over all of its flaws.
As it stands, Punch-Out!! is a really fun game of reflexes and timing with interesting and funny characters, but it lacks modes, a way to get stronger, and restarting matches two to three dozen times just isn’t fun after a while. The motion controls also just don’t work for this kind of game that requires precise movements and response times. I also wish there were some original characters and maybe not rely on this being a remake of a 25-year-old game. At the end of the day, this would have been a good rental, but for $50 there’s just not enough meat here to justify that cost.