App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
Graphics / Sound Rating:
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It’s weird, I’m not a fan of sports games in general but I tend to find myself drawn to the occasional interactive boxing match quite often. I think it has something to do with the fact that it’s direct combat of a sort and not moving a ball around. I certainly wouldn’t call myself a boxing aficionado, but I know what I like. And I really like Punch Hero.
Punch Hero puts players in charge of a fledgling boxer’s career and tasks them with making him awesome. Naturally he doesn’t start off that way; he'll have to fight his way through the ranks and train constantly in order to pull it off. The controls are almost entirely gesture-based, with only two buttons in flanking lower corners of the screen to dodge. Swiping in a given direction (left, up, up-left, etc) will throw a hook or uppercut, depending, and simple taps will jab. It’s a basic but very effective system. A reasonable amount of progress can even be made without spending any coins on raising stats, but eventually even the most skilled players will most likely have to do a little buffing. Faster jabs and such can make a huge difference in tough matches.
Punch Hero’s controls are well-tuned, which means very little frustration punctuated by outbursts of “I HIT THE STUPID BUTTON!!!” Likewise the difficulty ramps up nicely in the Arcade Mode giving players a chance to really learn the mechanics while simultaneously getting just enough cash to train what they need to. Of course there’s always the option to fight beaten opponents over and over for more coins. The presentation goes a long way to making fights not only fun, but satisfying. Dodging a hook correctly will slow down the action and leave an opening for a counter-attack, and critical hits fill the screen with massive comic book style “punch explosions.” Think the Adam West Batman Pows! and Biffs!.
I do think the lack of accessible customization options is disappointing, though. I mean nothing can be adjusted on this boxer unless money is spent, be it special in-app-purchase money or coins earned from fighting. Similarly the special money is incredibly tough to earn, making the many items in the shop that require it totally inaccessible unless players are willing to spend ridiculous amounts of time earning it or shelling out real money. It’s also kind of a bummer that I can unlock special abilities fairly early, but they cost insane amounts of coins. 20K+ when I earn a couple hundred per fight at most, actually.
In the end, most of the hard-to-get stuff is really just fluff. What really matters is the core gameplay, which is something that Punch Hero has nailed. I may never be able to dress my boxer in a robot costume, but I can still have plenty of fun without it.