Players step into the role of Bronx-born Little Mac, ever-aided by his chocolate-bar chomping mentor Doc Louis on his way to claiming the World Circuit belt
- Addictive, classic gameplay; beautiful animations and vibrant visuals
- Lacklustre multiplayer; steep difficulty curve; no online capabilities
There's no denying it: Punch-Out!! is some of the most fun I've had on the Wii in quite some time. A spectacular trip down memory lane, Punch-Out!! manages to capture the old-school essence that made the 1987 original such a success, all the while integrating just enough new material to help it hold its own. While Punch-Out!! is by no means perfect, it's undoubtedly one of the finest arcade-inspired titles to grace store shelves in this "next gen" era, and is without a doubt worth any hardcore fight-fan's hard-earned cash.
After a whopping fifteen year hiatus, it would appear that the fan-favourite Punch-Out!! series had hung up its gloves for good. Nightly bouts with King Hippo were replaced with imitators such as Black & Bruised to Facebreaker, all trying to re-capture the cartoonish appeal and addictive fun of the seemingly forgotten franchise. Two Nintendo consoles later, and Nintendo has finally heard the call of fans everywhere. With the help of developer Next Level — the masterminds behind office darling Super Mario Strikers Charged — underdog favourite Little Mac has stepped out of retirement and is ready to rumble in this fantastic reboot of the beloved boxing series!
Mac is Back!
Players step into the role of Bronx-born Little Mac, ever-aided by his chocolate-bar chomping mentor Doc Louis on his way to claiming the World Circuit belt. Now, as you probably know, Punch-Out!! isn't your traditional boxer. In fact, you might even go as far to say that Punch-Out!! is really more of a puzzle game wearing boxing gloves. While the moves are similar to what you'd find in any other boxing title, the Punch-Out!! games have never been about simply pummeling your rival into submission. With careful precision and timing, players are asked to master the body language that each unique opponent possesses, memorise diverse fighter-specific patterns and learn how to counter and protect against absolutely insane special attacks. Knowing when and where to strike is the name of the game, as each vibrant combatant brings a new set of moves and a fresh challenge to the table
True to Punch-Out!!'s roots, all thirteen over-the-top opponents vary drastically in speed and power. Where mad Irishman Aran Ryan is all about momentum, Turkey-bred Bald Bull is a monster built of raw power. It's definitely worth noting that each classic character from previous instalments, and even Punch-Out!!'s brand new brawler (here's lookin' at you, Disco Kid) are masterfully modelled and animated, each toting a trademark attitude and ringside presence that simply pops off the screen with each taunt, smirk, and victory dance. From the criminally fragile Glass Joe to the unquestionably cocky Don Flamenco, there's no mistaking that these are the cartoony characters Punch-Out!! fans have grown up with - back and better than ever.
True to the franchise's hard-knock roots, Punch-Out!!'s Career mode is the meat of the game. Players are sent on a journey that will inevitably lead Little Mac through all three circuits of the World Video Boxing Association, not to mention a colourful cast of fighters waiting to take him down at every given opportunity. Players can choose from motion-sensitive Nunchuck and Wiimote controls, classic NES controls, or even the option to use Wii Fit's patented Balance Board to really bring you into the game. While I found myself more than content with holding my Wii remote sideways in the vein of an old-school Nintendo controller, it's worth mentioning that the motion-sensitive controls worked very well for themselves - the Nunchuck and Wii remote duo representing the left and right gloves, respectively, with dodge, duck and block controls mapped to the Nunchuck's analog stick. The Balance Board is a neat idea, but for the amount of precise dodging, ducking and countering you'll find yourself doing round after round in Punch-Out!!, the peripheral just felt too slow and poorly integrated to hold its ground.
Players can also choose from an Exhibition mode, where they can go back to battle defeated fighters in hopes of conquering certain challenges (TKO Von Kaiser in five minutes, knock Great Tiger out in only three punches, etc.) Exhibition mode is also extremely helpful for training against newer foes, as Mac is given the option to go up against holographic versions of the opponent you're currently stuck on, giving players the chance to analyze their attacks without receiving any actual damage. Finally, there's the highly anticipated integration of multiplayer in Punch-Out!!'s Head-to-Head mode. Splitting the screen down the middle, each player controls a variant Little Mac. The real charm of Head-to-Head is the ability to collect Giga Juice from pummeling your rival, transforming your Mac into the hulking "Giga Mac". Upon this massive transformation, the screen reverts to classic one-sided Punch-Out!! view, with the second player forced to find a way to take down their behemoth doppelganger. While I enjoyed what Head-to-Head mode had to offer, I couldn't help but find it lacking with its selection of just one arena and one fighter. How cool would it have been to wear the crown of King Hippo, or perhaps tag-team Super Macho Man with a friend?
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