Punch Club, all of fighting’s best cliches in one spot

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While I am in no way a fighter, I love fighting action. It started very young as I grew up watching pro wrestling with my dad. With cable in our house, that also led to me seeing every Rocky movie before the age of 10…and it hasn’t gotten any better since then. I just like watching fighting, fake or otherwise.

But when it comes to video games, I’m sort of the opposite, at least when you’re talking about “realistic” fighting games like wrestling or UFC or boxing. I love your traditional fighting games like Tekken and Mortal Kombat, those are just fun, but the simulation games are just too complex for my attention span, thus I never really latched on to any.

Then this past week I read an article at Polygon about some guys that got their game in front of people with little more than just some live streaming. It’s a good story of a little guy making it big(ish).

The game was Punch Club from a TinyBuild Games. The name alone would be enough to get my attention but then I saw the pixel-ish graphics and that it was a fight manager game rather than a “you control the fighter” type of game. Even before I played, it reminded me of The Sims, in that you’d be responsible for micro-managing a character and making sure he doesn’t die. In this case, that character is a wannabe fighter.

So I gave Punch Club a try and I’m happy to report that after a week I’m still playing it…and for a mobile game, that’s saying a lot.

Punch Club

I don’t think I’ve gotten even half way through the game but there’s been enough discovery to keep me going. There’s not a lot of help in the game and no real manual so there’s a lot of trial-and-error and just hoping you’re doing things right. All in all, I guess if you don’t die, you’re doing good…there’s no real “right” or “wrong” way here. I’ll accept failure when I feel like I’ve been doing the same thing over and over with no progress.

Punch Club is a point-and-click game, making your character travel around down to train and gather resources, and then moving around in specific locations to interact with people and items. Pretty straight forward without much question.

Your goal is to be a rich and famous fighter. You start a la Rocky with little more than hopes and dreams. From there you earn experience and train to make yourself stronger while unlocking new skills. Your fighter rank goes up and you get more money and so on…as you might expect. There are a lot of options and paths to take in training your fighter, so even if you get bored or fail your first time around, you can try something different the next.

But perhaps the best part of Punch Club are all the tributes to fighting pop culture throughout the game. You’ll meet characters and see places that reference all the greatest fight movies and games ever made. Rocky is the easy catch but you’ll find nods to Blood Sport, TMNT, Fight ClubKickboxer, Mortal Kombat and others. Half the fun is just uncovering these little things and then laughing at how they’ve been used. It turns what is otherwise a very tedious game into some very entertaining.

Punch Club won’t be for everyone, it’s not a typical touch-n-go game. There’s a lot of micro-managing which can be very tedious and even frustrating. And this is really more of a manager simulator because you don’t even control your character in fights. You train him and give him skills, then just hope for the best when you go into a fight. You just sit back and watch. I really like this because it makes watching the fights a little more fun because you don’t know the outcome. Of course, it’s also very frustrating when you lose and you’re not real sure why.

I’m not sure how much Punch Club will keep my interest. Games of this type have a way of hitting a tipping point with me where I start to feel like I’ve been doing the same thing over and over without much payoff. Once I get there I usually give up and find something new.

I’m playing Punch Club on iOS but it’s also available on Steam if you’re more of the PC player. The Steam version runs you $10 while the mobile version is $5. I don’t see any reason why you’d pay $5 more to play on the PC but whatever.

Punch Club

7.3 My prediction...pain
  • Presentation 8
  • Gameplay 7
  • Challenge 8
  • Longevity 6
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Brian is a staff writer at TMA. He races Hot Wheels at RedlineDerby.com while watching cartoons with his kid. You can follow @morningtoast on Twitter.

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