A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Punch Club is a downloadable retro-style fighting game that focuses on fighting, both in the ring and on the street, against a wide variety of characters. When not fighting, the created character is training to fight, hoping to move up the ranks to find out why his father was murdered and who did it. There are some scenes that take place outside a bar, and though it's not shown, it's mentioned that your character has gone out drinking with friends. The main character can also be mugged if carrying too much money while walking the streets. Finally, there's some use of mild language such as "hell."
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What's it about?
PUNCH CLUB is the story of a young fighter trying to find out why his father was murdered and who did it. It's also a time-management game where players have to control resources and find a balance of work, rest, and training to wins fights. These battles take place both in the ring and on the streets, and players will need to win to move up the ranks and uncover the identity of those responsible for the murder. The game also incorporates decisions involving skill development as well as micromanagement of personal stats. Skills decline at the end of a day so training is vital, but so are sleeping and eating, as well as working for money to buy food.
Is it any good?
Call it micromanaging or a daily grind, but it comes out to the same thing -- redundancy. Punch Club suffers from a wash-rinse-repeat syndrome that takes what might have been a fun and addictive game into the realm of common routine, which grows tiresome. Fights are computer-controlled, but players can select which skills to use from skill trees that have to be unlocked (including punching, kicking, and defensive and tactical moves). Once you hit that fight button, though, it's hands-free fighting. Keeping your four traits (health, food, mood, and energy) filled up can be easy, but with working and training (and the actual fights), it tends to bog down a bit.
The retro, 16-bit graphic look works on some level, giving the game a distinctly retro look, but one of the transition effects (going into the sewer) pulls a video effect that looks eerily similar to a complete graphics crash -- which isn't particularly great. As for the control scheme, the point-and-click mechanics are easy to use, but what isn't easy to figure out is how to add skills (hit the scroll button on the mouse, just FYI). There's no tutorial, and some of the text speech seems stilted and written for a younger set. Understandably the developers appeared to not want this game to be a button-mashing twitch exercise, but the dodge/block, kick, punch, turn-based automation does thin out the fun factor. The idea of Punch Club was initially on the right track, but it just has too many stumbles to knock out of its flawed gameplay.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in gaming. Why is resorting to fighting never a good idea? How hazardous is it to popularize fighting on television, such as boxing and MMA?
Talk about managing competing needs. How do you balance work, rest, exercise, and interests over the course of your day? Can you get everything done, or does something fall by the wayside?
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