One of the best boxing games to date still has to be Mike Tyson's Punch Out for the old NES system. I spent countless hours trying to beat that game. Once I laid eyes on Punch King, all of my Punch Out memories flashed back in an instant as the thought of finding a game similar to the old classic brought a smile to my face. But, as we all know too well, looks can be deceiving and in the case of Punch King, the deceit is out in full force.
I really wanted to like this game and I truly tried. Scoring this a 'Not Recommended'? was a struggle but in the end, I think it is the most accurate score. So what is wrong with the game you ask? The very simple answer to this question is balance. When you first start the game, you will go out and get beat unmercifully. After a few tries, you may work your way past the first fighter to get walloped by the next guy in line. Since the game uses 'credits'? and does not allow you to save, you will use up your measly 3 credits in no time and it is back to the beginning again. This will happen a number of times until all of a sudden, a little light bulb goes off in your head, and then you will walk through the game from beginning to end without losing a single fight. Let me explain.
In order to understand how the game goes from brutally difficult to routinely easy, you have to understand one of the things that makes this game different. Instead of slugging out with unrelenting fever, Punch King incorporated a stamina meter. Every time you punch, your stamina goes down. If you have no stamina, you can't throw a punch. The game also uses a KO meter. Every time you land a particularly solid punch, your KO meter fills up. Once the KO meter is full, you have unlimited stamina so you can unleash a deadly furry of punches leading to a certain knockout of the opponent.
Here is where the game falls on its face. At some point, you will notice that the first fighter winds up to punch you and pauses for a moment. If you throw an uppercut during that pause, you will add a point to your KO meter and he will not throw his punch. So basically, all you do is stand there, wait for your opponent to punch, hit him during the pause, repeat until the KO meter is full, and then knock him out. The problem is that this works against EVERY fighter in the game! That means the boxing matches are reduced to a waiting game and timing your punches during the pause. Where is the fun in that?
What could have been a lot of fun ends up a cakewalk and an exercise in timing. It's a shame too because the game looks nice and did a good job of capturing the Punch Out feel. I guess I will have to dig up the old NES and play the original to get my boxing fix.