Punch Club, published by Tiny Build and developed by Lazy Bear Games, made its fighting debut on the PC back in January of 2016 but now it has entered a new league and decided to take the belt on consoles now too. Punch Club is a management sim where you need to develop the career of your fighter by staying on top of your needs and making some serious gains to get the edge over your opponents. Now it is worth mentioning right off the bat, as I did not know this, but the fighting in the game is purely automatic and works off of your stats and currently selected skills. The only interaction you will have in the fights is, before the fight starts, picking which skills you want to use then hitting fight, as long as your cool with that then you wont go in thinking you actually get to do the fights, like I did. The rest of the game is played via you picking places to go on the city map and wandering around small environments as you talk to people, do side quests, unravel mysteries and train up for your big fights. The look and feel of the game is really nice, it reminds me of the SNES/Megadrive era of games, everything from the city map to the wee environments you can wander about, tickles me right in the nostalgia glands.
Punch Club is a pastiche of the 80’s & 90’s action fight scene and contains plenty of references to pop culture from those decades, usually in the form of random characters dotted about here and there and the odd movie quote too. There is a central cliched story line that fits the genre starting from you witnessing your fathers murder as a boy and progressing as you set out to get revenge. How you achieve this is completely up to you, you can fight in legitimate fights starting in the amateur league and working your way up to pro or you can take part in illegal warehouse fights that might earn you more cash but you can get seriously injured if you lose, hampering your ability to train.
Training is, as you can imagine, a large part of the game whether you hit the gym or earn enough money to kit your garage out with training equipment, you need to keep on top of it and push yourself to progress. At the end of every day you will lose a little bit of your gains and the higher your given attributes are, out of strength, agility and stamina, the more you lose. It’s not as easy as just hitting the gym though, to be able to keep working out you need to keep on top of some Sims style needs, such as hunger, mood and energy. To keep yourself well fed you will need food and of course food costs money which you primarily get from working which in turn cuts into your training time and has negative effects on your mood, which you will need to rectify by chilling out or hanging with friends and girlfriends, but let your hunger or energy get too low then you wont have the strength to work and earn money. So as you can see, you need to maintain a well balanced act in order to progress, if you slip in one area it can easily have a knock on effect that will see you begin to slide, as I did myself for a while.
I am not great at management sims, in Theme Hospital I always seemed to burn out and go bankrupt by about the 3rd or 4th level, same with other similar games. In Punch Club I was doing great for a while, got my fighters strength and stamina up to 4 with agility on 2, then by neglecting work for a while to train more, I ran out of cash and food and was too hungry to train, sleep or work. Caught between a rock and a hard place I had to watch my stats slip away as I aimlessly wandered the city streets to try and find food…there is a friend that will give you a few free meals but I had leaned on him too much in the beginning and he had since stopped feeding me. I eventually found a mouldy old burger in a trash can, having hit a new low I consumed said burger and got enough of a boost to work a shift and get money, from there I focused on working to make sure I had enough food built up to resume training. See, I said I wasn’t good at management sims.
That was a hard lesson learned but I managed to pull it back, then I plateaued for a bit because of low mood from constant working so then I learned how to manage that, I work less and have less money but now squeeze in time to socialise to keep my mood up which gives you some serious gains, now I am sitting on strength and stamina at 6 and agility on 4. At the time of writing this I haven’t progressed loads through the game but feel like I have experienced all of the games mechanics to review this. I am still in the amateur league though near the top, I have won a couple illegal fights and been injured once…I even go out at nights as a masked hero and fight crime. Though I have done a lot already, my fighters journey to the top has only just begun.
To sum up, Punch Club is a fun wee management sim about fighting that wears it’s influences on it’s sleeve. It has a simple to learn yet tricky to master system to keep on top of as you juggle stats, training, fighting and working to stay on top. A cheesy yet intriguing story keeps you focused and moving towards your eventual end goal. If you enjoy management games and 80’s action machismo then this is definitely worth checking out.
I picked it up on the Xbox One for about £7.99, I imagine it’s the same price on PS4.
Punch Club 2 is already in development by Lazy Bear Games as is another interesting management game called Cemetery Keeper, the latter of which is due out this summer.
- Nice retro graphics
- Simple yet tricky management system
- full of humor, references and 80's cheese
- Lack of interactivity in fights
- Nice but very repetitive music