By Adam Reese / June 25th, 2015
As recently as last year, an interesting game started making a buzz online for its unique mix of strategy, life simulation, a non-linear world, and street fighting. Named VHS Story (Video Hero Super Story), the premise was that you controlled a fighter, managing your time by, among other things, choosing to increase his abilities or simply sit around and watch TV.
Recently, the developer decided to both change their company’s name to Lazy Bear Games as well as change the game’s name from VHS Story to Punch Club. The developers obviously wanting to leave no room for doubt on what their game is really about.
Built in the Unity Engine, this game caters to those of us who grew up during the ’80s and ’90s, with plenty of references and homages from both decades keeping you immersed in its world, from familiar movie characters to even appearances from well-known cartoon characters.
This is an E3 demo provided to us by tinyBuild. It’s still early in development, so there were a few bugs and typos in the game, but those can easily be fixed as the game continues to be worked on. Keep all of this in mind as I give you my impressions of this unique experience.
The game starts with our hero named “Hero” sleeping on the couch, who is suddenly awoken by his ringing phone. A man named Frank is on the other end, telling us to get out of the house and get a job, refusing to pay us another cent. Our presumed benefactor suggests a nearby pizzeria as our next destination as a new position just opened up there.
Our hero, however, has other plans. After grabbing a slice of pizza from the fridge, which shows off the hunger mechanic of the game, we continue to ignore the words of Frank and decide to use our homemade gym in the garage to work out.
After trying out some of the equipment, we quickly lose what little good the pizza gave us, and decide that maybe Frank had the right idea, and we’re then pointed to the pizzeria in the hopes of getting some cash to spend on some more food.
A man named Casey greets us when we arrive, and a little bit more of the story is fleshed out. Apparently, Frank is someone from “the store”, and that Casey used to be a sailor before his current position as manager of the pizzeria. After offering us a position as a delivery boy, which we accept, we earn a bit of spending money and Casey offers to teach us a few moves, presumably learnt from his days as a sailor.
This is where a large aspect of the game is introduced, that being the combat system. The battle system is a mixture of turn-based combat and reliance on the game’s AI, where you choose which moves you want your character to rely on primarily, select which strategy you want to go with, and finally click Fight.
You are then shown the round happening without any player input, and you must simply trust in your fighter to get the job done with the tools you have given them, like any good trainer. In this case, Casey stopped the fight shortly into the first round, but later on you can get into some pretty dicey situations where you can get a little frustrated with how your fighter is performing, but that could just as easily be your fault for not building him up well enough.
After the fight, you will open up the game’s skill tree, where you spend skill points unlocking both fighting moves and passive abilities. After picking a new move, we are then pointed in the direction of a nicely-detailed grocery store.
While there, we spoke with a man named Apu (get it?) and ordered some meat in the hopes of filling up my belly and getting right back to training.
Alas, it was not to be, as I was soon accosted by a pair of robbers, one wielding a baseball bat and the other simply putting up his fists. No matter how you respond, you get into your first real fight of the game with Fat Arnie, who proves to be a pushover after a handful of well-placed strikes.
The second robber flees the scene, and we give chase, only to end up getting lost on the way, winding up behind a random building. If that wasn’t enough, we lose the food we had bought at the store. A nearby citizen tells us there was a burger in the trash can nearby if we needed something to eat.
This proved to be a bad idea, as I started tripping balls and apparently teleported myself into some sewers, where I fought a crocodile with an orange mask and a pair of nunchucks. I got pretty close to beating him with my kicks, but he knocked me down and left me laying with low health. After a kind bipedal raccoon taught me the tail sweep attack that the crocodile had used on me, I teleported home and took a well-deserved nap, thus ending both the day and the demo itself.
The sound design was understandably simple, especially at this early in the development process, with attacks and blocks often using the same sound effects and the same song being looped continuously no matter which location I was visiting at the time. Given the source material, there’s a lot of ways for the music to go, and it’s doubtless that more tracks will be introduced as development progresses.
Overall, I liked how the game looked and, even at this early stage, I can tell that there’s a lot of potential in what the game can become. The demo was barely over ten minutes in total, but it served its purpose by giving me a good taste of what Punch Club is all about.
We here at oprainfall, especially myself, will keep an eye on the game as development continues.
Lazy Bear GamesPCPunch ClubtinybuildVHS Story