As a child of the eighties, and the resident old man of Pure PlayStation, I can’t tell you how much I loved the NES’s Punch-Out! And I’m talking the original, with Mike Tyson before the prison sentence and the ear biting. With Tyson’s sordid history notwithstanding, knocking Iron Mike on his ass and winning that belt felt like quite an accomplishment. It goes without saying, I’m a big fan of the ‘87 masterpiece, which brings me to Grab Games’ newest title, Knockout League for the PSVR. It is an obvious love letter to the Nintendo classic, and they make no bones about it. The question is, does it land a clean shot, or does it get knocked to the canvas? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
After you boot up Knockout League, a retired fighter turned trainer will walk you through a tutorial of how to throw some punches, which, using the Move controllers, is as easy as it should be. With one-to-one precision, you can throw jabs, hooks, body blows, uppercuts, and pretty much everything else. Just as in real fighting, a good defense is even more important than offense, and this is where you’re taught the ins and outs of not getting your face caved in. If your opponent is throwing a left hook, you can duck or dodge left. A right uppercut, you’ll have to dodge right. Just like in real-life, if you try to duck an uppercut, you’ll end up eating your opponent’s fist. Try to avoid doing that.
Along with the tutorial, there are three additional training modes/mini-games with multiple difficulties. These include the Reflex Alley, Focus Mitts, and the speed-bag. The speed bag is pretty self-explanatory. The Focus Mitts is a fun but challenging exercise that tasks you with throwing the correct punch at your training partners mitts, while ducking and dodging his punches. As I mentioned, it’s difficult to master, but when you pull off a long punch-and-duck combo, it feels pretty amazing. Reflex Alley has you facing three cannons that shoot random things at you, including red balls, blue balls, dumbbells and medicine balls. With a blue boxing glove on one hand and a red one on the other, it becomes obvious what to do. You use your red gloved hand to punch the red ball, the blue glove to hit the blue ball. You block the medicine ball by holding both of your hands up and you duck or dodge the flying dumbbell. Once again, this is difficult but once it clicks in your head, it’s actually a lot of fun.
Enough about the side attractions. Let’s get to the ass kicking. If you’re looking for a boxing simulator then you’ve come to the wrong place. In fact, Knockout League is more of a puzzle game than a boxing sim. If you throw random wild punches, your opponent will block them and you’ll punch yourself exhausted. The name of the game is avoiding your opponent’s attacks and counter punching like a maniac. This is, of course, the game mechanic that made Punch-Out so damn fun. This and all the crazy, colorful fighters that stand in your way.
Speaking of the fighters, in Knockout League they are huge and in your face. It really feels like you’re in the ring with these larger-than-life characters. It’s obvious how much work the developers put into the characters and animations. The crowd, the ring, and the gym don’t have the same amount of polish, but the fighters—and more importantly, the fighting—are both polished to near perfection.
After playing this game a ton over the last two days, my biggest takeaway is that it’s one hell of a workout. In fact, there is a calorie counter keeping track of how many cheeseburgers you’re burning while flailing away at the nine different fighters that make out the Knockout League. My biggest complaint with the game is that I want to play it more, but my legs, my core, and my arms are currently in full-blown meltdown stage. Once I can move without crying, you can bet I’ll be climbing back in this ring. If you have a PSVR and a couple Move controllers, I suggest you do the same.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.