Punch Quest is here, courtesy of Rocketcat Games and Madgarden, and brings with it some old-school arcade charm. Is the nostalgic veneer enough for this Jetpack Joyride clone to win over discerning iOS gamers, or does it fail to smash its way into our hearts?
The answer is yes, this game wins. I don't care what it wins, it just does. There's no story, the music is goofy, the retro-styled graphics, though pleasant, aren't mind-blowing, and there's no real set goal. But none of this matters because the game is just a joy to play. The heart of Punch Quest lies in its deceptively simple controls. You tap the right side of the screen to Dash Punch and, in lieu of a jump button, you tap the left side to Uppercut (and to Slam down if you're already airborne). That's all there is to it. With these three simple moves, you can trounce just about everything in your path.
Of course, not every enemy will go down with just a fist to the face; some of them require a combination of punches, the right timing, and the correct type of punch. Flying Squids, for example, will hurt you with their tentacles if you try to uppercut them. The trick is to get airborne from a distance and then slam down on the tops of their heads. And then there are some baddies who just go down a lot easier with the right combination of powers.
You get two tiers of power skills to use during your fist-throwing fracas. A meter on the bottom of the screen increases with each successful punch you throw and each level activates one of your chosen powers. The third tier is for a Super power which imbues your fists with such awesome strength that you'll feel every blow through your device. You unlock these powers by using coins that you get from punching the living hell out of things. The best part is that these coins are called Punchos. Hilarious! A personal favorite power combination of mine results in a stronger Dash Punch that launches you forward more and causes your punches to explode into flames upon impact.
You might think that you can get through this game effectively by simply tapping the buttons rapidly, but the game is smart and causes you to do less damage with the faster jabs. In order to become a pugilistic nightmare-machine, it's better to develop a cadence and punch with a rhythm. This ensures that you maintain momentum and do enough damage to take out enemies in fewer hits. In Punch Quest's case, sometimes less is definitely more.
If you're not satisfied with all of the senseless unarmed violence, you can try to complete the quests given to you by the game's weird little gnome. These quests involve meeting certain requirements during a run, like "Midair-collide 10 foes," or "Ki Barrage 20 enemies". Not only do they add some more challenges to the game, but they reward you with precious Punchos that you can spend on powers. Already set on powers? Then spend your coin on customizing your character! Buy hats, hair, and rocking 'staches to deck out your demon-destroying hero. Or if you prefer, switch the main character to a girl and fight the hordes as a Slamazon! There's plenty to do and plenty to unlock in Punch Quest, so enjoy the fisticuffs at your leisure.
I can't properly put into words how much I enjoy Punch Quest. It would be more fitting for me to rip off my shirt in joyous frenzy and punch holes into my walls in the shape of a heart. I may be a little biased because I'm a fan of unarmed characters in games (my Dragonborn is designed to punch dragons to death in Skyrim), but how can I not praise a game that gets its controls right, is immeasurably fun, pays homage to the old-school arcade beat 'em up days, and has a velociraptor you can ride that shoots lasers out of its mouth? The one flaw in this masterpiece is the gnome power-up that you can get from eggs. He keeps me from giving the game a solid 10/10, but that's only because he isn't the laser-breathing raptor.