Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS Vita
Release Date: July 9, 2018
ESRB: T for Teen
Note: This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of the game
I’ll be the first to admit that the description and press material for Pato Box was more eyebrow-raising than intriguing at first. A spiritual successor to the Punch-Out!! series starring an… anthropomorphic boxing duck? A black-and-white comic book art style? I was more than a bit puzzled but decided to roll the dice and see what wackiness Pato Box had in store, and I can genuinely say I wasn’t prepared.
Pato Box is a fusion of game styles, mixing the classic boxing matches of Punch-Out!! with a semi-3D explorable environment. It’s a wholly unique experience that’s only out-weirded by the story. The plot immediately tosses the titular 'Patobox' into a pickle. The popular duck boxer isn’t so popular with his promoters at Deathflock, and they attempt to off him in a rigged match. Patobox sets out on a quest to get his revenge on Deathflock, punching everything that stands in his way in the face.
Much of Patobox’s out-of-ring time is spent exploring the Deathflock headquarters and prepping for his bouts. The duck can talk to various building inhabitants and occasionally has to solve small puzzles, avoid obstacles, or play minigames to progress. Deathflock’s place of residence is pretty large, and there all manner of hidden goodies and sight gags for players to dive into. For whatever reason, Pato Box also decided it’d be cool to make your primary source of interaction with the gameworld a punch.
If you feel like breaking chairs and dishes, go right ahead! No one seems to care that Patobox can break everything in sight.
The matches, of course, are where the game makes its true home. Like Punch-Out!!, players assume the perspective of Patobox from behind and have a few basic jabs and punches. However, Pato Box spices things up with different dodge mechanics, some tactically-important punch types, and interactive objects that are often themed after each boss. Every match is a puzzle to unravel, exploiting the mechanics to best take down the opposition. Make no mistake, Pato Box is hard. You’ll lose more than a few fights as you work out how to face each boxer.
This probably comes as no surprise, but Pato Box is full of camp and humor. The story never takes itself seriously and revels in the weirdness of a duck boxer. Patobox never really talks and seems to only convey his thoughts by staring at things. Somehow, his allies always seem to know what’s on his mind, which makes his silence all the more amusing. Patobox lets his fists do the talking, and that’s all that really matters.
Beyond the protagonist, the art style will probably be the first thing to grab your attention. Pato Box is a gorgeous Mad World-esque comic book dreamland. Characters communicate with comic word bubbles, and the coloration looks like a black-and-white newspaper cartoon.
The developers have done a great job conveying the feel of a graphic novel in Pato Box’s style, and it lends a lot more credence to the idea that Pato Box is truly its own beast apart from Punch-Out!!
I only have a few minor quibbles, and most concern the fights. It was a bit tricky to tell how much damage I was dealing or being dealt, with very visual cues to suggest my health situation until it was almost too late. It also artificially inflated the difficulty at times, and I wasn’t always sure if my punches were landing. Eventually, you get used to the rhythm of bouts and the mechanics become second-nature, but folks who haven’t played Punch-Out!! may have some initial struggles. The exploration segments are also fun, but a tad slow and occasionally lacking in things to do. Again, it’s a fairly minor complaint about an otherwise great game.
Pato Box isn’t weird just to be weird. All of the quirky sights and sounds feel relevant to the game’s universe, and everything just “works”. The marriage of adventure games and Punch-Out!! is out of left field, but the concept is well-executed. That Pato Box finds ways to innovate on the Punch-Out!! formula only enhances the quality of the matches. Every boss is unique, and the developers have done a great job forcing players to change strategies. Don’t sleep on the next Rocky. Give the boxing duck his due and pick up Pato Box.
+ Zany concept that actually succeeds
+ Visually-striking and artistically unique
+ Well thought-out boss battles
- Exploration occasionally drags on a bit too long
Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
Pato Box does its own thing and does it well. If you love the Punch-Out!! franchise or weird, surrealist art pieces, Pato Box should be up your alley.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher
Edited by Jason Clement