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Mobile Game of the Week: Punch Quest (iOS)

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Mobile Game of the Week: <i>Punch Quest</i> (iOS)

Punch Quest
Platform: iOS
Developers: Rocketcat Games & Madgarden
Release Date: 10/25/2012
Price: Free

“Endless runner-slash-something else” may as well be its own genre. After the success of Jetpack Joyride, it wasn’t surprising to find clever hybrids like the puzzle/RPG/runner 10000000 popping up. Punch Quest, the new release from Rocketcat Games (Mage Gauntlet) in collaboration with Madgarden (Sword of Fargoal), adds the brawler to the growing list of endless runner mash-ups.

After my first game of Punch Quest, I backed out to the credits to make sure it wasn’t Halfbrick’s follow-up to Jetpack Joyride. It’s remarkably similar in tone and form, with only a few tweaks to the formula to differentiate it. Still, while not very innovative, Punch Quest is very well executed—and pretty charming to boot.

Like any endless runner, Punch Quest has your beefy hero moving relentlessly to the right, chasing a high score. Instead of piloting a jetpack, you jab (right thumb) and uppercut-jump (left thumb) your way through colorful environments reminiscent of the 16-bit era. You’ll smack down dozens of skeletons, zombies, bats, orcs, and other cartoony enemies as you progress, building up a power meter that temporarily charges your attacks with whatever boosts you’ve selected. I love the satisfying “thwack!” that accompanies hits, along with the bowling-pin cascades of combos, even if the synthy soundtrack feels somewhat derivative.

punchwizard.png

Kills earn you “punchos,” the game’s currency, which you use between runs to purchase boosts and plenty of cosmetic additions to your character. Stringing together combos is the way to build your score and puncho count, and the exaggerated physics help: Explode a skeleton with an uppercut, and its skull will go careening into the orc creeping up behind it. Button-mashing brawling action takes center stage here, and for the most part, it feels great.

Light platforming elements force you to make use of that uppercut to avoid spikes, enemies, and fire, or to choose a branching path. You could go after a treasure trove, for example, or try your luck with a boss monster. The platforming doesn’t work as well as it should—I’ve died more than once when my hero got stuck failing to jump past a wall of spikes—but the variety provided by the multi-level paths is appreciated. Oh, and there are “vehicles” of a sort, too, but describing those sequences here would rob them of their psychedelic majesty.

Like Jetpack Joyride, Punch Quest presents you with a series of optional objectives for each run that award you XP when completed. Unfortunately, these are not as well-tuned here as they are in Halfbrick’s game, often causing frustration and/or confusion. (I haven’t been able to achieve three successful air-blocks in one run over probably 25 games.) There is a leveling-up system, but I had trouble parsing precisely what it accomplished or why it was important. Lack of clarity hamstrings Punch Quest at times; with so much action on screen, it can be difficult to determine what the game registers as a successful action. Pulling off complicated maneuvers is not as effortless as it felt in Jetpack Joyride, which often led me to feel that I was wrestling with clunky inputs rather than building mastery through failure.

There’s a famous quote—mistakenly attributed to Stravinsky, Picasso, and T.S. Eliot, variously—that goes, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” There’s little in Punch Quest that doesn’t feel cribbed from Jetpack Joyride, whether it’s the objective system, the art style, or the bizarro sense of humor. But what is stolen here, for the most part, works well.

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