Title: Punch Line
Release Date: May 23, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
I love it when I happen to prejudge a game at first, yet decide to give it a try and end up totally falling in love with it. That is exactly the thing that happened to me with Punch Line, a game written by the same creator of the Zero Escape series. The idea of panties mixed with a dark story in the tone of the Zero Escape series just didn’t sit well with me. So it’s a good thing that it wasn’t anything like that. I think I am just a too big fan of Zero Escape at this point to be able to turn away from Punch Line, no matter what it is about and am grateful that it finally received a PC release.
The story starts off during a chaotic scene where the main character Yuuta Iridatsu is riding a bus in the process of getting hijacked. Suddenly, a mysterious superhero, called Strange Juice, comes to their rescue. While apprehended by a mysterious villain, Yuuta happens to see a girl’s panties and gains superpowers and Yuuta ends up saving Strange Juice. After falling in the canal with the villain, it’s Strange Juice’s turn to help Yuuta, although things just get a little complicated when he accidentally sees her panties as well — and with that, someone’s panties are shown twice in a row within the first 5 minutes
Anyway, he ends up passing out and after waking up, he finds himself in a quite strange situation where a flying cat, named Chiranosuke, explains to him that his spirit got separated from his body while he fell unconscious and more importantly, that someone else possessed his body. With the guide of Chiranosuke, he is trying to find a book which will help him get his body back, although he has to be careful about avoiding to see someone’s panties twice a row — as a meteor will hit Earth then and humans will go extinct as a result.
I have to say, I was impressed by Punch Line‘s storyline and character building. While Punch Line seems like your everyday slice-of-life game which is anything but serious, that couldn’t be more wrong. Punch Line starts off quite slow, with small hints here and there, but nothing was noticeable until I came to the second part of the game. Every small hint was suddenly visible for me and everything that happened completely made sense. That said, Punch Line managed to successfully hint at its mysteries, without being too pushy about it. Eventually, saving all of its great moments for the game’s final acts.
Although the story seemed so predictable at first, I totally didn’t see the twist and turns coming and was left shocked at how unpredictable the story was in the end. Additionally, the past of each girl was very heart wrenching and seeing them getting close filled me with happiness while seeing them argue tore my heart out, just wanting them to finally make up.
I enjoyed that almost every episode in the first half had the same course of actions, as our PS4 review already described, you mostly need to try to startle girls and get their attention with various of interactions — and trying to avoid looking at their panties at the same time. After you leveled up with collecting soul fragments from scaring them, you go on to the trick chain, to reach your goal. In this process, there are certain interactions required which will result in the desired scenario. Without going too much in depth about it, this will change in the second half of this game. Each episode begins with the same opening and ends with the same ending song.
While there are various options to be able to save your progress and even within playing, there is a chapter selection feature in the menu. From there on, you can visit and play every desired chapter which is divided into parts. Also, there is a gallery that you can check out anytime in the menu, although I found it a bit disappointing that it only showed your acquired seen-panties instead of actual CGs.
A downside of the PC version of Punch Line is that the keyboard bindings for the game don’t get explained nor show up in the menu. For those, who are looking for it, you can look them up within the game with the F1 button. I found it annoying that the controls didn’t get properly displayed in the game when it might come in handy, so I didn’t know for many episodes how to skip cut scenes and therefore had to watch the opening and ending songs all over again. Again, for those who are having the same problem, you can skip cutscenes while holding the interaction button for a while. Admittedly, I found the default keyboard bindings quite awkward as well and sadly, there is no way to change them as well so I highly recommend playing Punch Line with a controller if you have the opportunity for it.
With that said, PC settings are completely missing within the game and when launching Punch Line, a window pops up where it lets you choose the PAD Setting and Screen Settings where you can choose to play between fullscreen and windowed. The thing is just that even here, you can’t look up the keyboard bindings but only the controller one. Something important to mention as well is that when playing in windowed mode, there is no way of changing the resolution as it always stays the same no matter if it gets stretched and will only show black bars which might really be frustrating if you own a higher resolution monitor as I do. I basically had to choose between a blurry fullscreen or a small windowed game to play.
A confusing thing I have noticed is that some things don’t get translated within the game. For example, a note which was written in Japanese never received subtitles and was only explained vaguely during a side conversation. Also, the scene when Strange Juice is transforming is kept in Japanese letters and when the characters are talking in English the subtitles turn to Japanese characters suddenly out of nowhere while it was hard to understand some of the VA of the characters due to their accent. I personally feel it would have been nicer to use English subtitles instead, even if it was already voiced in English.
While I had my problems with the PC port and found it a bit disappointing that basic settings were completely missing, I really enjoyed my experience with Punch Line as a game. I fell in love with every character and was experiencing tons of different emotions with them. While Punch Line starts off slow and has a hilarious comedic touch, I can definitely say that it didn’t fail to absolutely amaze me and I am positive, as long as you will make it through the first rather slice-of-life part, Punch Line will manage to throw off every visual novel lover with its unpredictable plot and lovely characters, as it did with me, so please don’t pass on this wonderful title thinking that it is simply only fanservice because it is so much more.
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