Title: Punch Line
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Reviewed On: PS4
Genre: Adventure/Visual Novel
So I should probably preface this review with the fact that I am a pretty big fan of the work of Zero Escape series creator Kotaro Uchikoshi, who just so happened to write Punch Line. In 2016, a game for the anime series was released and I made it a personal goal to see that the game released in the west. However, getting an anime video game adaptation released in the west is rather rare in the industry.
On paper, Punch Line doesn’t seem like it stands a chance, but I think that’s where it can surprise even the most casual anime fan. What originally drew me to the series was the crisp art design and of course, Uchikoshi-san’s writing. Writing aside, there’s more to do in Punch Line than most visual novels, but it’s that gameplay loop that might prevent players from finding out just how great Punch Line is.
Punch Line wastes no time setting up its insane premise when the game opens with main protagonist Yuuta Iridatsu on a bus that’s getting hijacked. Thankfully, the cities resident superhero, Strange Juice, makes it into the bus to put a stop to the villains… that is until she finds herself with a gun pointed to the back of her head. While Yuuta sits in the back of the bus, he just so happens to see his friend’s panties, which triggers a special power within him that grants him special abilities. After saving Strange Juice, Yuuta finds himself in a similar position, but when he sees panties this time his spirit leaves his body.
It’s here that players should really pay attention to the story as Yuuta awakens in his dormitory to a floating spirit cat name Chiranosuka. Evidently, Yuuta is not allowed back in his body because someone has taken it over and placed talismans around his room so he can’t enter. After learning that he’ll need to find a book in order to get back to his body, but that will take some searching and being a spirit doesn’t make it easier for him.
As Yuuta seeks out a way to get back to his body, he discovers that if he just so happens to see panties twice than a meteor hits Earth and all of humanity ends. Yes, I’m not making this up, Yuuta single handly holds the fate of the world in his hands and must fight the urges of panties.
However, if you think that’s all there is to the story than we’ve just skimmed the top of what Punch Line has to offer. This opening premise might deter players from progressing because of the fanservice or comedic approach, but I can assure that the second half of the game pulls everything together and answer any questions that present themselves early on.
At first, I was confused that a story this good was masked by the premise of panties and cute girls, but I was pleasantly surprised by how great the story ends up being. I can’t help by feel that Uchikoshi-san did this as a conscious decision to add shock when the story comes together.
The gameplay loop of Punch Line focuses on Yuuta playing tricks on his female dormmates in order to get them to do something that he needs. However, being such a young spirit, he isn’t strong enough to do anything but shake items or drop something on the ground. You’re able to move around the room and search for things to interact with, but you must make sure that you get the character’s attention or an action is used up, which are limited.
While playing tricks, the game tries to keep things fresh, but after a while, you can easily figure out how to progress the story. These puzzles can get a little complicated in the later parts of the game, but I think the developers spent more time on working out how to cleverly getting the girl’s panties in the frame, which if stared at long enough, means game over.
Each chapter of the game plays out like an episode of the anime and the story plays fairly close to events that took place in the source material. However, there are some brand new scenes as well as an original ending to get fans of the anime to play through the game. The trouble with that is simply sticking through until the end and possibly understand that there is more to this game than meets the eye.
Graphics are simplistic and nothing special. During dialog characters sometimes do a jittery motion as they snap to a new pose, even in auto mode. This is something that I’ve seen made more fluid in other visual novels and makes a difference to players who want that smooth transition between character animations. That said, I applaud the team for incorporating the animation scenes with the game throughout the story and for even using 3D rendered characters when it might have been easier to use 2D illustrations.
As far as music goes, Punch Line has some pretty good tracks, but there are a few times that a song would play that didn’t fit what was happening in the scene. That aside, I also enjoyed that most of the game has Japanese voiceovers by the original cast of the anime. Each character took on their respective loony role expertly and made it that much easier to grow attached to them.
Punch Line is charming and enjoyable from start to end. As the story plays out I found myself feeling more connected to the cast of characters and their personal stories. Yes, I’ve seen all of their panties multiple times, but I’d like to think that that just means that we have transcended into the highest form of friendship.
Punch Line understands how to blend fanservice and story, which is rare in visual novels that opt to do one or the other. There isn’t much to do after the game has ended, but I was happy with the outcome and felt that the ending provided enough for me to look back fondly on Yuuta’s story. Repetitive game loop aside, Punch Line has enough to offer visual novel and casual puzzle fans to keep them entertained throughout the entire story.
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