Pato Box

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Publisher: Bromio
Developer: Bromio
Release Date: March 15, 2018


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PC Review - 'Pato Box'

by Cody Medellin on July 9, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Pato Box is inspired by the Punch-Out!! series and has a visual style that resembles a graphic novel. Gamers play as Patobox, a boxing champion with a duck's head. He has been betrayed and is seeking retribution.

The Punch-Out!! series of games is a good example of a sports game that barely plays like the sport it's supposed to represent. It has the basic mechanics of a boxing game, but it's only a single-player game. It also happens to present the sport of boxing as a rhythmic puzzle game of sorts, as you're encouraged to read opponent patterns and counter-punch at all times while being generally stationary, something that feels somewhat alien when you have a whole ring that you're supposed to move around in. The formula does work, and it has been the basis for a classic series of games as well as a few imitators here and there. The latest game to try its hand at this formula is Pato Box, and while the end result isn't perfect, you have to give the developers credit for trying something slightly out of the box.

The story is actually quite dark — if you can get past the fact that your character is a boxing humanoid duck. That duck — the titular Pato Box — is considered one of the best underground boxers in the world, but during a championship fight, his water gets spiked. Not only does he lose the fight in spectacular fashion, but he gets gravely injured and left for dead in an alleyway. He's rescued by someone working for Deathflock, the corporation that essentially rules the world and was apparently responsible for drugging him. With the help of this rogue employee, you go to the Deathflock headquarters on a mission of revenge.

As you might expect for a game that claims to take inspiration from Nintendo's boxing series, the controls are simple. You stay in one place throughout each fight, with the left and right directions letting you dodge while down lets you block without a penalty. Two buttons control your left and right punches, with the buttons themselves initiating body blows, and the buttons in conjunction with the up direction throw punches to the face.

Each fight follows the classic formula perfectly, as you're looking for tells from your opponent so you know when to block, dodge, or when you get an opening to counter their attacks with a flurry of punches before you're blocked and have to wait for another chance. The game is good about not giving you a freebie fight; every enemy you face is formidable enough to knock you out if you aren't careful. It'll take multiple fights against the same opponent to learn their moves, so those looking for a challenge will certainly find it here.

Part of that challenge comes from the unconventional fights. For example, the first real fight tasks you with avoiding laser and electrical traps, destroying drones that appear, destroying generators for said traps, and fighting against a woman with a robotic leg. Another match has you fighting a chef while hitting the ingredients needed to make a mean soup. Even in a world with a boxing duck, the characters and elements to each fight are off the wall, but they also do a good job of making the fights memorable.

The other reason the fights are difficult is because some of the common boxing and Punch-Out!! conventions are simply absent. Health meters are gone, so you have to look at Pato Box's physical condition to see how he's holding up. The issue is that the scuffs and other signs of wear are subtle enough that you may not notice how close he is to getting knocked down. Getting knocked down is bad because unlike a regular boxing match, you'll never be able to get back up, and it becomes an instant game over. There are also no rounds in the bouts, so fights are longer than normal, but some may see that as a good thing since it doesn't interrupt your cadence.

It would be fine if Pato Box were simply structured as fight after fight, with cut scenes punctuating each battle. However, the game tries to expand the experience by letting you roam through the Deathflock headquarters. Most of the time, this lets you talk to key characters to advance the story, find scraps of paper that fill in the world a bit, and see incidental characters that add some flavor to the proceedings. The other chunk of time is spent navigating through death traps or completing sidequests that are supposed to prepare you for some of the tricks that appear in the subsequent skirmish.

Your enjoyment of this will vary wildly depending on the task. For example, the mission where you need to gamble to get the money necessary to fight an opponent is pretty cool, since it offers a nice break from the exploration. One mission where you have to break objects in a set amount of time can feel a little tedious, since some of the hitboxes require the kind of precision the overall game mechanics can't consistently deliver. Other missions, like navigating death traps, can infuriate since one-hit kills are common, and you get set back a bit when you return, though you're compensated by not having objects and objectives get reset in the process. While the concept of the adventure is nice, it can quickly feel like filler that makes you want to get to a fight right away.

The unfortunate part is that you need to endure the adventure parts and beat the game if you want to enjoy the Arcade mode, which lets you skip all of the adventure stuff and fight any of the bosses. You can also do a boss rush mode, where you fight each boss sequentially. However, you'll only unlock the opponents by beating them in the main mode first, so while the idea behind the mode is good, this isn't exactly a mode you'll revisit unless they start adding to it via patches.

Aside from the gameplay, one of the more striking things about Pato Box is its presentation. Much like the graphic novel Sin City or the game MadWorld, everything is presented in a stark black and white. The style looks amazing and does a great service to the otherwise simple illustrations for each character. It gets to the point where even the smallest things, like glasses and pots, look nice. As for the audio, it fits that noir style well and does a good job of keeping the action intense.

Although it's nice, the graphical style does present a few issues. For starters, the black-and-white style makes depth perception difficult in a few areas. This is especially bad for levels where there are plenty of traps because it requires trial and error to get through. Also, the animations can be rather inconsistent. One moment, you'll see the game hearken back to the NES era by making quick cuts from one distinct frame to another, and the next minute, you'll see absolutely fluid animation take place. As such, it makes it difficult to figure out the timing for a few of the attacks.

Pato Box is a flawed experience but still fun. If you can live with the sometimes-uneven presentation, then the adventure segments will prove to be an exercise in tedium, especially with the small roster of enemies to fight. Then again, those fights bring back so many memories of the games it tries to emulate that you'll be willing to put up with walking around and doing odd jobs in between. Pato Box isn't exactly the spiritual successor to arcade boxing that many were hoping for, but it's worth a look.

Score: 7.0/10

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