Super Punch Patrol (Switch) Review
Do you like classic side-scrolling beat-em-ups? Are some of your favourite games ones where you team up with a friend, punch up a bunch of 80s gangsters and eat a chicken off the floor? Then boy, is Super Punch Patrol the game for you.
I’ll admit, my experience with the genre is limited at best. I have fond memories of trying out Super Double Dragon on the SNES as a kid, being absolutely horrible at it, and instead moving on to playing Super Mario World poorly again. Ah, to be young. More seriously though, in recent years I’ve tried out games like Final Fight, Jaleco’s Brawl Brothers (thanks to the NSO service), and even more recent games like Streets of Rage 4. Ultimately, however, they never really clicked with me. They were all too unforgiving, the controls never really fit with how I felt like I wanted to play, and more or less, I just sucked at them. That’s very much a me problem, though, and it was one I was hoping I’d overcome with Super Punch Patrol. And I did! But I also didn’t.
Super Punch Patrol (which I’ll be shortening to SPP from here on) is the epitome of classic beat-em-ups. There’s no fluffing around to get into it, no big story to follow — you just pick from one of three characters and start beating up baddies. If you needed more evidence of its no-nonsense approach to storytelling, you need only look at its eShop description:
When crime and violence dominate the streets, Police Chief Anders Punch decides to take desperate measures. Defeat the Evil Crime Syndicate using just your fists!
That’s it, that’s the whole thing, aside from a small stinger, calling the game “Classic Beat ’em Up action from the creator of Gunman Clive and Mechstermination Force.” And that’s where the story behind the game becomes really interesting. A quick look at Bertil Hörberg’s — the creator of Gunman Clive — twitter page reveals that while the concept of this game has been around since late last year, the majority of SPP was developed solely by Hörberg during the very big stay-at-home events of 2020. Most of SPP has been developed over the last six months or so, which should help temper expectations a little bit. Don’t expect a huge, genre-defining game, one to add to the history books. Super Punch Patrol is simplicity at its finest, the genre boiled down to its greatest points.
And that simplicity carries into every aspect of the game. There are no fancy combos, no flashy performance attacks; each character has a light attack, a heavy attack that expends a little bit of HP when used, and a grab. It’s simple, sure, but it’s enough to get the job done, and the simplicity on display makes it incredibly accessible to those new to the genre — which is good, because it’s quite a challenging game otherwise.
SPP’s visuals are also very simple, but they do look incredible. A nice, monotone pencil-drawn texture is applied over the models, which are 3D even if they don’t always look it. The result is an absolutely beautiful art style, coupled with hilariously over-the-top (and unashamedly homoerotic) 80s-ish character design. This, and the fact that it runs at a fluid 60fps, makes it both an absolute pleasure to look at and an absolute pleasure to play at any given point.
As mentioned earlier, it is quite difficult though. Despite the fact that I had a pretty firm grasp on the controls, and despite loving every single moment of it, I still got my butt kicked at every possible moment. Sometimes I’d run out of lives before finishing a single level — even at the easiest difficulty which gives you a surplus of lives — and sometimes I’d just time out over and over during the boss fight at the end of a level because I couldn’t deal enough damage. Things are a little bit more bearable in co-op, which allows a second player to join in on the same console and throw some punches, but ultimately it didn’t help much. I still sucked at the game, I still died way too many times, and I still didn’t finish a single run. I’m told there are unlockable skins for each of the three characters, but it seems unlikely I’ll ever even see them.
And that brings me to how Super Punch Patrol fits into my history with beat-em-ups. As I said, no games in this genre have really clicked with me to date. Super Punch Patrol is different. For the first time, the controls just felt right, the moment-to-moment action was an absolute blast, and I found myself genuinely enjoying a genre I never thought I would. Sure, I still sucked at it, and maybe that’ll get better over time. But it’s a testament to just how great SPP is that it finally broke me out of my box, even if it did so by bashing my face into a brick wall dozens of times for several hours.
Super Punch Patrol is a simple game. Its visuals are simple, its gameplay is simple, its music is interesting but largely unassuming. But despite its simplicity, it manages to be something a little bit magical. Sure it’s quite challenging, and sure it may kick your butt more than a few times — but it’s a game where everything just feels right. It might not be for you, and it might not even be for me, but it’ll always be fun as heck.
+ Wonderful art style
+ Simple controls
+ Fluid and fun
- Very challenging
- Level timers can be a bit on the short side
- I will never see the costumes