It’s amazing how quickly the variety and quality of games have increased and improved in the Play Store over the past couple of years. There are now tons of titles available for Android devices in every genre, with graphics and gameplay that rival those seen on games for best-selling portable consoles. Don’t believe me? What if I told you the new kid on the block is a 2D side-scrolling pixel art endless running arcade fighter?
Besides being a mouthful, that’s really the best way to describe Punch Quest, the latest release from Noodlecake Studios, publishers of such casual entertainers as Ready Steady Bang, Zombie Road Trip and Huebrix (which we loved to bits and reviewed here). You play a dashing hero clearing his way out of a dungeon filled with ghouls and creepies, and you’re not afraid to let your fists do the talking. Let’s see if all these genres come together to create a knockout title, shall we?
Punch Quest is a single-player retro-style 2D scrolling action game that features simple controls and endless running, leaving you free to beat the daylights out of the assorted grab-bag of enemies that roam the dungeons you’re stuck in. The title runs on both phones and tablets, can be played in landscape or portrait mode and includes 50 levels’ worth of fast-paced butt-kicking action. Developed by RocketCat Games in collaboration with Madgarden, the game is now available in the Play Store for $0.99.
Punch Quest will surely delight fans of retro games with its quirky graphics and fast-paced yet simple gameplay
There isn’t much of a story to Punch Quest, but there is a hero — whom you can customize from head to toe, including gender — and gnomes, and lasers and hats. That’s really all you need to know before you tap Start and begin your journey through a seemingly endless dungeon filled with walking skeletons, armed ogres, flying tentacled skulls, floating cats and cyclopses. You have but one task: to bring the pain, and dish it out in spades.
Punch Quest draws from the classic 2D action games of yore, and is more 16-bit than 8-bit in terms of how it looks. The characters, animated backgrounds and collectible items all look like they’re straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon show. The animations follow suit as well: punch a skeleton and his bones will sail through the air and bonk other unsuspecting enemies on the head. You can enjoy all this with a frenzied MIDI soundtrack if you’re the nostalgic type; I chose to retain my sanity and turned the volume down.
Yup, that’s how crazy things can get in Punch Quest
Players can dig into Punch Quest right from the word go, as there are just two buttons to deal with — one for jabs and the other for uppercuts (which also serve as a way to jump). As your character is perpetually moving, jabs help him/her move faster while uppercuts slow him/her down (and also reduce momentum, so subsequent jumps will be shorter). You can also slam-punch foes on your way down from your uppercut, and after you have the necessary upgrade, can block by tapping and holding both buttons together.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll find yourself giving your knuckles a serious workout as you race through the first few levels that are riddled with enemies who take just a few punches before they go down. Besides enemies, there are scores of items that you can punch to collect — vases, idols, bags of coins, treasure chests and, yes, giant eggs that either turn you into a flying goat or hatch to reveal a dinosaur you can ride and shoot lasers with!
You’ll earn in-game currency (called Punchos) for all your valiant efforts, which you can spend on everything from upgraded punches and uppercuts that make for amusing results, to devastating special moves to hats and clothing for your character. You can also score one-time boosts such as increased armor and skipping ahead a few levels.
Buy boosts, upgrades and skills in the shop (top); Customize your character all you want (bottom)
There’s one caveat to all this over-the-top throwback fun, however: you have very limited health which doesn’t regenerate, and health powerups are extremely hard to come by even after you buy the necessary upgrades to enable them in the shop. If you die, you have to start at the beginning, which happened to me way too soon and way too often. That made Punch Quest feel repetitive after a while, but hey, this is an endless runner after all, right?
There are two game modes you can try out: Quest Mode sees you completing several little quests (such as defeating 50 ghosts or smashing 20 vases) to help level up a magical gnome (which doesn’t seem like much of an incentive). Spartan Mode, which for some reason costs 150,000 Punchos is pretty much the same, except that there’s a new kind of item for you to collect. Both modes are indistinguishable from each other in terms of gameplay, which is disappointing: I’d have liked to have seen a simple Survival mode or Online Co-Op mode instead.
Activate special powers by making combos (top); Take on bosses in all shapes and sizes (bottom)
Should You Buy This Game?
Here’s the thing: I enjoyed playing Punch Quest over most of the week I spent with it. The quirky graphics, fast gameplay and simple controls got me hooked from my very first round, and dishing out damage while running through dungeons proved to be very satisfying indeed. However, the novelty wore off after a few days because it became ridiculously hard to advance beyond the first 15 levels or so and the game becomes more about spending on upgrades than on actually playing.
Still, this is pretty fun if you’re the competitive sort, and even more so if you’re nostalgic about those console games you played when you were younger. I say go for it — just keep an eye out for those tasty collectibles, there are all kinds of little surprises hidden in every level!