PUNCH CLUB 2: FAST FORWARD
Developed by Lazy Bear Games
Published by tinyBuild
Available on Steam, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox
Following on from the events of PUNCH CLUB, PUNCH CLUB 2: FAST FORWARD casts the player as the son of the main character and girlfriend Adrian from the first game. Many elements from the original game still exist in this futuristic dystopia, as well as characters, all with a twist. Aliens, known as Slimes, have invaded and become a food source, hologram cops run the police department, the people live in a split society of wealthy and poor, and the Law of the Fist rules all.
As with the first game, fight management sim RPG PUNCH CLUB 2: FAST FORWARD is full of jokes, social/political jabs and movie references. From They Live to Blade Runner, the little nods to the movies of the past feel even more important in this futuristic society that seems devoid of hope. Playing as the young fighter, it’s your job to win fights, earn money and gain a good enough social credit score to move up into the rich part of the city in order to find out more about your father who disappeared before you was born.
Like any good videogame, it’s the journey that makes it. Living day-by-day, working and trying to improve your character’s record is part of the fun whilst the vivid, neon colours of the neighbourhood locations and its colourful characters make the experience that bit more pleasurable. In addition, the pixel artwork is as wonderful as it was in the first game, but this time there’s even more locations to visit right from the off, complete with a cyberpunk aesthetic. It’s bigger and better in so many ways, which is how a sequel should be.
Whilst retaining the feel of the original fighting system, the developers have upgraded it in a way that feels fresh and offers more customisation than before. To gain techniques to add to your combat repertoire, you have to save up points, not unlike the first game, to open up a fight path. You can open up new fight paths by beating employees of the local mafias who you end up working for. However, you can also learn new fighting tricks by watching VHS tapes at your neighbour’s house who is hot on old action movies. The local mini-market owner, who is a friendly, familiar face, is the supplier of such tapes, but knowing you want them he bumps up the price of them each time you buy. This means you have to work your butt off between fights to earn money to buy tapes and improve your fight game, as well as to afford food to keep your health and energy up. What is also a great evolution is that players can have more technique slots, with slots for striking attacks (punches and kicks), defence (dodges and blocks) and modifier enhancements, compared to the original which only gave you five slots to use in total. By separating the slots and allowing more techniques, it makes for a more realistic approach to combat and more opportunity to enhance a fight style to play.
The fighting element isn’t the only improvement to the fighter mechanics in this sequel. One of the things that used to frustrate me in the first game, but was part of the game’s challenge, was that each day would see your strength, agility and stamina decline. Keeping on top of training was vitally important to ensure a good performance during fights. In this, the sequel, the strength, agility and stamina stat meter doesn’t deplete each day, but the game remains challenging as money is an important asset to have to be able to eat, sleep, re-energise, work and fight. Like real life, I suppose.
PUNCH CLUB 2: FAST FORWARD isn’t just more of the same. Like Aliens is to Alien, it’s moved up a notch with added flavour, building upon its solid foundation and giving us something that bit more as well as retaining everything that made the first game so great. It’s funny, addictive and ever-so rewarding to play. It also works tremendously well with the Steam Deck, which I’ve found myself playing on more often with this game than I have done on desktop. The game is perfect for it.
Whilst you don’t need to have played PUNCH CLUB to play PUNCH CLUB 2: FAST FORWARD, it’s like taking off a coat in the house; you’ll feel the benefit if you do. There’s so many references and nods to the first game’s storyline that it’s a more rewarding experience if you indulge in the first game before playing this. If you’re already a fan of the first, then you’ll likely won’t be disappointed by what this sequel has to offer.