Want to know why ghosts only show up in dark, spooky places? Why do ghosts bother scaring people in the first place? Most importantly, why do one teenage boy’s arousals spell the end of the world? All is answered in the new visual novel/anime hybrid known as Punchline from the same company (5pb.) that brought us Steins Gate and Corpse Party: Blood Drive on the PS Vita.
While the crazy premise itself is enough to hook most players in and give the game a try—it certainly got me hooked, line and sinker—the clunky and fragmented gameplay distract from the story. On the other hand, the game employs beautifully animated cutscenes and hilarious situations and dialogue that’ll have you laughing despite yourself. For people who like visual novels, but want something a bit far from ordinary, Punch Line is certainly unique and unlike any other visual novel I`ve ever tried. Whether it`s unique in a bad way or good way is something you`ll have to decide for yourself.
Punch Line is an adaptation of a 12-episode anime series of the same name. Therefore, the developers had a lot of source material to feed off of. Many scenes were actually taken from the anime and used as cutscenes in the video game. Most of the video game follows the anime exactly scene for scene. The dialogue for Punch Line is well-written and some scenarios and situations are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Also, numerous comedic easter eggs were meticulously thrown into the dialogue referencing everything from Saving Private Ryan to Doraemon.
The story follows Yuta Iridatsu, a teenage boy who inexplicably gains super-human powers when aroused by the sight of woman’s panties. The title itself is a play on the Japanese words Panchi (pantie) and Chila (glimpse/glance), which translates as "panty shot" or catching a glimpse of someone’s panties. Furthermore, there is a superhero brigade in the story known as Justice Punch. After using his power to save a bus from a hijacking, Yuta wakes up as a ghost and sees that his body is being controlled by someone else. A spirit of a cat then explains to him that he can never get aroused twice in a row; if he does, it will bring about the end of the world. As if that weren’t enough to deal with, Yuta must also use his extremely limited ghostly powers to fight against a terrorist group seeking to end the world and get back into his own body.
While gamers and critics say they want more active gameplay elements in visual novels and point-and-click adventures, it’s doubtful that the gameplay of Punch Line is what they’ve been looking for. The gameplay is so clunky and awkward that it hurts more than it helps.
The gameplay of typical visual novels consists of pressing the action button to read through dialogue and choose an option every now and then that sometimes causes the storyline to branch off in another direction. The gameplay of Punch Line, on the other hand, goes a little like this:
- Listen to a talking ghost cat who tells you what you must do and vaguely teaches you how to do it.
- Enter a variety of apartments owned by the main character’s friends, setting up infinitesimal, ghostly pranks like knocking things off tables or turning off the lights. Meanwhile, the player must also be careful not to catch a glimpse of a character’s panties, otherwise triggering the end of the world.
- Knocking things over and turning off appliances to set up incredibly coincidental and unlikely chains of events required to progress the story.
As if that weren’t mundane enough, the difficulty of these tasks is null making them feel more like a nuisance rather than a challenge. For example, in any given room the character may have four options to click. Two of which are correct and two of which have no effect. However, the player gets three chances to click. The error percentage here is low and when an error does occur it doesn’t feel like it’s a result of the player’s lack of logic in making that decision. It feels like pure luck one way or the other, making success feel ungratified and failure feel out of the player’s hands to begin with.
The tricks have no obvious sense of logic. For example, at one point the set of events relies on two characters tripping over the same banana peel, but there is no way to predict ahead of time that knocking that banana peel to the ground would cause that huge outcome. Therefore, it felt like pointless gameplay where players simply press the only buttons available while trying not to accidentally look at girls panties.
Furthermore, since the game is based on an anime, for some reason the developers decided to roll opening and closing credits before and after every episode. These short videos are not skippable. This may sound like a small, petty detail, but it is an unnecessary 3-4 minutes of lost time every episode and ruins the fluidity of the game, especially at times when the story is picking up and getting interesting.
Graphics and Audio
Punch Line’s saving grace comes not only in its comedic story but also its high production value. With superb and beautiful, top-class animation and voice acting, the cutscenes are a joy to watch and the voice-acted dialogue is a pleasure to listen to. The game is filled with numerous fully animated cutscenes taken straight from the actual anime series. The Japanese-style animation looks crisp and sleek on the PS Vita’s compact screen. Instead of using 2D static animation like most visual novels, Punch Line went 3D and the 3D character sprites blend seamlessly into the backgrounds.
follows the anime exactly scene for scene…"
English gamers should note that the game is voiced by Japanese voice actors in Japanese with English subtitles. Regarding the music, the developers did well to craft an upbeat soundtrack that matches the tone of the story. Sound effects were polished and everything from the in-game events to the menu screens sounded great. All in all, while some may be of the opinion that Punch Line isn’t as fun as it could be to play, it’s definitely great to look at and listen to.
Punch Line was an ambitious project, seeking to meld the anime and visual novel mediums into a single enjoyable video game. The story is wacky, funny, and over-the-top enough to grab the player's attention right from the start. However, the forced and clunky gameplay mechanics distract from the story and become more of a mundane chore rather than an enjoyable and interactive way to experience the story. The saving grace of Punch Line comes from its anime roots, with impressive and beautiful anime cutscenes and top-class voice acting. Gamers who consider themselves visual novel enthusiasts or people who love both anime and visual novels should definitely give Punch Line a try. But people who are looking to pick up a visual novel or adventure game for the first time might be better off looking elsewhere.
+ Comedic and unique story
– Mundane and clunky gameplay
+ Beautiful anime cutscenes
– Non-skippable credits before and after each episode ruin fluidity of the game
+ Funny dialogue and superb voice acting
+ Game can be completed in around 10 to 16 hours
Will you be giving Punch Line a playthrough? What's your favorite visual novel? Let us and our readers know in the comments below.