Platform: PS4, PS Vita, PC(Steam)
Price: $44.99 GBP, 49.99 Euros, $59.99 USD
Western Release Date: August 31th, 2018 (Europe), September 25th, 2018 (USA)
Original Release Date: April 28th, 2016 (Japan)
For those out there that enjoy collecting every embarrassing anime game available in English, this is one title you cannot pass up. From the get-go, the game’s premise is quite simple: do the tasks you are given and, if you look at a girl’s panties, humanity goes extinct. Why does this happen? It’s your job to find out.
The game’s plot begins with a bus hijacking. During the act, a super heroine thwarts their attempt and, due to a series of mistakes, our protagonist ends up thrown out the window and into a river, along with the terrorist leader. Yuuta wakes up to find that he is now having an out-of-body experience and that someone has taken over his body. Furthermore, a cat-ghost named Chiranosuke speaks to him, explains that the only way to recover his body is to find a book hidden somewhere in his apartment.
The plot unfolds into revealing why the world is on the verge of destruction and how each of the residents are connected to the scheme. Of course, not without being sidetracked in the process.
In essence, Punch Line is a comedy. The core materials for jokes is the fact that Yuuta is intruding on each of his girl neighbor’s privacy, revealing their eccentric personalities and relationships with one another. In fact, except during gameplay and interactions with Chiranosuke, Yuuta isn’t seen for most of the story. I would have expected the male protagonist to comment, monologue or even to tsukkomi retort. Instead, he will only talk to Chiranosuke about what he saw during the day at the start of the next chapter.
Punch Line’s game progression follows the exact same progression of the anime TV show. And by exact same, I meant it quite literally. Every chapter in the story has the same flow of an anime episode: Opening animation -> Consult with Chiranosuke regarding the task for the day -> Part 1 -> Save Point -> Part 2 -> Cliffhanger -> Ending sequence. And yes, you are forced to watch the opening and closing sequences every time, no skipping.
As a spirit, the protagonist has very limited action within the story. Either you are playing simple tricks to scare the residents and level up your ghost rank or doing more elaborate schemes in order to force the residents to perform certain actions that will keep the plot flowing. Don’t go expecting any sort of complexity from this game though, as the gameplay segments exist mostly just to break away temporarily from the story. You have a rough idea of what is going on in each apartment and what you need the characters to do, and with a limited choice of which objects to move, it’s easy enough to figure out a way to proceed the story.
This leads us to one of the game’s central features: panty shots. As the ghost of a male teenage boy spying on his female neighbors, none of which ever wears pants, it’s only natural that pantsu would jump you at every possible turn. In Punch Line, staring at panties causes an excitement gauge to fill up(because of course Japanese teenagers are programmed to over react to lingerie). Once the gauge is full, the world blows up and it’s game over. Discovering the reason why this happens, preventing it from happening and recovering your body are your three major goals in the game.
The soundtrack is good, for the most part. Most of the game consists of 3D animated segments with voice acting, the music acting as a setter for each scene. Perhaps it was because I clicked with the game’s humor that most of the soundtrack stuck with me.
All things considered, the game’s selling feature is the voice acting cast. It’s exceedingly rare for a game to feature this many high-profile voice actresses. Among them:
- Marina Inoue
- Armin[Attack on Titan]
- Yoko[Gurren Lagann]
- Chiri[Zetsubou Sensei]
- Tooka[Date a Live]
- Sora Amamiya
- Akame[Akame ga Kill]
- Miia[Everyday life with Monster Girls]
- Isla[Plastic Memories],
- Minako Kotobuki
- Asuka[Hibike! Euphonium]
- Yuuko[A Channel]
- Rie Kugimiya
- Nagi[Hayate no Gotoku]
- Shana[Shakugan no Shana]
- Louise[Zero no Tsukaima]
- Haruka Tomatsu
- Asuna[Sword Art Online]
In Japan, voice acting is a big thing. Having certain talents on board can by itself move sales and grant visibility. It goes without saying, the voice work in Punch Line is absolutely stellar.
It’s standard fare for niche anime titles to cut corners and have poor 3D graphics. Compared against this standard, Punch Line looks good enough. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the animations. While the 2D art, the models and the direction might be solid, 3D movement feels very lacking and unpolished. Facial expressions are passable but limb movement felt extremely unnatural.
I’ve got a few gripes with this game but one stands out: How is it possible that we still have unskippable scenes in the year 2018? As much as I liked both the OP and ED, I don’t wish to be forced to watch them every time between episode chapters.
Secondly, the gameplay could not possibly be more shallow. The premise of moving objects to influence characters to perform actions is solid, yet the execution is absolutely lacking. Despite the game’s potential, it never aspires to be more than what it is: a visual novel with gimmick gameplay.
It could have been worse though. Despite the fact that one of the heroines is technically an idol, the game doesn’t feel the need to focus on that particular aspect. In recent years, it feels like half of everything Japan produces is spun around to somehow promote idol culture. I’m glad this game has avoided that.
Despite certain glaring faults, things weren’t too bad. The comedy and characters are enjoyable, which is what need to works for a comedy visual novel to be good. Of course, this sort of content doesn’t click for everyone, although if you are interested in the game enough to read a review, chances are you might enjoy it.
I feel it is important to mention, Punch Line does one thing that I wish every game would did: It has a manual, and it’s accessible straight from the main menu.
Even if it’s just a visual novel, it’s great to know that someone cared enough to write instructions for the game. At the very least, my initial impression of the game was certainly improved.
While I feel Punch Line isn’t long enough to justify paying full price, the cast and its interactions alone are worth playing the game.