|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Gamick Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Destineer||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec. 5, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Robert VerBruggen
Animal Boxing isn't the type of game you see every day: A human lives in a village full of animals. He's had trouble getting the animals to accept him, and when a boxing gym opens, they all join. Aching for companionship, he decides to give it a try. Through a first-person view, you play as that human.
Save for hunting, Animal Boxing is probably the most fun one can have causing pain to God's innocent creatures, but it's more a brief diversion than a game worthy of a serious time investment.
The game's biggest success is the way it uses the DS's touch controls to create a truly engrossing fighting system. You rotate the console 180 degrees, so that the touch screen is on top and the regular screen is on bottom. All the action takes place on the touch screen, with the other serving only as a HUD.
A simple tap on your opponent's body executes a jab, and drawing a line from a side toward the center throws a hook. A line straight up, starting at the bottom-center, triggers an uppercut. You can dodge left and right, and block, using the buttons (D-pad if you're a leftie). Holding the stylus to the screen before punching will "charge" the blow, making it stronger. The first person to knock the other down three times wins (on rare occasions, the time will run out, and whoever landed the most punches wins).
One extra twist is the anger gauge, which fills a little every time you dodge or suffer a punch (blocks don't count). When it's full, the fight will pause for a second as fire starts shooting out of your character's eyes. Any punches you land, charged or not, are now super-powerful. The only other gimmicks are the power-ups, which you can tap when they pop up to gain life or anger (they're not really necessary, but don't hurt the game much). This simple system could easily have been made into a game that's easy to learn, but difficult and rewarding to master. (It wasn't, and we'll get to that in a bit)
Another thing the developers deserve credit for is the fact that, technically, this game is very well-put-together. The touch-screen controls register extremely well and are quite forgiving, with the sole exception being that a slightly crooked uppercut often comes out as a hook. The graphics look terrific, with 3-D cel-shaded character models that each have their own look and personality. You can even create your own (human) boxer.
Sound-wise, Animal Boxing eschews traditional crowd noise in favor of the occasional barnyard-animal sound, which works well with the game's outlandish sensibilities. The music, mainly hard rock, fits the offbeat mood as well. While the sound effects of blows landing get repetitive, they don't detract from the gameplay.
Unfortunately, after getting these hard parts done, the developers took little care in balancing and fleshing out the game. Probably the biggest issue is the damage system. There's no way to punch around a block, and blocked punches do virtually no damage. It's not so ridiculous that you can land a few hits and then hold block the rest of the match (in our test on a match on the highest skill level, our opponent was able to drain about half our energy over the course of three rounds when we did nothing but block). It is, however, bad enough to make a simple, repetitive strategy enough to win pretty much any fight: Hold block until your opponent punches, and immediately after his hit lands on your gloves, let off a one-two punch. Still caught up in his punch animation, he won't be able to block or dodge the first punch, and sometimes the second will connect, too.