A tale of retaliation, an evil corporation and duck experimentation. Pato Box rises from within a mexican game studio as a spiritual successor of Punch-Out!! at heart, but taken to a different scale: the character’s posture, a boxer with a duck head, and camera angle remain still throughout the entire experience, and your fists (along with four different attacks) are the only weapons available. And the only ones you’ll need, too.
Everything the main character does is move, punch, and dodge. But it’s all about punching, primarily. The first cutscene showcases how the last boxing match for a championship is rigged, and the duck is poisoned, stabbed and left to die out in the streets. As expected, an unknown character saves the day, and patches you up enough to get back on your feet and return to your punching routine. Only that this time, there’s more on the table than just a champion’s belt.
In a sort of Furi‘s fashion, you’ll traverse throughout different scenarios to defeat bosses inside Deathflock’s facility, a mastermind company that has influence in pretty much all society aspects. Each enemy represents one of these roots, along with introducing their backstories and relationship with the main character throughout light dialogue and pieces of information scattered in the levels through notes.
These scenarios are all different, and feel like the home for each boss’ role in the story. The champion who stole your rightfully title demands you to actually play in a casino and collect a certain amount of coins to be able to fight against him. Then we have a chef, guarded by a massive slaughter-house, or a very weird character who has become so infected that he’s living in the sewers know.
While not too complex, all these characters have a purpose on the story, and aside from the notes about their lore, you’ll also find advices about their combat styles and what to expect from each fight.
Combat feels both like a puzzle and a mini game at the same time. The duck can move and attack from both left and right, dodging to the sides or blocking if we remain still. Attacks involve low and high punches, and that’s pretty much it. But, in each fight, it’s interesting to see how they make a difference among the rest, either by being more aggressive, leaning more heavily on gadgets or traps, or by having a lobster that “hints” at upcoming attacks.
But it’s damn hard. Probably too hard at times. While there are certain patterns to follow, the enemies always remain unpredictable (which is great) but the combat doesn’t offer enough responsiveness as you’d expect. As I mentioned, it’s less of a regular fighting game and more like a series of puzzles.
If you punch tirelessly, there’s a chance that the enemy won’t even react until you give them a breath to let them hit you again. And if you study their attacks, there’s a chance you’ll get surprised often in the later “phases” of each fight, in which they patterns start being more aggressive and, consequentially, varied. Pato Box is brutal in this regard, and you’ll often rage quit or jump to another boss fight (there isn’t a certain order to tackle them) in no time after getting frustrated. If it wasn’t for the fact that I love being challenged and always end up compromised to defeat a certain boss, I don’t know how long I’d have endured with the game.
And there’s a lot more in the game that deserves your attention. The visual style is one of the most engaging ones I’ve seen in a long time, mixing 2D animation with 3D scenarios in a black & white aesthetic that almost never feels tiring. The soundtrack fits perfectly to everything that happens within these Sim City esque walls, and it’s probably the main incentive to keep on going even after you got your ass kicked over a dozen times.
Pato Box is a tough game to recommend so openly. Trailers don’t actually train you enough for challenges to come, but the story, art style and music all form a unique experience that is worth visiting. If you don’t mind a few extra punches than usual, that is.
A copy of Pato Box for PlayStation 4 was provided by the studio for review purposes. Make sure to visit the official site for more information.