With developers still experimenting wildly with iPhone, it's great to see an attempt at 3D fighting on the handset, even if it ultimately only proves this isn't the right system for high-octane brawlers.
As intuitive and advanced as the iPhone is in terms of motion sensitivity, it's sorely lacking when it comes to a game that demands physical buttons to bash and thrash. And, among other things that can't be blamed on hardware limitation, that's precisely what Funky Punch needs.
Like all good head-to-head fighters, Funky Punch brings its cast together in the name of competition - in this case, dancing. The fighters here are, for the most part, dancers, battling it out with fists and feet to determine who's the funkiest. It's a neat premise, but fatally flawed. The controls are what differentiate a good fighting game from an average one, and Funky Punch's on-screen D-pad and three buttons don't really cut the mustard (let alone the rug).
It isn't that Funky Punch has done a particularly bad job with its control so much as that the very concept is not a good one. Your fingers naturally drift off the buttons, especially as the action picks up. As a result, your box-like 3D character will stand motionless and allow its face to be punched to custard while you frantically attempt to realign your fingers.
Fortunately, each button is tied to a distinct move. You can block, jump, and jab. A special power gauge is depleted by using your special moves, and must then be charged up by holding a button combination while your opponent is laid out. The combo system is one of the better and more considered game mechanics, although the speed at which an opponent is back on his feet and hurling punches pretty much negates the use of special moves once the energy bar is run down.
Unfortunately, the game hardly packs a visual punch. Your choice of character mostly comes down to aesthetics, and these 3D models are pretty rough looking. The camera work is equally laboured, making it a struggle to find a reasonable vantage point for you to see the action. You'll end up spending a lot of time watching the back of either character's head, hopeful that your frantic jabbing at the corners of the touchscreen is having some kind of effect.
The only place where the fighting action comes anywhere close to satisfying even a half interested beat-'em-up jock is in the Emoticon levels. During these stages, Emoticon-based characters gang up on you with two, or sometimes three, on-screen attackers. This royal rumble makes up for a lot of the patchy fighting mechanics for a few exciting moments, though probably not enough to carry the entire game.
In the end, Funky Punch is a worthy experiment that ultimately proves the iPhone isn't suitable for fighting.