There's something wonderfully compelling about Punch Club. It reminds me, in a way, of New Star Soccer. Mainly because you don't really need an interest in the subject matter to really enjoy it.
Here you're training an MMA fighter, as well as running through the drudgery of his normal life. Jobs, food shopping, and trying to avoid getting mugged are all as important as lifting weights, skipping, and figuring out the best way to punch people. And kick them.
And it all blends together to create a premium sim with a distinct story, a focus on juggling everything you need to do, and more than a handful of moments that will make you laugh.
So it's sort of like Rocky then?
Er, a bit. Not that much though. Yeah you're dragging a fighter up from the bottom of the rankings, but there's more going on here than an underdog story. There's delivering pizza, for example.
Focusing just on your training will mean you run out of money and starve. Focusing just on working will mean your trained skills slowly deplete and you're not as good a fighter. You need to strike a balance.
There are huge skill trees to unlock, letting you create a fighter that suits the way you want to play. You can't train all of your attributes equally, so you need to focus on one, build up your skills, and learn new attacks that utilise your powers.
The battles are hands-off affairs, but at the start of each round you can change the set up of your brawler. Different attacks and defensive moves use different amounts of energy, so learning which is the best to use in a pickle is key to winning the tougher fights.
Random encounters pepper the game as well. If you've got a decent wodge of cash in your pocket then you run the risk of getting mugged. You can run away, but if you're not fast enough you'll need to fight your assailants, which is dangerous.
You need to keep your fighter happy as well. Too much work and he'll get sad, and a sad fighter doesn't train as well as a content one. You have to sleep, eat, relax, shop, spar, drink, and try and woo a friend's sister.
Sounds like there's an awful lot to do
That would be an understatement. Alongside the skill trees there's a story tree, and filling it all in will take you a long, long time. And while things might get a little repetitive, this is a game you can dip in and out of with ease.
And you'll have a lot of fun doing. The compulsion loops here are delicious, and designed to keep you playing rather than forcing you to reach into your wallet.
This is casual-ish strategy done brilliantly well. It's bold, it's brash, it looks lovely, and you're probably going to lose a good chunk of your life to it.