Pato Box is the video games that all developer and publishers should strive to produce as a minimum product. What appears on the surface to be a typical retro rehash of Super Punch-Out, instead greatly expands it to a whole new experience.
I've been feeling quite jaded recently about all of the remakes and spiritual sequels of 8 and 16 bit era games. Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are great fun, but they didn't experiment enough with the genre and format.
Sidepoint, I wonder whether these games would actually be highly regarding and critically acclaimed if they were released as contemporaries to their influences. At the risk of sounding cynical, if you rehash past genres with a remixed retro design, you will easily pick up some awards, critical success and ride a wave of nostalgia to get some sales.
Pato Box is not this. Every award and praise this games has is deserved. I would describe the game as an FPS Boxing Puzzler, and the developers have not just picked out a random list of genres attempting to make a game. This has clearly been thought through and is far from shallow.
You play as Patobox. A boxer with the head of a man and the body of a duck. He is a member of the Deathflock organisation who have decided to betray and leave him to bleed out in an alley. It’s up to you to get revenge and find the truth behind the backstab.
It’s a classic and simple premise that facilitates the exploration of Deathflock headquarters, which could be on par with Shadow Moses or the Spencer Mansion for transcendent environments.
The simple gameplay and controls of Patobox are part of the indie-retro charm. You can punch with your left or right arm, either a jab or an uppercut. Avoiding punches is only done via dodging. For the Switch version motion controls are added in. Personally, not my cup of tea, but if you like that know they are functional at worst.
The goal is to explore each of the seven bosses' environments, find clues and information to help you beat them and get past mini-games along the way. Each boss has a different fighting style and personality that help the fights avoid repetition. The journey to get to these fights is where the the game has you spending most of your time. The adventure and exploration aspects are more prominent than the boxing.
Abstaining from the use of colour is the game's most notable visual design decision. Oddly enough, the absence of colour breathes life into the game instead of having a diminishing effect. Framing the visuals similar to a comic book appears polished and tasteful. The style creates an effective world for the boxing gameplay. There are the odd instances of graphical glitches, but the visuals broadly create a slightly threatening, forebodings and unnerving environment.
The soundtrack, by Controvol, is a fantastic symphonic chiptune dream that adds to the aesthetics and helpsr the individual personalities of enemies and levels to fruition.
There are a few downsides to Patobox's streamlined aesthetics as well. It would be nice if there was a health bar for one?!
It's hard to fault much about this game. Everything that it does and wants to be it executes competently.
Still, it doesn't transverse its identity to be a game that I would implore everyone to play. You may hate racing games, but Mario Kart 8 is just too perfect not to play. Patobox has a smidgen of a marmite after-taste. You will either love it or hate it. The hate may derive from not finding fun in the experience as a whole. At times it struggled to keep my attention, in spite of its qualities.
You want an adventure game with a great narrative and identity? Perfect. But it does border on being a walking simulator a lot of the time. Some have described it as being full of filler, but I'd sooner call it world building.
You want a boxing/fighting game? Then you may be better served elsewhere. But, once you do get to the boss battles, they are a true spiritual successor to Punch-Out whilst also being innovative in their own right.
There is game of the year material in there somewhere, but Pato Box doesn't have that groundbreaking Silent Hill 2 or Earthbound quality which would make me recommend it without a second thought. It remains to see how the promising title from a promising studio will stand the test of time.