A top-down boxing game that doesn’t quite challenge for the World Video Boxing Association crown.
When I think arcade boxing, Nintendo’s venerable Punch-Out!! series always comes to mind. Many different boxing games have tried to come at the throne, but they often miss. Boxing Champs from Raz Games appears to draw inspiration from the structure and style of Punch-Out!!, but swerves in the gameplay, eschewing rhythmic mayhem for something more akin to a beat-’em-up. The end result is a simple yet fun experience that doesn’t quite have the legs to last a full three rounds.
A top-down perspective adds a distinct look to the boxing ring. Your boxer has standard moves available: jabs, hooks, and uppercuts. They can be controlled with button presses or by the right analog stick, with each punch mapped to a direction. Both options were totally fine, with buttons being easier to grasp but the analog stick being better with practice. Blocking can be done with a shoulder button, which is key because the majority of fights involve strategically blocking your opponent’s punches while waiting for an opening to punch the snot out of them. Matches take up three rounds, but very rarely did any of my fights against the computer last longer than one. In theory, you can get back up after being knocked down, but that wasn’t all that common.
The main single-player content is a career mode where you create a boxer and work your way through 30 different characters to become the top-ranked fighter in the video game world. For the most part, all you do is didactically check off a list. Character designs are cartoony and vibrant, but all of the personality is dependent on the player inventing it. The customization is found in creating your character from a variety of options, as well as using earned skill points to boost your stats. The good thing about that is if you hit a wall where you lose a lot, you get knocked down the ranking list and work your way back up, in the process earning more skill points.
One-on-one local multiplayer is present as well and because of the easy-to-grasp nature of the controls, it can make a fun first impression. Few options make the excitement short-lived, though. The developer is working on adding online multiplayer, which could potentially enrich this mode.
Boxing Champs has promise, but a lack of depth makes it more fleeting than I hoped it would be. Still, the fusion of boxing and beat-’em-up is a strong concept if you’re hankering for a vaguely Punch-Out!!-inspired good time. Just don’t expect to be wowed by personality or variety.