In a world of annual releases and forced sequels, punchLatest release from Shin’en (Fast RMX, tourists), feels like a real passion project. It’s a captivating love letter to puzzle game fans with an incredible amount of heart put into it. But despite that, once you start peeling away the layers, you’re left with a great core gameplay loop, too lacking in content to feel like a finished project.
In The Punchuin, you directly control a penguin quite fond of punches and set out in search of treasure hidden deep in Mount Punch. With the help of a giant sentient boxing glove, you tackle multiple challenges to collect diamonds from each level in order to overcome the various portals that block your way down. The plot, while simple, serves its purpose quite well, and is greatly aided by wonderfully witty and endearing dialogue.
At its core, The Punchuin is a match-three puzzle game, like so many other games before it. The penguin is released into an enclosed space, with colored blocks falling from the sky. Move around the screen and using your fists you punch blocks into vertical or horizontal positions to match the colors. To keep things interesting, you’ll also get falling ice blocks to interrupt your progress (sometimes with power wrapped inside).
Your goal is to meet the quota of matches listed on the right side of the screen before the blocks stack up. While pretty standard, the core game loop is fun and can even get quite challenging in later levels. Even so, there’s a lack of level-based gimmicks to keep things fresh. Every now and then there’s a screen that’s upside down, but after a while they all start to feel repetitive and blend together.
To try and help break the speed, there are many special stages scattered around the world. Instead of blocks falling from the sky, all blocks are already on the board, and your job is to match the colored blocks together. These things, while fun at first, get very difficult very quickly and are sometimes more like trial and error than puzzle solving.
There are also occasional one-off character quests on the map. Usually requires an in-game currency fee to play, these mario party– Featured mini-games range from basketball to snooker. Completing these rewards gives you a substantial amount of diamonds and helps spice up the gameplay, so they’re well worth your time. But while the puzzle and character quests break the pace, unfortunately, they don’t fix the lack of variety in the match-three levels themselves.
Punchuin looks great, especially in handheld mode. Spooky work and highly detailed backgrounds add an element of appeal to help the game stand out from other puzzle games. As you’d expect, it runs great on the Switch, with no noticeable graphics drops or framerate drops.
Despite having a solid core and presentation, The Punchuin’s biggest problem is the overall lack of content. If you play every level in the game, your playtime will probably last around two hours. If you simply go from start to finish, you’ll be lucky to hit an hour and a half. There are only four worlds, each with about ten levels (including puzzle and NPC levels), which feels too few for a puzzle game like this.
Outside of the main adventure, the only real option is a two-player duel mode where you compete against another player’s board in a race to get through all of your matches first. While fun for a round or two, this mode feels more like a time attack mode, as the interaction between the two players’ boards is very limited. Like the rest of the game, it’s usable but in the end you’ll wish there was more to it as the core here is solid. Considering clearly how much love has been put into this pack, it’s a shame that the amount of content and variety simply wasn’t enough to make The Punchuin reach its full potential.
Punchuin certainly offers a solid match-three gameplay experience, but that experience falls short in terms of level variety and a serious lack of content overall. The compelling writing and presentation highlight the passion and skill of the developers, but in the end what’s here is more of a lovingly crafted demo than a release. full. If you’re looking for a quick and fun puzzle game, The Punchuin offers exactly that but no more. That’s fine, but we just wish the pack had more power, as there are plenty of other options out there with more benefits for you.