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Wade Hixton's Counter Punch Package Art
††Inferno Games
††Destination Software

Wade Hixton's Counter Punch

Thereís no doubt that Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch was inspired by titles like Punch-Out!!, but this isnít a bad thing. For the same reason you shouldnít be allowed to hate a Quentin Tarantino for being inspired and influenced by the classic film. Sometimes a game is so good it deserves to be reinterpreted by another designer; someone who will take the classic and give it a style and atmosphere unique to that developer and time period. The big question, however, is will this game become unique and enjoyable by itself? I enjoyed Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch, but Iím afraid there is some fine print to that statement. Read on and Iíll tell you why Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch is good, but not great.


Visually Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch is remarkable. It has the best animation of any Game Boy Advance game Iíve played. The characters all are traditional cel-animated drawings brought to life. This gives every character smooth and distinctive movements that add to the idiosyncratic nature of their design. The downside of this visual style is that it is best seen through a Game Boy Player. Although the game is functional on the Game Boy Advance and SP models, you need a full screen in order to see the nuance of the characters and to catch the signals for their punches and special moves. Itís hard to describe the quality of the game to anyone who hasnít seen Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch in action. The animation is good enough that it needs to be seen. I was even disappointed by the static image cut-scenes. The game has so much visual style itís almost irritating that the developerís didnít find a way to work the cut-scenes into the animated portions of the game.


Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch has the most annoying music of any game I have played recently. Granted, the Punch-Out!! games had some forgettable music (outside the main theme songs), but that is no excuse here. You would think they would have used the music to add to the characterization in the game, with as much work as the developer obviously put into the character design, but there isnít. The music is generic and, Iíll say it again, annoying. Itís meant to match the tempo of the boxing match and it succeeds. But who wants to listen to the action youíre controlling on the screen. I would rather the music compliment the fight and the rings and add to the overall experience of that match. The gameplay is challenging enough, I donít need the music to remind me the game moves in a fast, drum beat-like manner.


For those of you who have never played a Punch-Out!! game, Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch plays like this: Wade sits directly in front of the screen like a character in a third-person 3-D game. Wade is translucent so you can see the character you are fighting looking down on you. The character, based on an ethnic or social stereotype, will swing wildly at you after giving you a small signal of where the punch will fly. Sometimes, when they fill up their meter, they will unleash a character-driven special move that will take some or all of you life bar and leave you resting on the mat. To win the fights you must dodge, punch, block, and counter punch. Knock your opponent down enough to earn a knock out and earn a few bucks to spend on new moves, new hats for the referee, or a little help in the ring like a more favorable count on knockdowns or a little distraction from the hot round card girl.

While the gameplay is the same as you would find in a Punch-Out!! game there are a few major differences. First, Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch features a story. Not just the typical "youíre a new boxer and need to fight your way to the top." Instead, you play as Wade Hixton, a mulleted yokel whose jalopy breaks down in a small town and he has to fight to earn the money to fix it. Second, the fights donít progress in a straight ladder. After the first fight you can choose between one of four other characters to battle as many times as you want and in any order you want. Once you are allowed to progress beyond this point the game becomes more linear, but there is always the opportunity to take in a challenge fight with a fighter where you must win without, say, blocking or dodging. Third, the game is aimed at a different age group. While Punch-Out!! isnít going to win PC awards with characters like the dancing Don Flamenco, Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch takes the stereotypes to a new level. Youíll fight against a Snoop Dogg style club owner, a raver chick, an unspecific witch doctor of some kind, and a gorilla; to name a few of the characters.

With all these things going for it, youíre probably wondering why I say this game is good, but not great. The biggest reason is the control. Itís nowhere near as tight as in Super Punch-Out!! and feels too loose for a game that requires quick reflexes. Second, Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch is too short. You can memorize the patterns of all the fighters and beat the game in a few hours if you want to. Last is that the characters signals are impossible to read on the same Game Boy screen, while you donít need a Game Boy Player to enjoy the game you will be shocked how much easier it is to play on a TV.




Inferno Games has created an enjoyable game that manages to succeed at creating a Punch-Out!! feel without feeling like a rip-off. My natural inclination as a critic is to compare a game, movie, book, or other popular culture medium to works that already exist. I donít like doing that, but sometimes a work makes it clear that you should compare it to another work or at least acknowledge the original. Wade Hixtonís Counter Punch is an original work that is a very solid good game on a whole and defintely worth playing for all of the Punch-Out!! fans out there and fans of the genre. At the $19.99 budget price the game is a worthy purchase, even if the length and the controls keep it from greatness.

final score 7.5/10

Staff Avatar Mark Martinez
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"Unless you're being ironic, turn that off."

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