It took almost an entire year, but we finally get Punch Line on PC. As someone that watched the anime back when it was airing, I was looking forward to the game to see if it could expand on that story, to fill in some blanks. Unfortunately, it barely even does that and comes with so many problems on top of that that the wait hardly felt worth it.
Fun writing. The one thing that Punch Line has going for it is its writing. Just like the anime that came before it, it tells a completely ridiculous story in the most ridiculous way. It does this through a cast of weird, yet fun characters, tropes that quite honestly shouldn’t fit, but do anyways, and a setting that really doesn’t match the scale of the story being told, providing for a rather interesting contrast. If you’ve seen the anime already, it’s pretty much exactly the same, and for those that haven’t, just know that this is the type of story where looking at a character’s underwear for too long causes a meteor to hit Earth and wipe out all of humanity. It does have some pacing issues, but it’s so off-the-wall crazy that it at least knows how to keep one’s attention.
Tacked-on gameplay. One feature that sets Punch Line apart from other visual novels is the fact that there’s a small gameplay element to it. However, that gameplay basically takes the form of some dumbed down point-and-click minigame. You click on objects to interact with them and cause some sort of reaction from the characters, that’s really all there is to it. It is possible to fail though, by either running out the timer or staring at a character’s underwear for too long.
The most complex it gets is when you have to string together a series of events from room to room, but even then, it pretty much just boils down to aimless trial and error. Even if you do mess up, all you have to do is sit through a short cutscene of the world blowing up and reverting back before trying again. The gameplay doesn’t really add anything to the experience and honestly just felt like a way to pad the game’s already short length.
Lazy storytelling. While the story itself is at least interesting, the way it is told here is just lazy. That is because the game relies heavily on the anime that came before it. By that, I mean that there are several major areas in the game that just play sections of the anime back to you. In fact, the very last chapter is quite literally just a playback of the last episode of the anime: an uninterrupted cutscene for almost twenty entire minutes. If you have already seen the anime, you can at least skip these sections by holding down the interact button (something I didn’t figure out until the end of the game).
What bothers me here is that, instead of actually adapting the anime to the visual novel medium, the two are haphazardly mixed. I went into the game hoping it would expand on the anime, to fill in the blanks that the anime left behind, but it hardly even tries to do that. Sure, there are a few extra scenes and an epilogue that we didn’t see in the anime, but these new additions are so small that it’s hardly worth the time when you can simply watch the anime and get a similar experience. Considering that this comes on top of the filler gameplay I discussed previously, it really felt like the devs were just trying to milk the series.
Fluctuating art quality. While the 3D segments look fine, the game does have some fluctuating art quality elsewhere. One prime example is with the anime cutscenes. This is a game that runs at 1080p by default — the resolution the 3D segments were meant to be played at. However, the anime cutscenes are scaled up from 720p — the original production resolution for the anime. As such, they are a bit blurry by comparison, but if you’ve seen any anime released in the past decade, you’ll probably be used to this by now.
That’s not the only problem though, there’s also the varying quality of the cutscenes themselves. Some scenes are actually animated quite well, but there are other scenes that make use of extended still frames and two-frame animations, all of which are quite noticeable by comparison. Outside of these cutscenes, the game does make use of some blurry CGs from time to time, but mostly just sticks with 3D. However, even with the 3D segments, there was the occasional super low-res texture or two that just looked completely out of place against everything around it. The art as a whole really just could not find a consistent tone, leading to plenty jarring transitions and immersion-breaking scenes.
Atrocious PC port. Punch Line‘s PC port may be one of the worst I have ever had to play through. It’s full of all sorts of issues, some of which make me wonder if the game was even tested before being shipped. For example, the most glaring issue is the fact that the game speed seems to be tied to its framerate. As such, when running in fullscreen on a 60hz monitor, the game speed gets doubled, as it was only meant to run at 30fps. This results in super-speedy animation, faster dialogue, lines that get cut off early when using auto mode, and even a few gameplay issues. For example, when doing a timed gameplay segment, the time runs at double speed, and when entering the danger zone by viewing someone’s underwear, the meter rises twice as fast.
Of course, one would think that the game may offer a borderless window option to perhaps remedy this, but it does not. In fact, the game’s sole graphical setting is the choice between windowed and fullscreen. There’s not even a resolution option, the game is locked at 1080p and you have to resize the window manually if you want to adjust it. To achieve a borderless window, you’ll have to use an external tool, which is what I ended up doing to get the game running at its normal speed while in fullscreen.
The problems don’t just stop there though, the game also has some bizarre keyboard and mouse controls that cannot be changed. This is a visual novel that does not let you advance the text using enter or space, but instead binds that to D. Enter is used for menu and space is used for quick saving. There’s no button for quick loading though, you have to go through the menu to do that. Given all of this, I opted to use a controller during my playthrough, which felt a lot more natural and can actually be configured. That is no excuse for the poor keyboard and mouse controls though, especially for a visual novel.
All of these issues stack up and you’re left with one really messed up PC port, one that quite honestly should not have made it through QC. Given how obvious some of these issues are, it really felt like the publisher just wanted to get the game released and call it a day, which of course comes at the expense of those that were looking forward to it, myself included.
Punch Line does actually try to tell a decent story, it just has so many problems in doing so that it simply isn’t worth it. The PC port is bad, the art quality fluctuates throughout, the gameplay feels like filler, and the storytelling is just lazy and relies far too much on its anime counterpart. Really, the only reason to get this would be if you are a massive fan of the anime and are willing to play through it just for those few extra scenes. If not, then I would highly recommend watching the anime. You don’t even have to pay for it on Crunchyroll and can get a much better story experience that way.
You can buy Punch Line on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.