Black & Bruised
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In the end, it all comes down to your boxing prowess (and hand coordination) to execute a solid strategy to excel. Fighters can also make use of various power-ups which periodically become accessible during the match. Players must successfully execute ten punches against an opponent in order to acquire the power-up. At that point, they have the option to select it immediately or upgrade its potency by continuing to pummel the opponent. Power-ups can be upgraded to Level 2 or 3, giving players an enhanced offensive advantage. Various effects consist of regenerating your boxer's energy, stunning your opponent, or sending them flying back to the mat with their entire life bar drained to zero. It all comes down to knowing when it's best to level up, or go in for the down-and-dirty quick strike. Power-ups are anything but a lame gimmick here, as you'll discover in the more advanced levels, especially during the Story Mode ("Boxer's Life").
On the average difficulty setting, even an experienced player who's perhaps played through Ready 2 Rumble or Super Punch-Out!! will encounter a relatively solid challenge. It's definitely more challenging when you knock the setting up a notch or two. At that point, the bouts will make you feel more like the guest of punishment than the host. If you don't want your ego (and your character) to get knocked around, you probably want to try out a brief session in the training mode to hone your skills and learn various button commands for your specific character.
While the character models are certainly a huge improvement (for all the obvious reasons, moving from handheld to console), their movements could have been a bit more fluid. Despite the boxers being blessed with that cel-shaded look, Fred and Barney move more gracefully than these guys any day of the week. There just isn't enough surreal body language in place to make them look truly lifelike. I want to see body parts moving - and I don't just mean breasts (which for some odd reason seem to be pretty static) but muscles and other areas which signify movement or collision with other objects. To me, that demonstrates the integrity of a true well-animated game. These still are polygons after all.
There are a few subtle effects thrown in. Over the course of time as characters incur damage, it is signified by bruising on their faces. It would've been cool, however, to also see them limping about or something to illustrate "Hey, I am in pain." The control interface is considerably solid on the GameCube (I'd imagine having a much easier time whiffing button commands on a PSone pad, but that's just me). Should the default configuration prove to be somewhat cumbersome, there's an option to map the buttons according to your specifications.
Black & Bruised contains enough substance and style for players who've been awaiting a new arcade boxing installment to come around. It's still a mystery why we've yet to see one arrive from the Big N, but it's refreshing to see another developer get in the mix to get the genre in motion again.
Article originally published on The Next Level