There were one-on-one fighting games prior to Capcom’s Street Fighter series, but Street Fighter II so nailed the concept that it unleashed a massive, ten-year wave of clones that rarely approached the original’s perfection. One of the exceptions was Sega’s 3-D series of Virtua Fighter games, and from that series, Sega created a simplified kiddie version called Virtua Fighter Kids. Funky Punch ($8) from Solus Games is an even more simplified kiddie-friendly take on that title, as well as other one-on-one fighting games, offering 2-D straight line fighting with cartoony 3-D characters and backgrounds.
The controls in Funky Punch are so streamlined as to be primitive—the stuff of early genre entries such as Konami’s Yie Ar Kung Fu rather than virtually anything subsequently released. You have an on-screen joypad, a block button, an attack button, and a jump button, which can be used in combination to make your character pound an on-screen opponent with hands, feet, and special attacks. Unlike the Street Fighter titles, which made fireballs, electricity and the like shoot out of characters with hard-to-master button combinations, Funky Punch makes these moves as simple as can be: hold the joypad in one direction and hit the attack button to unleash powerful short- or long-range attacks. Air combat is extremely limited—every character has a jumping kick—as is strategy. This is mainly a game of offense, and even then, it’s mostly button mashing; you can easily trap someone in a corner and completely destroy them. It’s also easy to win in the occasional 1-on-3 matches the game offers up against Emoticon-inspired single-colored adversaries.
It’s worth a note that Solus Games for some reason uses the on-screen joypad and buttons both for the game and for interactions with the interface. This is one of the only titles we’ve seen where trying to select a menu item by touching it doesn’t work; you need to use the joypad and a button to access it.
Graphically, Funky Punch isn’t impressive in an absolute sense, but there are some nice surprises; there are only a few backgrounds, but they evoke Street Fighter and other fighting game themes with boats, grassy fields, city rooftops and the like, using cel-shaded objects that appear to be 3-D using some smart layering and camera tricks. Similarly, the eight real characters and four simple Emoticon ones are cel-shaded models that don’t animate especially well or have great detail, but they’re not hard to look at, and like the Virtua Fighter Kids characters are all cute. A similarly competent but not memorably great soundtrack accompanies all the action.
Given that the iPhone has no other fighting games to speak of, Funky Punch is a welcome addition to the device’s library, but it’s also not a title we’d recommend either to fans of the genre or to serious gamers. The cartoony art, simplistic gameplay, and limited depth make this a good game to entertain kids, but not the sort of fighter that will satisfy real gamers, particularly for an $8 asking price. It’s a fine start to a great genre, nothing more.
Company and Price
Company: Solus Games
Title: Funky Punch
Compatible: iPod touch, iPhone, iPhone 3G