Touch KO wins some but also knocks itself out

Posted: July 26, 2009 in Sports

Boxing and fighting-related games are rare commodities when it comes to the iTunes store, and I can count on one hand the ones I would recommend. There simply aren’t many, and so much anticipation and excitement have been building for the release of Touch KO. While I would add Touch KO to the list of good boxing games, one phrase really sums up the good and not so good things about the new release—it has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, that’s probably not the ideal phrase for a game with high expectations.

Touch KO lands some punches, but it misses the knockout blow with a questionable AI and to a lesser degree, omitted features. The 3D graphics are visually high end, and it’s the best looking boxing game you’ll find the iPhone/iTunes platform. Complemented by a rap song that adds an edgy feel to the game and ugly looking boxers, attention to the presentation is obvious.

Strangely, one area that needs to be revisited is how boxers fall when knocked down which looks to be based on ragdoll physics. They fall in weird positions, weird enough that I would just laugh at how they landed—funny and unsettling is a phrase that comes to mind. Two other things of note is the lack of an in-game pause button and a replay fast forward option. The game does autosave starting at the beginning of the last round, but not at the last progress. In a knockdown, a replay is shown which initially looks interesting especially with flying spit as a punch lands. But, it becomes monotonous after while with no way of bypassing the replay.

The ability to choose the physical makeup of your boxer is really done nicely, but it’s the customization that stands out. Customization includes physical appearance, tattoos, gloves, trunks and shoes, and in the case of gloves, trunks and shoes, those can add to the physical strength in terms of stamina, power and agility of your boxer. These items are purchased based on earnings from fights won.

A variety of different actions are available accessible through tilt and touch controls. By tilting the device, a boxer can dodge left or right to avoid punches. The touch controls allows for jabs, upper cuts, hooks and blocking, and the mechanics used are responsive and intuitive. What is missing is the use of body shots, which is a key element for boxing games, let alone boxing as a sport. Also, lacking is the ability to controls movement from side to side or even backing up. Currently, the game will automatically rotate the boxers, and for most part, actions are limited to punching the upper body.

Each boxer has a rating system based on power, stamina and agility which can be raised through matches, training, or as I mentioned before, the right clothing. Training is limited to choosing from a selection of options before a match, so there isn’t an actual training process. Depending on the clothing you choose to upgrade, this can also increase certain attributes. For example, shoes are for agility while trunks increase stamina, and gloves boost power.

Prior to entering a match, you are usually presented with several choices of opponents each with their own statistics such as win/loss record, degree of difficulty (e.g. mediocre, challenging, hard), and a comparison of power, stamina and agility. In addition, your boxer has statistics for popularity as well information on the purse for the match and potential popularity boost. It’s a well thought out layout that presents everything you need to know.

Here is where I begin talking about the gameplay, and unfortunately, this is a big weak spot for Touch KO. Each round has a three-minute timeframe with a 3-round format in the Amateur league and 5-round set up in Professional. A knockout results when a boxer is knocked within the same round. A gauge appears at the top of the screen indicating the energy level and permanent damage with energy levels recharging during a bout when a boxer isn’t taking punches. The weak spot is the questionable AI where the majority of opponents especially in the Amateur league where it almost feels like they’re allowing you to pummel them. For the first 8 matches, which comprise the Amateur league, the challenge is frustratingly limited. My matches didn’t get halfway through the first round before I knocked out my opponents.

When fighting in the Professional league, possible opponents are categorized as challenging or hard in terms of difficulty. I strongly suggest you choose the hard opponent whenever possible if you want a challenge. Obviously, you can fight the less challenging opponents to build up earnings to purchase items. The one noticeable difference with opponents classified as hard is that they block punches. There are literally seconds that tick away in rounds where both boxers are simply blocking and do not throw a single punch. Does the difficulty increase? It does slightly, but honestly the AI needs to be reworked if players are to be engaged in this game.

Overall, Touch KO is a good game that has potential. For the price, the graphics are done well, and the control mechanics while missing a few things, are responsive and intuitive. The primary issue is with the AI, and that really is one of the toughest areas to gauge because this varies by individual. Touch KO lands some punches, but it’s not a knockout.

Albie Meter: 3.5 Stars (the best looking boxing game available in the iTunes store but weak AI hinders it; for the price, it delivers cheap entertainment, but keep your expectations in check)

Check out my impressions at Toucharcade


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