Animals do the funniest things right? Years of You’ve Been Framed have taught us that the little bastards act up when there’s a camera nearby. Imagine then how much fun and good times we’d get from them if the buggers were given their own game. Also imagine that they’re really cute and quirky and well-behaved, like us human beings, in little people clothes and oh, let’s make them sports stars as well, say, boxing champs. And they’ll have little heavyweight championship titles. Sweet, no?
But imagine, if instead of nurturing and caring for them, buying them presents, stroking them and so forth, we instead beat the living hell out of them? Imagine no longer my beloved readers, for I give you Animal Boxing.
This is the anti-Nintendogs, the PETA provoker, sure to make all the tiny DS teeny-boppers weep in their Coco-Pops. This is the game that will help kids to realise for the first time in their short existence that yes, animals on their own are funny, but it’s even funnier to ruthlessly batter their stupid, hairy mugs into oblivion.
Back to the game: You start off as a young guy/gal, six in total to choose from. You customize your character’s appearance — nothing too flashy, hair, clothes, colour, etc., and off you go. For reasons unknown, you move into an anthropomorphically infested village. Then, for some reason, never explained, a boxing gym opens up. Then, for reasons never made clear (again), the beastly village inhabitants get all feral and join the gym in their quest to become animal heavyweight champion of the world.
The question of why all of this shit went down will torment mankind for eternity, up there with the great unanswered questions of the universe. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Will we ever see Verne Troyer’s porno? (Now there’s an idea for a game). Well, we’ll never know, and quite frankly, who cares about the narrative in a game about brutally beating animals?
Bizarrely, you turn the DS upside down to play; I’m not entirely sure how this benefits the overall experience, as it would have worked fine right-way-up. The cynic in me says it’s so there’s another bullet point on the back cover, because quite frankly as nearly all DS/Wii adverts have shown us, certain types of people go nuts for this kind of kooky crap. Bless them.
All punches are done on the touchscreen. You tap the screen to jab the face/chest, a hook is performed by drawing a horizontal line, while an uppercut is executed by drawing a vertical line. D-pad or face buttons act as your dodging and blocking mechanisms. The scheme is sweet as pie and as simple as one would expect.
Problems arise pretty quickly, though, as the controls, despite their simplicity, are just plain sluggish and unresponsive. I was frantically drawing and scratching on my screen, in the hope of pummelling a gorilla back to the Stone Age. I was faster than Rocky, flashier than Apollo Creed, more merciless than Ivan Drago, and yet the flamin’ chimp still whooped my ass.
And, well, the sadist in me wanted things to be more violent. I’m well aware I’m not going to find hippo brains splattered across my screen, but a few bruises, the odd cut, maybe even a tiny drop of claret would have been cool. The funeral-like atmosphere doesn’t help either — the crowd is silent, the music generic and all the animals sound the same, displaying the same grunts and groans ad nauseam.
Things get worse, as the lengthy load times between the overly long matches get in the way of all the animal cruelty. Oddly, you can’t get a KO, only a TKO after you’ve flawed your opponent three times. If you can’t achieve that, it goes to points (where I so often lost to the damn ape).
Sadly, the animals (50 in total) aren’t that different from one another, so there’s no need to learn any strategy or mix up your tactics. This makes an already shallow title even blander. As long as you can tap/draw/scratch fast enough (and you don’t come across any cheating chimps, and the sluggish controls don’t impede you) you should be fine.
The reason it’s sad is because the game actually has fantastic artwork and excellent graphics, clean, clear and colourful, charming in a kids’ Saturday morning TV show kind of way. It just proves an age old argument: looks really aren’t everything (now I just need to convince the ladies!).
The truth is, Animal Boxing is shovelware, so it doesn’t cost too much, and it has a fairly clever gimmick, which should mean that enough doting aunts will by it for their favourite little ones. It’s just a shame then that those little ones won’t be getting something better than this.
I know we’ll never see a MadWorld-esque animal killing simulator, but outside of the awful Cabela games, we who choose to reinforce mans superiority over animals will have to make do with this. It’s just sad, really.