Over the past few years, PQube has been responsible for a ton of great Japanese games making the journey west. The BlazBlue titles come to mind, but they’ve also introduced me to the world of the visual novel – with the excellent Steins;Gate being a great example. They’ve also shown great support for the Vita (BlazBlue still ranks as one of the best Vita games ever in my book), so I was excited when they announced Punch Line was coming to both the PS4 and Vita.
Part of why Punch Line was a title to look forward to is that it was written by Kotaro Uchikoshi, previously responsible for the excellent Zero Escape titles. Punch Line isn’t nearly as tightly written as those games, and it’s more of a niche product that caters especially well to fans of the anime genre in particular. It has some bizarre twists and puzzles as well, but it never feels messy on account of the writing being good. It’s certainly “out there”, but it’s good.
To prove that last point – at least the first part of it – the main plot revolves around you being a ghost with the power to end the entire world by looking at girls’ underwear one too many times. Yes, I’m not joking. But instead of going the Senran Kagura route, Kotaro Uchikoshi pokes fun at the over sexualized subgenre of anime this way, as you get thrown into “quick, look away!” scenarios on the regular.
That may make Punch Line sounds like a very silly and frivolous game (and at times it is), but it also has a tendency to turn pretty dark all of a sudden. There are terrorists plots, people who aren’t who they say they are – all making for a captivating narrative even when it’s a little all over the place.
There is an episodic nature to the game that provides structure to the gameplay as well. A scenario typically has you investigating a house (filled with women who are mostly innocent, but dangerous for the aforementioned reason), then getting your inner poltergeist on. This helps in powering up your spirit power – which you need to complete your objective for the scenario.
Punch Line certainly isn’t the most accessible visual novel-type game I’ve played – to get the most out of it I imagine that a good knowledge of the anime culture and the various tropes of the visual novel genre would certainly come in handy. I’ve played a couple, but still walked away with the feeling that I was missing some of the jokes and references. Nevertheless, the writing is original and kept me engrossed throughout the entire game, so Punch Line is certainly worth playing if you’re looking for a visual novel that’s a little different. If you’re only just starting out in the genre though, I would suggest looking for a different starting point.