Starting Punch Line, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My knowledge of the game prior to playing was vague at best. After playing this title, however, I can tell you that the wacky themes and gameplay are what you’d expect of a Japanese visual novel of this calibre. Punch Line was developed by Mages.Inc and published by PQube Limited. Originally released in Japan in 2016 for the PS4 and PS Vita systems and later released in North America/ Europe in 2018, the version of the game being reviewed here is the latest version on the PC, which was released 29th May 2019.
The premise of the story is that you play as Yuta, who has just been hijacked out of his own body by a spirit. The reason for this, well, that becomes apparent when you play the story, but suffice it to say the cause is because he looked at panties. Yes. You heard right. He has the ability to gain superhuman abilities if he sees a pair of the garments mentioned. But, if he sees two in a row, it has disastrous consequences for him, i.e., passing out in typical nose-bleeding anime fashion. But, in this instance, at the start of the game, your character was trying to be heroic and save the day when a hijacking on a bus goes wrong. After saving the day by putting himself in harm’s way, the soul-jacking event took place, and he’s been forced out of his body by a spirit.
This is where you come in. Upon returning to your home, you realise that your body has been hijacked, and we get to experience the core of the game as Yuta discovers it. You see the effects of being a spirit in a house full of women. Now, this isn’t anything out of the ordinary for a harem anime show (a main character surrounded by a swarm of females or vice-versa), but this is the style of a visual novel game. As such, the game is split into episodes, and each episode has a different set of tasks for you to overcome.
Now, this game is based on the anime series with the same name. As such, a lot of the cutscenes in Punch Line aren’t skippable, which can be a bit frustrating at times. But, be that as it may, you’ll begin with the story being set. You are a ghost. A sensei in the form of a ghost cat, Charnoauke, shows you the ropes in scaring the residents of the Korei House in which you live in order to increase your spiritual powers. After you begin to increase your powers, you’ll then start to coerce the residents into doing what you want them to do. Your objective is to find a book called the ” Nandara Ganadara”. With this, you’ll be able to get your body back from whatever spirit has hijacked it.
In order to get it back, you’ll need to line up “Trick Chains”, which are a series of events you’ll need to line up in order to get to your objective for that episode. Now, these aren’t all that hard to accomplish, but they can be tricky if you don’t plan things out well. Being a ghost, your spirit level can only muster enough strength to do a certain number of spooky events. Get this wrong, and the world will end…by a giant meteor.
If that wasn’t bad enough, you’ll also have to avoid the panties of the residents too. Yes, the camera angles can get pretty low, and when you see them, the camera automatically zooms in. Do your best to avoid this as you’ll have a gauge that skyrockets upon seeing panties. If you let this gauge get too high, you’ll incur a penalty. Do this twice, and it’s game over. This can be reversed, and you’ll end up at the start of the trick chain event.
The characters in a visual story are what make the game compelling to play. If you can’t get on-board with them, then the story surrounding them will not be engaging. Good job in this story that all the characters are compelling to explore and have a sense of presence. In other words, they’re not just there to fill something onto the screen. The residents are as follows:
- Mikatan Narugino- the airheaded pop idol (alter ego: Strange Juice)
- Ito Hikiotani- shut-in gamer
- Meika Daihatsu- landlady/science genius
- Rabura Chichibu- fake spiritual medium
- Charanosuke- ghost cat
Each of these characters all help to progress the story by explaining backstories, etc., etc. There are genuine moments where the story does take serious turns that mix up into the wacky, crazy world of Punch Line. There is a certain event where Rabura nearly gets arrested and is feeling down, and you’ll see the other residents try and cheer her up through thoughtful gestures and a pigeon mask (I really couldn’t make this stuff up). The pacing of the story is slow to start and gets more ramped up the further you go with twists and turns lurking around every corner the more you play and revealing more of the story as you go.
In my conclusion for my review of Punch Line, it’s a visual novel that has its source material from the anime show with the same name. The plot is crazy bonkers and will have you guessing what’ll happen next. But for anyone who isn’t a fan of the anime style of storytelling, you’ll probably find little to enjoy. Even though the fan service is in here, it isn’t used as a means to belittle the characters and is a reflection on the main character’s altruistic qualities to be a decent guy in the weird situation he’s found himself in. The gameplay is fun enough, and even though the puzzles aren’t all that complex, you will get straight back to the story quickly enough.
Publisher: PQube Limited
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita
Release Date: 23rd May 2019