If you're the sort who keeps hold of your old issues of ONM, have a gander at the cover of issue 30. You know, the one with the boxer getting punched in the face. That was our exclusive preview of Facebreaker, the game that promised to offer addictive and crazy boxing action, the game that promised to be the Punch-Out!! alternative we'd been waiting for years for. Unfortunately things haven't quite worked out that way...
We can appreciate the developers were trying to make a simple arcade-style boxing game which does away with boring technical realism in favour of pure gameplay. Ultimately though, they've created a game which is far too simple for its own good.
(Not) Boxing Clever
You have a grand total of four punches available, which can be charged up for extra power. The idea is that fights are an elaborate game of rock, paper scissors where you have to swing punches while attempting to guess and counter the punches your opponents throws. In reality though you'll find that it's just as effective to hold down the Z button (which acts as both a block and counter button) and frantically waggle the Remote and Nunchuk as if you were a death metal drummer.
If you manage to do this for long enough to build up a meter at the bottom until it says "Facebreaker", you just need to hold the A button while swinging to throw a punch that instantly defeats your opponent. Technically, you can win a match in about 20 seconds if you're lucky enough.
If you're unlucky enough to be knocked down, you're 'treated' to a dull mini-game where you have to shoot flying birds which are tweeting around your head in order to gain energy. It's funny the first time, but after that you just want to get up quickly and get on with the mindless waggling.
It's a shame because other aspects of the game aren't completely useless. The fighter models are detailed and the facial animations are impressive. There's also a nice selection of licensed music, though this being an EA game that's not exactly surprising.
Facebreaker obviously isn't a serious game and it attempts to make the player laugh throughout with wacky cut-scenes before and after each match. While there are a couple of chucklesome moments in there, for the most part the forced jokes are about as funny as being elbowed in the face.
Even the much-promoted Punch-O-Matic multiplayer mode turns out to be a big disappointment. It's just a slot machine thing which allocates random fighters, stages and game modifications: fight at a faster speed, shoot ducks faster than your opponent and so forth.
Facebreaker had so much potential, but what it offers in character and personality it completely lacks in gameplay. This most certainly isn't the Punch-Out!! alternative that we were promised all those months ago, but now that we know the real thing's on its way in a few month's time at least there's still a boxing game in the pipeline that could actually be worth buying.