What is it with boxing games on the Wii all of a sudden? There hasn't really been any since Wii Sports and now, without warning, we've had a deluge of punchfests all turning up at around the same time. There was Facebreaker, which was pretty awful, and you've got Ready 2 Rumble Revolution on the way, as well as the much-anticipated Punch-Out!! from Nintendo. So why should you bother with the generic-looking Don King's Boxing?
In short, there are two main reasons. Firstly, it focuses more on realism rather than the arcade-style madness of its competitors. More importantly though, it's worth bothering with because it actually works, and works well.
The game has a pleasingly in-depth tutorial mode which explains the best way to hold your controllers and the best way to swing them to activate each punch. It's at this point during many Wii games that we begin to get nervous because, as any dedicated Wii gamer knows, the Remote and Nunchuk - as awesome as they are - are not as accurate as some games seem to pretend. This is a problem with games that require different types of swing because, more often than not, there are problems when it comes to recognising specific motions.
While there's the odd wrong punch thrown in Don King's Boxing, for the most part it's surprisingly accurate. Left hooks work 100% of the time, as do jabs and straights. As for right hooks and uppercuts, with a bit of practice we could execute those nine times out of ten. For such a selection of different swings to recognise, that's a hell of an achievement by the game's developers.
As a result of this, eventually you forget about the control system, making it easier to get immersed in the fight. Although the graphics aren't exactly the best we've seen on Wii, the fact your swings are portrayed so accurately means you genuinely feel like you're in the ring and fighting for your life.
It's also pleasingly simple to string together combinations of punches. Without too much effort you can link a left jab to a right straight, to a left hook to a right uppercut. Pulling this off is one of the most satisfying gaming experiences we've had for a long time. To cut a long story short: punching works really well.
That's only half the story, though. We're similarly impressed with the fact that the game also supports the Wii Balance Board. Simply put, it works exactly as you'd expect. While using the Remote and Nunchuk to swing punches and block, you can lean left and right on the Balance Board to avoid incoming punches, or bend both knees to duck high swings. You have to be pretty quick to be able to avoid the speedy punches being thrown your way, but we suppose that's what it's like in a real ring. If you don't have a Wii Balance Board you can still duck and sway by holding both block buttons and moving the Remote and Nunchuk to the side.
As well as normal one-on-one fights against either the CPU or a friend, there's also a story mode where you step into the shoes of a young rookie boxer by the name of The Kid and fight your way to the top of the rankings. This story mode is presented in the style of a fake documentary following The Kid's route to the top. It's a nice way of doing things but our one complaint is that you're not allowed to change the way The Kid looks. This wouldn't usually be a problem but the fact that other versions of the game (under the name Don King's Prizefighter) let you completely customise every aspect of The Kid means the Wii version feels toned-down by comparison, which is a bit of a shame. Don King's Boxing has rather appeared out of nowhere and we're genuinely impressed with what it has managed to achieve. The Balance Board support is great and we love the feeling of power the game gives you when you manage to dodge an opponent's hook and deliver an uppercut to their jaw. With Punch-Out!! still a few months away, this is highly recommended for fight fans.