Punch Line review for PS Vita, PS4, PC

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: PQube
Developer: 5pb/Mages.
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No

The more I play Punch Line, the more it seems like the platonic ideal of a Vita game. By that, of course, I don?t mean that it?s the handheld?s best game. No, I mean that if you were to try to describe a game that single-handedly captured everything there was to know about the system, it?d probably look something like this. It?s Japanese, it?s a visual novel, it?s pervy, it?s about high school students — and, if you can look past the surface, you?ll find a game that?s surprisingly good. If that doesn?t describe, like, half the games on the Vita, I don?t know what does.

I?ll talk about the first part of that description first. As you?d expect from an M-rated visual novel, Punch Line isn?t the kind of game you?d want to play in public. It follows one Y?ta Iridatsu, a high school student who dies moments into the game because of reasons, and who discovers in short order that a) he, as a ghost, he gets massive nosebleeds and faints at the sight of girls? underwear, and b) if he sees underwear twice, he gets too excited, which in turn causes the world to be destroyed by an asteroid. As you can probably guess, this means Punch Line features all kinds of scenes involving girls in short skirts, and it constantly manufactures reasons why they need to be bending over.

I?m not going to lie, it can all feel pretty juvenile.

As I said, though, it?s important to look past the surface. Do that, and you?ll find that Punch Line is actually a little more complex than it sounds. This is because it?s made up of two parts: a visual novel, through which the game tells its story, and what it calls ?trick sections?, which are essentially puzzles that have to be solved. The trick sections recall games like Ghost Trick, where, as Y?ta?s ghost, you have to set in motion a series of events that help you achieve certain outcomes — i.e. you knock item A off a shelf, which sends a person to room B, where in turn they find item C that reminds them to go visit someone else. It requires a lot of trial and error to figure out the right sequences, but that?s what makes the game worthwhile. Admittedly, while you?re doing all that you have to avoid seeing the game from angles that provide you an unobstructed crotch view, but if you can look past that — and from the game?s point of view you should, since it ends the world — there are some pretty challenging puzzles to be found here.

What?s more, the visual novel sections aren?t as bad as you might expect. There?s undeniably a lot of yelling and gratuitous upskirts, but at the same time, the game has an intriguing mystery at its core, and the animated cut-scenes look far better than nearly any other visual novel I?ve ever seen.

If this all seems like an odd combination — a fan service-heavy visual novel with occasionally impressive visuals and shockingly good puzzles — it?s worth noting that Punch Line is the work of K?tar? Uchikoshi, who?s better known for being the creator of the Zero Escape series, which featured the same mix of drama and challenging puzzles. While the two don?t seem to have much in common beyond a creator, once you?re aware of the connection, suddenly you start to suspect/realize that there?s more at play here than meets the eye.

Of course, getting to that point requires overlooking a lot of stupidity involving underwear. And I?m not going to lie: you may feel embarrassed to be playing Punch Line precisely because of that. If, however, you can make it to the puzzles, you may just find there?s something here worth checking out.

PQube provided us with a Punch Line PS Vita code for review purposes.

Grade: B