Genre: Sports Developer: Beam Software Publisher: Flying Edge Players: 1-2 Released: 1992
Let’s start with the obvious. George Foreman’s K.O. Boxing tries to be a Punch Out! clone, and it is a poor one at that, despite being ported to multiple home consoles and handheld systems back in the day. In single-player, you play as big George, and your objective is to fight your way through fifteen opponents in three rounds apiece to obtain various belts before the final bout for the championship belt. To preserve your progress along the way you’ll be given a short numerical password that you arrange in a box after winning several bouts in a row. Losing a fight will send you back to the previous opponent or will give you an instant “game over” if you end up losing to the next fighter on the list after you win a new belt. In two-player mode, one player controls George and the other will pick from the roster of boxers that have to be defeated in the single-player game for one match only.
The gameplay is pretty simple here with the A and B buttons acting as your left and right hands and the C button is for super punches, which I’ll detail momentarily. Pressing A and B deliver hooks, and pressing up on the D-pad plus A or B will deliver jabs. Both A and B are also used to get back up if you’re knocked down, so be prepared to hammer both buttons to get back into the fight. Left and right on the D-pad will dodge left and right, and pressing down will block, although you’ll still suffer a small amount of damage while doing so. Overall, the controls are excellent and always respond to your wishes. As I mentioned, the C button is for super punches, which works in a similar method to Punch Out!’s star system. Pull off a series of combo punches, and you’ll earn a super punch, of which you can store up to four at a time. These will deal large amounts of damage, provided you use them at the precise moment, and this is where one of the two of the game’s major flaws lies. Discovering that right moment will require repeat sessions against the same opponent until you realize that in order to inflict maximum damage, the super punch must be used during your opponent’s special combo sequence. In almost every match, the opposing boxer will step back a few feet and then step forward again and initiate a series of devastating punches that deplete most of your life bar if you don’t dodge or block them. The key here is to figure out through trial and error which part of the combo you need to unleash the super punch to do the most damage.
This leads to the second flaw of the game. George has lost a lot of his toughness in K.O. Boxing, as his punches don’t do much damage. It is impossible to win a fight using normal punches alone as you cannot deal enough punishment to achieve a knock-down while your opponent can easily beat you into the mat. The main strategy is to whittle away with normal punches, wait for the other boxer’s combo to use the super punch in and then go back to whittling again until you knock your opponent down or time runs out. Keep repeating that process until you win the match through multiple knock outs, or the computer judge awards a victory to you or your opponent based on the number of knock-downs and the number of punches that were thrown and actually hit. Once you’ve won all fifteen matches, you’ll be treated to a short ending and credits sequence before being sent back to the title screen. There’s no difficulty or options settings, so after you’ve played through the game once you’ve seen everything it has to offer unless you want to come back for the two-player versus game.
George’s boxing buddies in the game are an unmemorable and unremarkable roster of foes who all begin to look and fight in a similar fashion as you advance through the various matches. You’ll see the same body type with a new head slapped on them to create a different character and boxing styles with only minor variations to set them apart from the boxer that was initially copied. All of them have a vocal taunt they use at the beginning of each round of play and even these end up being recycled later in the game for other characters. Graphically, K.O. Boxing strikes between average and below average. While the boxer portraits on the HUD and match cards are well detailed, their representations in the ring vary between cartoony and ridiculous. Supposedly, the game was supposed to use digitized boxers until they were pulled late in development and replaced with hand drawn sprites, which could account for their shoddy appearances. The main area of play, the boxing ring, has the barest of details, and the ringside crowd sits on their hands throughout the matches apart from the occasional flash bulbs going off. Animations get the job done but again, nothing too outstanding here.
The sound department is one of the few bright lights as there’s a good selection of punching, hits and dodging effects. All the aforementioned voice samples are clear and what little music exists is decent. Despite being inspired by Punch Out!, there is no catchy fighting theme during matches, which to me is a strange omission.
Even though K.O. Boxing was an attempt to copy the Punch Out! formula, the developers didn’t replicate the fun to play feature of that game. Each fight feels like an uphill battle as you ascertain the pattern of punches, dodges, blocks, and the right moment to unleash the super punch that you’ll need to win, not to mention that this iteration of George Foreman can’t convincingly clobber anyone without relying on a special move. Boxing enthusiasts may find something to their liking here, but regular players looking for a good boxing game should keep on looking.
SCORE: 4 out of 10