Punch Line (PS4) Review

PQube are well known for localising and publishing rather obscure Japanese games, from the titillating Gal*Gun 2 to the enthralling Root Letter. But, what would get you if you crossed the sexual mischief of Gal*Gun with the engaging visual novel style of Root Letter, then blended them together with an anime about a ghost who can’t look at girls panties? You’ll get Punch Line, from 5pb/MAGES!

What we have here is one of the most entertaining and silly visual novels I’ve played/experienced in a very long time. Spead across 21 chapters, Punch Line will have you crying through laughter, singing along, hit deep with the feels, and wiping those tears from your eyes. So, make sure there are no panties in your peripheral vision and let’s take a deeper look!

punch line 1

It’s not a good day for our protagonist!

Punch Line begins with our protagonist, Yūta Iridatsu, unsuspectedly having a near-death experience which causes his soul to disembark from his body.

Pre-Death?
Let’s back it up a little, Yūta lives a standard boring life with one small exception, he can’t look at girls panties – doing so fills his body with supernatural powers. I imagine if this sort of thing happened to everyone in the world, there would be a lot of people running around supercharged everywhere you looked! One normal, boring day, Yūta was caught in the middle of a hijacking of a bus which he just happened to be upon. Luckily for all the passengers, Strange Juice, a local vigilante, appears and takes matters into her own hands. However, the criminal overpowers our unlikely hero and knocks her to the floor – Yūta accidentally catches a glance at his friend’s purple panties and before you know it both Yūta and the hijacker have smashed through the window and into the waters below. 

After fishing out him out of the water, Strange Juice is so relieved that Yūta is alive that she didn’t realise the wind was blowing her skirt. We all know where this is going right? Yūta opens his eyes, sees her panties and before you can say “I wanna stack your buns”, Yūta goes into meltdown. His insides explode, thus launching his soul out of his body, and he effectively dies for all we know; as the screen fades to black. 

punch line 2

Thank God it’s only a game!

Post-Death:
Upon awakening, Yūta is greeted by a mysterious talking ghost-cat called Chiranosuke who’ll become your guide in your ghostly adventure. It’s explained that in order to get your body back you must seek out a sacred book known as the ‘Nandara Gandara’ by manipulating the female housemates through the various spiritual powers you’ll learn throughout the story. Not only this, seeing as you’re now in spiritual form, with someone else seemingly within your body locked away in a talisman protected room, if you were to see any panties at this point you would simply pass out and thus cause the destruction of the world! So don’t do it!

Obviously, at this stage, you, and Yūta have a lot of questions, but I’m not going to get any more in-depth with the story as it’s a great story which you really should experience blind without reading up on or being told about. All I can say is the game is filled with more twists than a 70’s disco and you’ll most likely not guess what is actually going on until it happens – which is awesome as it keeps you engaged and on the edge of your seat.

Also, based on the Wiki, as I’ve not seen the anime yet, the game supposedly contains a lot more content than the anime with things you’ll have never seen before if you’re a fan of the show. As such, don’t be put off picking it up if you’re a big fan as, unlike Danganrona, it’s not a 1:1 replication (although that was the other way arround, Game -> anime).

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There are clips from the anime within the narrative.

How to play?
Punch Line is effectively presented to us in three different formats over the course of 21 30-45 minute chapters which are delivered in the form of anime episodes. That’s right, each chapter has a brief visual novel or anime intro, then it has a newly created introduction theme song and title screen (like you see in every tv show, anime, cartoon etc), then we have a few ‘Trick’ sections followed by the final visual novel or anime and end credits video. So yeah, every chapter in the game looks and feels like you’re actually watching an anime, with the added benefit that you get to interact and join in during the puzzle aspects.

The three distinct sections are as follows:
Anime:
From what I gather, just like I’ve seen in other games, the anime sections are a mixture of scenes pulled straight from the actual anime as well as some new scenes. As an added benefit, all of the original voice actors from the anime are also present in the game, so no sound-alikes for the fans of the show out there. The production quality of the anime is great as well, it’s everything you would hope from a Japanese show about a ghostly guy who causes the end of the world whenever he looks at any of his housemate’s panties!

punch line 4

I’m not gonna leave any context to this at all…

Visual Novel:
Punch Line primarily is a visual novel (VN). There is a tonne of text within the game, all voiced albeit in Japanese, so be prepared to spend the majority of your time reading – just like in any VN. Also, for the impatient out there, Punch Line has all the usual VN options such as an option to fast-forward by holding L1, an option to auto fast forward through text you’ve read before (if replaying chapters), or the option to just auto fast forward everything for those who are silly and don’t want to engage with the awesome story.

The Visual Novel segments are presented in the new 3d graphics style. I love this art style as it’s very ‘Japanese’ in the way it looks as a whole and how it feels. It looks like YS VIII, Gal*Gun and Tokyo Xanadu eX+ style of artwork. Also, because the majority of the game is presented this way, and not through the anime (which does pop up a lot, but not as much as this), it means the game has the chance to branch off into new scripts and deviate from the original anime. 

punch line 5

Always coming up with great ideas!

Trick Shots (Puzzles):
These are the main interactive parts of Punch Line and they occur a few times per chapter in order to break up the anime and visual novel segments. My only issue with these is that they are pretty easy and if you continuously get them wrong then the game basically adjusts and begins eliminating the wrong answers! So, what do you actually do?!?

Scare their pants off!
As I mentioned above, as a ghostly entity, you can’t interact with the living, as you’re a ghost. However, ghosts exist in a different dimension, one which is void of time and space. As such, you can pause time, move objects and then unfreeze time. As you progress throughout the game, you’ll gain the ability to do bigger things like possibly possess people, but in order to level up, you must scare people. Scaring people is easy – you’re placed in a room with one of the girls just doing their thing and you must interact with a few items in order to spook them out. You can’t really go wrong at these points as there may be five things you can interact with and four of them will be enough to scare the girl – so it’s very straightforward. However, it’s easy to accidentally peek at the girls pants as you change camera angle!

Just like in real life, if your eyes catch a glance of the provocative panties, you instantly become mesmerised by them as you slowly get closer and closer, unable to look away or resist their alluring appearance! As such, you must avoid eye contact with the forbidden fancies by quickly shoving the control sticks to the side and pressing L1 or R1. 

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How can we get this book if we’re a ghost?

(G-)string along a trick shot:
Once you’ve levelled up and not spent the last 10 minutes stuck in a stare-off with all the girl’s panties just to see what happens, you’ll actually have the real puzzle to take part in. This part of the game was actually a lot of fun but also suffered from being too easy. You have a set number of ‘tricks’ you can cause which you must perform before doing the final trick (which is clearly labelled) which links them all together. For example, at one point you have to get one of the girls to read a note in someone’s kitchen. If you trigger almost all the required items then she may go into the kitchen to look for her phone and just walk back out and thus end the world! Alternatively, if you hide her phone under the fridge first, when she enters the kitchen this time, she won’t see it straight away and the story will change so she ends up seeing the note instead.

I’m not explaining it very well, but think of a trick shot in snooker terms, where you have a set of balls on the table and you hit one to hit another, then another, then another until it finally pots something – all because of the setup and how they all relied on each other to piggy-back off each other – this is a similar situation. It works really well and I had a lot of fun working out what I needed to do and watching the proceeding story to see if I did it right or not. If you get it wrong then you’ll be given hints by Chiranosuke and if you get it wrong about four times then all non-essential options will be removed so you literally can’t fail.

punch line 7

I had to look – for the trophy! Honest!

P-P-P-Pick up some panties!
As with all good Visual Novels, Punch Line has its own share of collectables and unlockables to find as you play through the game. You’ll gain access to the full soundtrack via the Extras menu upon completion and you can instantly return to any chapter you want and at any point within the chapter as well. For example, chapter five is made up of the intro, scare puzzle, trick shot, then the final VN section – you can choose which section within the chapter you wish to start at. This makes finding all the collectables easier.

So, what are the collectables? I’ll give you one guess… that’s right! Panties! you must stare at (and thus die) every single style of panties on each girl. This is my excuse for spending two hours after I finished the game just playing through it again as I purposely stared at panties until my eyes bled approx 30 times. It’s a nice easy platinum with nothing too difficult – plus you can get a double platinum if you pick it up on both the PS4 and PS Vita – or four platinums if you grab the Japanese PS4 and PS Vita versions as well. 

So there you have it – This review isn’t as long as my others but that’s because there is so much I want to talk about yet I can’t! I can’t bring myself to spoil the story for you and give away what actually happens later on within the story both mechanically and story-wise. If you’ve seen the show then I’m sure you’ll know what happens, but if you’re going into it blind then it’s best experiencing it for yourself. I will tell you that the feels will kick in within the second half of the game so be prepared for that – if you get emotionally attached to games, as I do, then expect some rather emotional scenes and events to occur. 

punch line 8

I need one of these masks!

Technical:
The graphical quality of Punch Line is second to none in the Visual Novel genre. The seamless combination of the anime and the 3d visuals work perfectly together and everything just looks so clean and crisp on the PS4. Another thing I loved is the size of the subtitles and the fonts used. I know it’s kind of trivial, but some games have tiny subtitles or ones that take up half the screen, some have silly and hard to read fonts and others don’t even have a background so it’s hard to read white text. Punch Line has a nice black background with decent sized text that’s in a really easy to read font that won’t strain your eyes – perfect!

I have two negatives with the visuals though. The first is something I’ve noticed a few times in other Japanese games lately as well. Sure, all of the voices and actual spoken words are translated, but what about the notes? At one point you have to read a note which has been dropped yet it’s just Japanese writing. Another few times you’ll write on a note yet we can’t read it because it’s also in Japanese. I know they can’t change the game but maybe a subtitle in brackets to tell us what it actually says?

Secondly, in the second half of the game, you’ll have some Americans talking English in the anime section. In a strange flip of things, the subtitles for the Americans is in Japanese even though they’re speaking in English. Seeing as I asked for English subtitles I would have liked it to all be in English. I believe this one may be a bug though, so hopefully, it will get corrected at some point. I just thought it was strange how it thought I wanted the English voices to be subtitled in Japanese at that particular point. 

Audio-wise I have nothing to say. The fact they got the original voice actors to reprise their roles is one thing but the sheer amount of spoken text within the game is incredible and it obviously sounds really professional and well done. Similarly, the music is awesome, the songs created for the game are incredible and the ending theme, which is performed by the idol group Iketeru Hearts, is great. I can say literally nothing other than praise in regards to the audio. Also, I love how Chiranosuke says “Nandara Gandara” – I’ve even put that as my email alert on my phone!

punch line 9

Again, I’m giving no context to this…

My opinion:
I can’t tell you how much I love Punch Line. I’ve played a lot of Visual Novel games in the past, I’m even working on another one right now as well, yet I think I can safely say that Punch Line is by far my favourite of the bunch. The game isn’t too long – clocking in at around 15 hours or so – and every single chapter was a joy to experience and play through with never a dull moment or any urge to skip the text. This combined with the infamous ‘Pidgeon Dance’ which will pop up a number of times and a few other rather amusing songs such as “I wanna stack your buns” and a rather amusing death-metal karaoke scene, simply makes me adore everything this game offers even more! I’ve not laughed as hard in any other game all year.

My one complaint would be the difficulty of the puzzles. Sure, it’s nice that they aren’t too hard or unforgiving, but they did seem like more of a distraction than actual puzzles due to the fact it’s harder to get it wrong and fail than it is to complete them successfully. I also fully agree with the game blocking all video recording and streaming from chapter 13 onwards (btw, chapter 13 onwards blocks the share button), but I would have liked it if we were allowed to still take pictures. There were so many awesome moments both before and after the block – I just wanted to capture them all! Although unlike Danganronpa V3, Punch Line only blocks the button within those chapters, you can still use it if you go back to early chapters, Danganronpa blocked it globally in the game once you reached a set point. 

Official Trailer:

Final Conclusion:
Punch Line is a surreal adventure where the fate of the world relies on a ghost resisting the urge of his housemate’s panties. If that sounds intriguing enough to you then you’re gonna love this game. At around 15 hours or so, you’ll experience anime, visual novel and interactive ‘trick shot’ segments as you work through 21 chapters of this rather naughty game! Each and every chapter will have you laughing out loud, singing along, frantically pressing your share button, and wiping away your tears as the emotional rollercoaster sets in and the game grasps your full attention. 

Both fans of the show and those who have never heard of it (like myself) will really enjoy the game with its hilarious writing and expanded storyline which is based around the anime but with much more content. All visual novel and obscure Japanese games fans should pick this up without any hesitation – also, trophy hunters out there are also in for a treat as it’s technically a nice easy platinum!

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A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Punch Line

£44.99 (PS4) £34.99 (Vita)
9.6

Final Score

9.6/10

The Good:

  • Great story filled with excitement, twists, humour and emotion
  • Amazing voice acting by all the original cast members of the anime
  • Perfect combination of trick shots, visual novel and anime segments
  • Expands upon the anime with more content for existing fans
  • Keeps you hooked right until the end - the story never get boring or old and every chapter feels like a new episode

The Bad:

  • Some on-screen text isn't translated to English (like the post-it notes)
  • The English speaking characters have Japanese subtitles for some reason
  • The puzzle sections are a bit too easy
  • I didn't get a Pigeon mask with my digital copy 🙁

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