It's a scary old sport isn't it, boxing? Two men stand in a ring and smack each other about the head repeatedly with cushions strapped to their fists. They keep doing this until one of them fails over and then the one who didn't fall over holds his arms up in the air and tries to pretend that he isn't about to drop dead. Very noble.
So noble in fact that Mindscape, producers of quality spook software, have decided to give boxing the old 4D treatment. Thus, you closet fist-
OK, so the screenshots look a bit startling don't they? All triangles and funny shapes and no parallax scrolling or anything. It's enough to make your average beat-'em-up fan hide under the sofa. That's because vectors and polygons tend to imply (hushed whisper) 'strategy' and 'simulators'. Eek. Grown up games! There's no fun in that, matey, I'm off. But before you run away to play something refreshingly brain dead, hold on a wee while and find out just why a bit of strategy and simulation can spice up your run-of-
To call 4D Sports Boxing a boxing game is perhaps a smidge insulting. It's more of a boxing simulator. You control the creation of up to ten boxers, build up their skills, and then step into their shoes for the fights.
The crux of the game is the fighting, but emphasizing the wrong elements of training will mean that your boxer isn't prepared for his opponent and will promptly get his stomped good and proper. Not the healthiest of positions to be in.
So, you've created a boxer using the remarkably simple 'Create a Boxer' section. Fairly obvious. You now can enter your boxer - let's call him Susan just for humorous effect - in an exhibition fight. An exhibition fight let's Susan slug it out with a rival of your choice.
This has many advantages. For one it allows you to get used to the controls. Secondly it lets you suss out the kind of tactics you can expect from your various opponents, and thirdly you can afford to get beaten into the ground without affecting your league rating.
Once you've mastered the moves available, which is pretty easy, then you'll be ready to go for the 'main event', where you can get beaten to death in professional capacity, rather than as a rank amateur.
Going back to the moves, apparently you can perform a variety of showboat actions. These include jigging up and down, goading your opponent and generally acting like right old prima donna. Unfortunately, these only work when you press the second Fire button on your joystick.
That is, of course assuming you have two separate Fire buttons. As most people will have their Fire buttons linked to one microswitch, this renders that rather clever feature a bit redundant. Flippin' annoying as well, as I was looking forward to doing all those show-off moves. Gosh, darn it Mabel!
Anyway, you select your opponent from the league by judging their skills against yours, and then concentrate your training on those aspects you need to firm up on (oh yes, missus). This done, you can slip into some seductive silk shorts, step into the ring and have your brains turned to mush for fun and profit. Now that's entertainment.
In the ring, things start to look even more simulator-ish. The people don't look like real people, more like Dairylea triangles with attitude. They move like real people though, and that's 'cos all their movements have been copied from real live boxers. Yes indeed.
The most simulator-ish aspect of all, though, is the multitude of definable camera viewpoints. Yep, camera views. Now you may think that the last thing you'd want to do while exchanging blows with a muscle bound hulk called Bosher is to fiddle with external camera viewpoints.
Surprisingly, the idea works quite well. If Susan is being obscured by your beefy opponent, a quick prod on the function keys switch the view to give you a clearer idea of 'what's going on', as Marvin Gaye would have said.
OK, so things do look a bit confused when the boxer's get close and the animation can fling around and trying not to get leathered was quite a wise approach to begin with. And so that you don't spend the whole time waving your fists at thin air, there's a proximity meter that shows how far apart the boxers are. When they're in punching distance, it turns yellow and you can let fly with a flurry of blows.
Well, criticism time I think. The graphics are a bit iffy at times, as you can tell, and the boxers' heads have a disturbing habit of switching from little circles to alarming cubes for no obvious reason. This doesn't affect the gameplay really, but it can be disorientating.
Another gripe, being the grouchy git I am, is that at times the game can be very slow. Not during the fights thank God, but selecting options often leads to drawn out disk accessing, which makes the management sections a bit of a chore. And of course, the rather odd 3D approach may make some people think twice about buying it.
On a lighter note, the sound effects are really meaty with some bone-
The playability is the sticky bit. I liked it, personally. If you can look beyond the unusual visuals, there's a rewarding game in there. It's perhaps a bit easy, as once you've built up your boxers power it's a cinch to slug your way to the top ten, but the challenge of controlling ten boxers should go some way to make up for it.
On the other hand, a lot of people have found it extremely off-putting and difficult to get to grips with. Hmm. Nah, sod 'em. I liked it and if you like sports games that require a bit more thought then you'll like it too.
Mindscape have taken a risk with a game like this, and it's almost paid off. Not a perfect game by any means, but if you persevere you'll be rewarded. Give it a go.