Available on PC, reviewed on Nintendo Switch
Developed by Bromio and 2think design studio, Pato Box is something just a little bit different. You play as Primo – known as Patobox to his friends and fans – a champion boxer who happens to have the body of man, and the head of a duck. Yes, you read that correctly. A man with the head of a duck. Frankly bizarre choices in character design aside, Pato Box is a game well worth playing with an interesting story, fun (if tricky to master) mechanics and a visual style quite unlike anything else I’ve ever played.
The game starts with a betrayal; drugged between rounds of an important fight, Patobox loses the championship and is then quite literally stabbed in the back. Left for dead in an alleyway, he is found and nursed back to health by Ms Faith Feather. Upon awakening, Patobox begins his vendetta against those suspected of drugging and stabbing him; the immensely powerful corporation and crime syndicate, Deathflock. Throughout Pato Box you make your way through the headquarters of Deathflock, facing down a combination of puzzles, enemies and mini-bosses in order to collect the emblem of higher members within the shady organisation. Once you have all of the emblems, you are able to finally face the head of Deathflock and enact your revenge.
The combat mechanics in this game are very simple – you have movement from side to side, a downwards block/dodge, and left and right punches (aimed at either the head or the stomach). Sadly, despite the game offering the use of motion controls, I found that I had much better control over the character in combat when I ignored the motion controls and instead just used the buttons. This wasn’t really a surprise to me as I find motion controls to be hit and miss a lot of the time, even with a great platform like the Switch. Despite being limited to the oh so old school option of actually just using the buttons on the controller (rather than wildly punching at thin air with it, like I was fighting a particularly combat savvy ghost), I found myself really enjoying the combat mechanics in this game – the old saying ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ comes to mind. Despite the deceptively simple mechanics, Pato Box offers a genuine challenge; traps throughout the levels are intricate and need some thought to avoid. Combat combines the classic fighting mechanics of a punch out game with a variety of traps and enemies, often thrown in for you to defeat alongside the mini-boss. There are minigames throughout the story as well, including smashing up rooms to prove your punching prowess, gambling away the small amount of money you have at the casino, and much more. Outside of the storyline, you can also play in Arcade mode, where you fight through the mini-bosses that you unlock throughout the story.
The visual style of Pato Box is incredibly effective – the game looks like a graphic novel, done in bold blocks of black with white relief and lines. The comic-esque style helps to create a classic, dramatic feel to the game that carries over to the characters and the story. I’m trying to think of the best way to describe this game, how it looks and how it plays. It’s almost like if the film noir genre, an old graphic novel and a duck that liked video games all got together one evening and, well… Pato Box is the end result; the weird love child of a combination of things that really shouldn’t work together, but somehow just do.
Pato Box manages to present the overused idea of a personal vendetta and do it in a way that feels fresh and interesting. The characters in the game are enjoyable; weird and dramatic in turns they help to flesh out the world and create stakes to what would otherwise be a simple – if still enjoyable – punch out game. Pato Box is one of those games that is a little bit special in a number of different ways – from the wacky character design to the bold visual aesthetic to the challenging combat; this is a game that isn’t afraid to be fun in as many ways as it can.