VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! was a game I wasn’t sure what to think of when I saw it at first. I then got the luxury of the game being dropped into my lap as a review key. So I thought, why not go back to the old days of Punch-Out! and see how game design has come since?
Game Name: VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! Platform(s): Steam Publisher(s): Vanilla Gaming Company Developer(s): Vanilla Gaming Company Release Date: July 14th, 2023 Price: $19.99
VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! starts with VanillaBeast at a bar and then gets into a fistfight. He easily puts the perpetrator down and goes back to his business. An agent sees this and wants to recruit him for the boxing ring. Turning it down initially, after thinking about it for a bit, he agrees after he gets convinced due to the money he could make from it. Your goal in the game is to become the best and take down every boxer standing in your way.
VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! has a great opening with comic book aesthetic dialogue and animation. I will say, though, don’t watch the cinematic if you don’t want to see a bunch of naked ladies. This game is very prominent and, luckily, very transparent that it is an adult game made with adult humor in mind. There will be lots of adult-only content in the cinematics and even in some of the dialogue. There is a censored version that will skip certain sections and even give you warnings about what you can and can’t look at in case you are trying to stream or make content out of the game.
Older games were hard, but not hard in the sense that they gave you impossible odds, but that mastery requires a lot of patience and time. VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! is created with this mentality in mind. Moving through the ranks, you will have maybe one or two boxers that feel easy, then get lambasted by the next fighter in the ring. There were times I just had to give up and stop myself from trying to brute force fight the game. I went back to the training of the punching bag or the shark to get myself back motivated to try again. Luckily I will start to find a rhythm in the gameplay as I learn better which combos to dodge and which ones are better to block.
VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! is rather simplistic at its core. You use either the D-pad or analog stick to dodge (I recommend using a controller, and the gamepad works well.)and two buttons to hit on the left side or the right side of your opponent. You can push up on the D-pad to aim at the enemy boxer’s head and push down on the D-pad to block. You have limited stamina that increases with each successful dodge and hit you make. You also have PP or Power Points. When you hit an enemy right before they hit you, you can accumulate more PP, and by pressing R1 on the controller, you’ll unleash a powerful uppercut.
The characters in the game have a lot of personality with their movements and pixel art. It is very reminiscent of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! but also a lot more polished in its presentation. They have added a bunch of fighters that are parodies of a lot of personalities. The background audience members are also parodies of other personalities that show up during the fights.
The most annoying thing about VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! is that there are limited options for everything. No option to put on subtitles, no option for video settings, no option for difficulty options, no accessibility settings, or even the ability to remap control schemes. Some things get said during the training or even in story segments that are important, but you may not hear it, and without subtitles, you just have to hope it doesn’t matter. It is extremely bare bones. The demographic they are focused on is adult gamers who grew up gaming and enjoy retro games. However, it is without some of the quality of life adjustments of the modern era. They geared this game towards a too specific demographic, in my opinion.
There is a slight input delay when it comes to playing the game. I don’t know if this was planned or if it was just a product of uncertainty. Menus take a bit before recognizing you are pressing a button. The “Hold Action To Skip” segments also take a bit of time to recognize that the button gets pressed. It happens before the start of every fight, which makes it slightly annoying when you do finally get into the action. Even the home menu wants to do a sound bit first before it lets you have control of the menu.
Winning the fights can be satisfying, but the payoff for a victory doesn’t always feel worth it in the end. You get a victory screen and sometimes more of a cinematic, and that’s it. There’s nothing to unlock. You don’t get any boosts to your character for accomplishing the feat or any big change to the apartment room you are staying at. Having to go through 30 boxers to only get some payoff on certain ones doesn’t always make the game feel worth it to complete. Yes, the boxers are fun parodies, and it is also entertaining to see the new “Tells” that a boxer gives, but after spending an hour sometimes mashing through and learning the boxer well enough to beat them can feel hollow with nothing given to the player for the victory.
VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! is a really fun and engaging time. It is easy to recommend if you are a fan of the retro games and how their difficulties scaled, or just more Knock-Out! glory from the older days. If you are someone who wants to see more modern quality of life changes and how gaming continues to evolve, then you might not want to pick this game up. Also, if you don’t like difficult games that you can’t change any settings for, then also don’t pick it up. If you are color blind or deaf in any way and need subtitles, don’t pick it up. I might play some more of this game, but it will require a bit of time to let myself loosen up so I don’t get angry at some parody boxers.
VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! will be available on PC July 14th, 2023.
Review Disclosure Statement: VanillaBeast: Retro Knock-Out! was provided to us by Vanilla Gaming Company for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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VanillaBeast Retro: Knock-Out! is a wacky game with some adult humor and challenging difficulty as it adds a spin on the gameplay loop of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out! It takes some patience to get good at the game but it often doesn’t feel worth it to beat the next boxer.