Review: Panda Punch [PS5]
This puzzle platforming panda is a 16-Bit throwback.
We old school gamers all have fond memories of Bionic Commando and his extendable arm, less so of the PlayStation 3 reboot, but I digress. Still, here comes Panda Punch with his arm looking much like that of said, Bionic Commando. Does this plucky little indie Panda have the power to punch to a positive place? Let’s dig in.
Panda Powered Platforming
Panda Punch is the latest puzzle platformer from Ratalaika Games, developed by Ninja Rabbit Studio. Panda Punch plays very much like a SNES game that time somehow forgot. An attack on the main character’s home, results in an injury that requires his father to build him a robotic arm. As a result, he sets off on an adventure to defeat the evil forces.
The proceedings all play out in the typical side-scrolling manner with the prerequisite platforms to hop across and simple sprite enemies to defeat with your powerful new arm. Additionally, there are simple puzzles to solve along the way involving moving boxes and flipping switches. It all plays out very paint by numbers. Everything controls in an acceptable manner, though there are a few collision issues.
There are coins and special coins to collect in each level that can later be redeemed at the blacksmith, your father, to power up your robotic arm. In addition, you can also extend your health there, making dying less frequent. There are checkpoints in levels, but beware. There are many unfair hits and blind falls.
A View From Above
Panda Punch has an over-world map that displays all 58 levels and the 4 bosses that inhabit the land. Each level may be revisited to collect additional coins or missed special coins at any time. However, all of this can feel very tedious, as there is very little differentiation between levels and enemies. The soundtrack has very few tracks and often repeats itself for long stretches. Sprinkle in some clipping issues and spotty collision detection, and there are a few rough patches in this adventure.
Bosses play out in the typical way: memorize the pattern and repeat to victory manner. I didn’t find them to be overly impressive. Also, the bosses are damage sponges requiring a lot of hits to finally fell.
Yet, I still find the main character sprite to be nice looking and the extendable arm is definitely a cool idea that lacks implementation. Spots to swing from the arm, or the ability to grab and throw enemies could have added a lot to the game. Consequently, it all comes off as a bit of a missed opportunity. More enemy types, more robust combat, more varied levels, and a larger soundtrack could have elevated Panda Punch.
Panda Punch has a neat character design, and the beginnings of a good game but falters along the way. Too many issues drag the game down to banality. I wanted more variety in the game instead of the rinse and repeat presented here. For old school gamers who long for the simplicity of the 16-bit platformers, there may be some enjoyment here. In the 16-bit era there were tons of mascot platformers that played much like Panda Punch. The majority of gamers though, will tire quickly of what is offered here.
Panda Punch is available from Ratalaika Games on PlayStation 4/5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Steam.
Review code provided by Ratalaika Games.
Panda Punch is a paint by numbers puzzle platformer that plays out like many games from the 16-bit era, just not any of the great ones. A missed opportunity as the main character is a cool design.