reviews\ Feb 9, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Black & Bruised - GC - Review

Arcade style boxing hits the GameCube with Black & Bruised, a cel-shaded slugfest in the vain of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out and Ready 2 Rumble Boxing.  However, while the game boasts some aesthetically pleasing graphics and plenty of interesting characters, the gameplay just doesn’t cut the mustard and probably won’t hold any gamer’s attention for too long.  Although very pretty, Black & Bruised won’t appeal to serious boxing fans looking for anything more than a quick and simple boxing game.


In Black & Bruised, you choose one of nineteen boxers (four of which are hidden) and take them through one of the game’s six modes.  The eclectic bunch features such varied characters as a drill sergeant, a buxom female auto mechanic, and a Mexican wrestler.  All of the characters have very unique personalities and boxing styles that are nicely portrayed throughout the game.


The five of the six gameplay modes are pretty straight forward, but the “Boxer’s Life” mode is quite interesting.  “Boxer’s Life” serves as a story mode that is unique for each character.  These stories are panned out in FMV’s explaining the events leading up to and following each match.  These events not only serve for storytelling, they also affect the conditions of the match.  For example, on one occasion, your boxer gets in a car crash and bruises his ribs.  Therefore, you must fight the next match taking very good care not to get hit in the ribs.  The variables change with each match, sometimes you have to KO an opponent in a certain round or never let your life bar go below theirs and so on.  The “Boxer’s Life” is a little short, but adds a very interesting element to the game.


The actual boxing itself leaves a lot to be desired.  The game doesn’t feature a stamina bar like Ready 2 Rumble, so you and your opponent can throw all the punches they want and not get tired, leading to a lot of empty button-mashing.  Black & Bruised’s main gameplay addition is the use of power-ups.  As you pummel your opponent, your star gauge fills up.  By filling up your star gauge, you can collect various power-ups to use against your opponent.  The game relies too heavily on the use of power-ups, taking away almost any sign of strategy in the game.


The game uses cel-shaded technology, and implements it very well.  The characters each have their own attitudes and styles in the ring, which are represented nicely through the game’s graphics.  As they get the crap knocked out of them, the characters will bruise, get swollen cheeks, and otherwise show the damages of boxing.  The animations are fairly good, although some of the boxer’s punches look a little awkward.  The environments look great.  They feature a blend of 2D pre-drawn backgrounds and 3D moving elements like spectators, both of which are seamlessly intermixed.


The sound is a bit of a mixed bag.  The voice effects are well acted and add to each character’s personality, although they do get old pretty quick.  The other sounds are a bit inaccurate, as the punching sounds more like a file cabinet slamming than actual punches.  The music also leaves much to be desired, consisting of about 5 seconds of audio looped repeatedly.


Its got flair and personality, but ultimately Black & Bruised leaves the ring, well, black & bruised.  The stagnant gameplay will most certainly turn off serious boxing fans and everyone else should be satisfied with a weekend rental.


Reviewer’s Scoring Details


Gameplay: 6.5
The game lacks any real sense of strategy and ends up being little more than straight button mashing.  The use of power-ups is an original idea, but the game relies too heavily on them and ultimately, the experience is soured.


Graphics: 8.9
Aside from the occasional awkward animation, the game’s graphics are spectacular.  Cel-shading is implemented very nicely.  The characters move and act distinctively, each with their own attitudes and personalities.   The environments also look great.


Sound: 6.9
The voice acting is pretty good, but the rest of the sound effects are seriously lacking.  Plus the music is extremely repetitive.


Difficulty: Medium


Concept: 7.5
The game has a plethora of fun, creative characters, each with their own style.  Also the “Boxer’s Life” mode is a very nice touch that adds life to them.


Multiplayer: 7.0
The game features a two-player mode which is pretty much the most you could ask from a boxing title.


Overall: 6.9
Black & Bruised is certainly some nice eye candy, but under the surface is a pretty boring, simplistic boxer.  However, it certainly does have its moments, and the characters are really fun.  Casual boxing fans should be satisfied with a weekend rental.


Above Average

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