Super Punch Patrol Review: Old-School Arcade Action

While 2020 hasn't been good for much, it has given fans of arcade brawlers a lot to get excited about. This year saw the release of Streets of Rage 4 across multiple platforms, for example, and now Nintendo Switch fans also have Super Punch Patrol. Developed by Bertil Horberg (Gunman Clive, Mechstermination Force), the game is an old-school throwback, complete with all that entails for the genre. Super Punch Patrol is slim on story, and has a pretty steep difficulty, but fans that miss the thrill of playing this style of game in the arcade should find quite a bit to enjoy.

The gameplay in Super Punch Patrol should be quite familiar to fans of the Streets of Rage series: players move from the left side of the screen to the right while taking on droves of bad guys. There are multiple playable characters, and each of the thugs you'll beat down has a ridiculous name, to add to the world's charm. Despite these commonalities, Super Punch Patrol does have plenty of elements that make it stand out from the rest of the pack.

The first thing players will notice about Super Punch Patrol is the game's unique graphics. The title immediately brings to mind Horberg's work on Gunman Clive, with a splash of MadWorld, for good measure. Fans of the former will be happy to know that Super Punch Patrol also features a number of callbacks to Gunman Clive, including references scattered throughout the game's backgrounds, and something a bit more notable, as well.

Super Punch Patrol
(Photo: Bertil Horberg)

There's a real charm to Super Punch Patrol's presentation. The designs of the game's various enemies evoke the kind of cliche "street toughs" that were all too prevalent in media that released in the Reagan-era. Dominatrixes, construction workers with vests and no shirts... it's like an '80s music video combined with a Claremont and Byrne comic. Horberg embraces that camp, giving players some absolutely ridiculous opponents that would have fit in well with other games in the genre. These opponents also have some really unique attacks, requiring players to come up with strategies, rather than just mashing buttons.

To take on these opponents, Super Punch Patrol offers three different playable characters: Anders, Nils, and Selma. There's actually a pretty significant difference between each of them. Anders is the slowest, but packs the biggest punch. Selma is the lightest of the three. Last but not least, Nils has the best attack for damaging multiple foes at the same time. That certainly comes in handy, as the screen can fill up with foes pretty quickly! Things can easily get overwhelming, but the game does offer two-player local co-op, so friends can take on the challenge together.

On that note, the game's default difficulty level might turn some solo players off. Normal mode has a pretty unforgiving difficulty, and once the continues run out, there isn't a way to toss in another quarter and jump back into the action. There's also no way to save, either, so losing the three given continues means that players will be starting all over again. On one hand, this certainly extends the length of time that players will be able to spend with Super Punch Patrol, but it also means it is somewhat artificially extended. Players will unlock new skins with each playthrough, and there are online leaderboards, but replaying the same stages over again can get a bit tedious, after a while. Fortunately, there are four difficulty levels to choose from, but they are somewhat hidden in the options menu, where some players might miss them.

Super Punch Patrol-2
(Photo: Bertil Horberg)

Weapons can help turn the tide in the game, but a lot of them do more harm than good. Strewn throughout each level, players will find a number of weapons. Blunt objects like baseball bats and pipes pack a solid punch, but they also slow down the player, allowing enemies to get hits in during the swing. The most effective weapon in the game is probably the knife. Its light weight allows the player to stab quickly, and it does a pretty heavy amount of damage.

Super Punch Patrol isn't the longest game, and replaying the same stages can get a bit tedious, but the quality elements far outweigh the negatives. The presentation is excellent, and it's clear that a lot of work went into building a world that pays homage to the genre's best. The thing about Bertil Horberg's games is that they often end up being some of the greatest values on digital storefronts. At $5, Super Punch Patrol is a great bargain for those looking for an old-school arcade brawler that can be played with a friend. For half of a roll of quarters, fans of the genre can enjoy a quality, throwback experience.

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Super Punch Patrol is now available on Nintendo Switch. A retail code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was reviewed on a base model Nintendo Switch.