Format reviewed: Commodore 64
You have to feel sorry for Accolade’s TKO. Here was a game that bravely tried to create its own spin on Frank Bruno’s Boxing – itself inspired by Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! – and instead it falls flat on its face.
While TKO opts for the same boxer’s perspective that worked so well for Punch-Out!!, it failed to really follow any of the other rules set out by Nintendo’s boxing gem. Instead of the over-the-top characters of Punch-Out!! and Frank Bruno’s Boxing, TKO instead opts for bland, realistic-looking boxers, and in doing so, totally takes away any personality that the perspective might have offered.
The visuals are nevertheless impressive and there are some nice little touches to depict bruised faces, but it’s hard to become attached to your boxer and his opponent when they both look so utterly generic. The split-screen view, however, is a nice touch, and it’s highly satisfying to see your boxer’s blows fill the screen as he attempts to floor the opposition.
Sadly, TKO’s impressive visuals are the game’s only saving grace, as the gameplay itself tries hard, but just doesn’t cut the mustard. The biggest issue here is that TKO’s timing is completely out of whack, and while your boxer has access to a fair number of different moves, they usually land with the randomness of falling rain. You’ll often find yourself resorting to simple button mashing in order to get the job done, which usually turns out to be far more effective than playing the game properly.
Granted, there are several humorous moments – watching your opponent’s head crack back after a quick uppercut is particularly satisfying – and the two-player mode is something of a saving grace, but it’s just not enough. A boxing game – or any fighting game, for that matter – excels when it gives you a sense of control over what’s happening on screen. With TKO, lady luck gets far too much of a look in. Still, it certainly does look nice.