Comic book violence collides with the world of boxing in Pato Box, an unusual one-two that's made it one of the most intriguing indies to hit Nintendo Switch this year - in fact, we rather liked it in our review. But with a memorable anatine lead character and a twisted story to tell, we just had to find out more. So we took the chance to have a quick chat with the game's director Antonio Gutiérrez from Mexican developer Bromio.
Nintendo Life: Is it fair to say that Pato Box is a narrative-driven boxing game?
Antonio Gutiérrez: Yes, we really wanted the world of Pato Box to be really something surreal, and through the game we wanted to tell this story about this duck-headed man dealing with company corruption and greed. As a narrative game, we wanted to play with the absurd mixed with dark themes.
Where did the idea for the character of Pato Box and his story come from?
It’s actually a funny story. Cesar Arminio, a friend of mine who also was part of the development of the game, came up with the idea of the character when he was doing design work for a book. He got the instruction to draw, “duck boxing gloves,” the instructions missed a comma since he was supposed to draw them separately but he drew small duck with boxing gloves that serve as the patoken in the game. From that drawing, his mind went wild and started doing a small comic about this buff duck man called Patobox. After some time we saw the comic and there was no way we wouldn’t do the game about him.
How important was it for you to include a narrative?
It was one of the key elements when we started developing the game. We always knew we had to tell the story of Pato Box and one of the first steps was finding a way to mix fighting with exploration. In the first concepts, the game was going to be a click and point adventure with fights between levels and at first there wasn’t even going to be any 3D! But as the story of the game got bigger we knew we had to create a more immersive world and that's how the game evolved into what is now.
The art style is very distinctive. What influenced the aesthetic?
Comic book and graphic novels where our biggest influences, since Patobox started as a small comic, it was clear for us that we had to bring that same aesthetic into the game.
Since we wanted to maintain the same surreal feeling of the first small comic of Patobox we decided that monochrome was the way to go, it was definitely one of the biggest challenges when creating this kind of game, since a lot of the main game mechanics require the player to differentiate between the boss movements and the environment.
It has a very graphic novel-style presentation. Any comics or graphic novels that influenced you?
'Maus' by Art Spiegelman was a really big inspiration to us and also 'Sin City'. But we also got inspirations from classic cartoons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and even modern ones like Adventure Time.
What’s the balance between fighting and exploration/ puzzle solving?
We used the exploration as a resting point for the player since the fights of the game can become somewhat difficult. We wanted the player to take a moment and breath before challenging the next big bad or they were going to throw their controller to the screen. We also used a lot of classic games as a reference to balance the time spent fighting and exploring and we followed the classic formula of having a boss at the end of each level.
How did you approach the selection and design process of the bosses?
We started designing the bosses on the premise that we didn’t want to only make boxing bosses, we wanted to see how far we could expand the Punch-Out!! formula while staying true to the basics. We started designing the bosses background thinking of what the members of a classic mafia would be, but then we started exaggerating their professions to the point we have a chef and an exterminator, and from there we started thinking how could they use those professions against Patobox and that's where the crazy mechanics started to pop out.
How does the combat play out?
The controls of the game are really simple, you can dodge, block and punch. But what makes the combat of Pato Box really rewarding is the precision and timing of when you have to make this moves to beat your opponent. You can’t just throw punches around without figuring out first what is the right moment to attack and when to block.
It is a difficult game but after every loss, you learn a new thing about the boss and you can feel how you progress through the fight until you finally beat him. The combat also plays very differently between each boss since each one of them has their own mechanics - you are going to go from cooking to trying to avoid deadly lasers but always maintaining the same simple controls.
Was it important to you to integrate the motion control of the Switch's Joy-Con?
Yes! Since we knew we were going to be launching on Switch we started to talk about how we would use the motion controls.
Was it a priority once you got to know about the hardware?
Yes, taking ARMS as a reference we felt that it was something Pato Box could really benefit from them and make the Switch version standout.
What Nintendo games did you play growing up?
Whats in store for Pato Box in the future?
It all depends on the fan reception, we always talked about making more bosses, but only time will tell.
We would like to thank Antonio for his time. Pato Box is available right now on the Nintendo Switch eShop...