Review: Doc Louis' Punch-Out!! (WiiWare)

What's your favourite WiiWare download, Mac? Mine's chocolate.

Before the release of the Wii version of Punch-Out!! earlier this year, rumors began circulating that a few "surprise" fighters would make appearances in the game. One of those rumors was that Mac would have to face his trainer, the rotund and irresistibly optimistic Doc Louis.

With the release of this US Club Nintendo reward to those who earned Platinum-status in the club's first year, it seems possible that the Doc Louis rumor was based on an earlier build of the game, before the idea for a separate mini-released caused the old man's excisement. The fact that good old Doc has three difficulty levels that are each accessed separately might even suggest that he was meant to be fought between circuits, an interactive portion of the training montage. And it really would have fit perfectly.

Instead, though, for whatever reason, our long-time-coming bout with Doc Louis appeared separately in this WiiWare release. And, based on the excellence of the retail release, this download is a great deal of fun.

There are three modes in which Doc can be fought: Warm-Up, Training, and Sparring. Each time you step up to the next mode, Doc will be granted a few additional moves to use against you. He will also become more resilient, and more prone to munching his health-restoring chocolate bar.

The game controls identically to the full retail release, which of course is a good thing, as it means your reflexes are read tightly and accurately. The music and visuals are on par with the main game, as well, meaning that Doc Louis' Punch-Out!! serves as an excellent (and not exhaustive) demo for the full Wii release. If only it were available to more people...

As per Punch-Out!! tradition, Doc will telegraph each of his moves in some way ahead of time, often announcing to Mac exactly what to do in order to avoid being pummeled. ("Keep em up!" or "Duck this one!" for example.) On paper, this seems as though the fight with Doc should be markedly easier than with those opponents who just wink at you or something, but the margin for reaction is pretty thin, and it makes you feel pretty stupid when you dodged to the left after being explicitly told to duck. Mac's knock-out never felt so well-deserved.

It's also worth mentioning that memorizing Doc's advice does make it easier to avoid certain punches in the future...but he doesn't always shout out the best advice, and there's more than one way to take this guy down. Experiment — it's often worth it!

The Sparring mode is the most difficult, and it's also the only mode that must be unlocked. Bewilderingly, you must unlock it every time you boot up the game. Unlocking it is not difficult, but it does seem like a very needless complication. Also, though your best times are visible as you complete each mode, this data is not retained the next time you play. This is a big shame, as whittling down times is the best replay value this title has.

But that's about the only negative thing that can be said about Doc Louis' Punch-Out!! It's a whole new boxer to take on, a brand new puzzle to be solved. The level of detail is great (we particularly dig Doc's golden-era leather gloves, and his expression after he says, "That's choc-tas-tic!" is priceless), and the animation is smooth and fluid. (Speaking of which, try knocking the chocolate bar out of his hand. It triggers the funniest moment in all of Punch-Out history.)

Also, this release is full of brilliant new Doc Louis quotes! That's worth a download in itself. (Club Nintendo, if you're listening, we want a book of inspirational quotes by Doc Louis next year, please. Thanks in advance!)

Conclusion

Doc Louis is no pushover, and neither is his game. It's fun, it's silly, and it's oh-so-satisfying to learn first-fist at the hands (and knuckles) of the man himself. While Doc Louis' Punch-Out!! might only offer an hour or two of content and has some curious omissions like a lack of high score system, it still performs an important service: it reminds people of how much fun the Wii version of Punch-Out!! was, and we're willing to bet that anyone who plays this will be immediately compelled to dig out that disc and fight through the entire thing again...this time with a little more respect for the chocolate-munching man in the red sweatshirt.

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