Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Thunder Ray, a short and sweet spiritual successor to Nintendo’s classic Punch-Out!! series.
Thunder Ray Review Transcript
Thunder Ray is an arcade boxing game from Purple Tree S R L, made in the spirit of Super Punch-Out!!, but takes the pseudo boxing gameplay out of this world.
You play as Ray, the undisputed and undefeated boxing champion of the world. After finding no more worthy opponents on Earth, Ray prepares to retire, but instead gets forcibly transported off world to compete in an intergalactic tournament against all manner of powerful aliens. The game’s premise is simple, but its dynamic presentation uses high quality motion graphics to pull you on board with its energy. You’re treated to cool introductions of each challenger as you progress, but there’s no further depth for the characters. Your gruff boxing coach and narrator delivers some enjoyable, if not uneven voice work, but the journey concludes with a rather abrupt tease.
The actual boxing is a fun throwback to Punch-Out!!, but with some small additions that add some strategy to each fight. Ray can dip from left to right, duck, and block by holding forward. He can throw punches to the head or body, and can charge punches for a short time to inflict extra damage. Opponents start off with attacks that you’ll have at least a few options to defend against, like blocking or dodging completely, but later those options dwindle and you’re challenged to react to each opponent’s telegraphs in very specific ways. Eventually you unlock a special meter for 3 tiers of super moves that can turn the tide of a fight, but knowing when to burn that meter can make all the difference. I really liked the ramp up in difficulty, and the bizarre fighters thrown at you take some studying to figure out. But once you’re locked in on their tells the game delivers on giving you an intense bout that tests your dexterity as well as your brain.
You’ll take on eight fighters in total, each having some unique traits you’ll need to exploit, like a witch who has a force field you must break before you can deal damage. Each fight feels just different enough, and the kooky characters you face definitely leave an impression. That said, the experience does whizz by. I rolled credits after just about 3 hours, and though matches are timed seemingly for the purposes of speed running, there are no in-game leaderboards or other modes outside of the main campaign. There is a harder difficulty level, but it appeared to offer spongier fights versus anything like new enemy patterns.
Despite the slim offerings in content, Thunder Ray is a true feast for the eyes. Character art and backgrounds are full of vibrant colors and personality. Movement and attacks are fluidly animated, with each frame clearly being given the same level of loving attention. Its sound design is also great, harkening back to actual arcade nostalgia with deliberately tinny enemy barks for their signature moves. That said, the music on offer did leave a little to be desired, mostly disappearing into the background and leaving no real impression.
The arcade boxing genre may still be a niche but Thunder Ray’s entrance shouldn’t go unnoticed as a spiritual successor to Nintendo’s Punch-Out!! series. It’s easily as eye-catching as it is tightly designed, and despite its short stay, like a good punch, you’ll feel its presence long after. The game is out now for $14.99 on PC, Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch.