After scouring the ZERO office for someone hard enough to review Sales Curve's new beat 'em up, Final Blow, we finally had to settle for Richard 'Float Like A Bee, Sting Like A Butterfly' James.
Boxing is well known as the 'sport of gentlemen', and what a league of gentlemen we have on offer in Final Blow! You choose one of ten boxers to pack your punches, then wack your way through the other nine to the World Championship title, facing a foe of varying skill each time.
There's Kim Nang, the vicious Vietnamese; King Jason, who looks like he's straight out of the Bronx; Cool Shaun, positively uncool with a well dodgy mohawk haircut; Krusha Kev, a dead ringer for the bloke who took a swing at me in the pub the other night.
According to the rather paltry instruction leaflet, the game can be adjusted to your own specifications. If you're a cissy you can have one-minute rounds, but if you reckon you're a dead ringer for Tyson you can go a full nine minutes. If you're a bit of a Joe Bugner look-alike (ever considered plastic surgery?), you can have one round per match, if you fancy yourself as Chris Eubanks' sparring partner, you can go nine. Unfortunately, the assembled ZERO think-tank couldn't work out the way to do this on the review copy we were sent.
Luckily there's a Knockout Practice option, so you can wise-up on your technique before the hurly-burly of the championship. First there's the punching a selection of jabs, swing punches, upper-cuts and long punches.
The upper-cut's the best, but you have to learn how to use it quite accurately from exactly the right distance.
Then there's the defensive manoeuvres, which mainly include learning how to keep your guard up effectively, or running away. If you practice really hard, you can make your boxer dance back and forth across the ring like a real boxer (although a tango is definitely out of the question) And that's about it, really.
Right, the lights are dimming... the crowd are baying for blood... let's get into the ring...
Richard: Donning my silk dressing gown, I entered the ring. The Ed had dismissed me as easy meat, so I had to take on the computer. Wearing an imaginary Robin Givens garter around my ankle (and dreaming that if I won the league she might ditch her film-producer boyfriend for me), I started the game...
Strewth! Good Lord! Did I take a pasting! And what's more, the graphics are almost as good as the arcade version! The pixels are largo, with loads of rippling male flesh filling the screen. The ref dances around, occasionally calling "break" when you and your opponent get caught up too close together. (Shame you can't take a swing at him if you question his judgement, though.) And there's a great bit when the boxer's gum-shield flies out when he's on the receiving end of a particularly nasty bashing.
The sound effects are nice and splurgy too, with loads of "oofs" and bone-crunching slaps as the punches connect, and the roar of the crowd is ever present. One vicious bast even shouts out encouragement in the form of "Give 'im a right!"
Tactically, Final Blow's fairly realistic - it's best to avoid getting trapped on the ropes under a welter of punches, otherwise you'll find it difficult to get your guard up and will almost certainly go down. Dodging and ducking is better than out-and-out brawn, so it's fairly evident that it's not modelled on Tyson's 'nobble 'em hard' style of boxing.
As there's no option to 'throw in the towel' (like there is in the more complex 4D Boxing see Deja Vu), you have to keep going until you're finally down and out - a position I got used to during the course of the evening. A better slayer, however, would probably find it fairly easy to bash his way to the top. It's a cruel old world. I even lost my Robin Givens garter.
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