The majority of sports titles in recent years have gone down the route of increased realism, incorporating features like facial mapping to bring it as close to the real world as possible. Knockout League goes in a totally different direction, recalling classic arcade gameplay for a simple but engaging fighting title.
If you are after some exercise, then Knockout League will have you covered – mostly in sweat. The tutorial is fun and easy to follow, and quickly sets you up for the procession of ludicrous opponents you are about to face.
One of the main draws is the comedic stylings of the contenders you are put up against, like a pirate with an honest-to-god hook hand. Early opponents are regular human boxers, giving you chance to get your feet under you and get the hang of punching, blocking and dodging. The latter two are particularly important as this is the point where you will realise that you need to learn your enemy’s patterns in order to succeed.
For the most part, adopting an offensive style will do you no favours, as opponents will cheerfully no-sell your attacks and punt you into the middle of next week with two attacks. You’ll be getting plenty of cardio by dancing out of the way of swords, hooks and tentacles waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Shades of classic Nintendo arcade fighter Punch-Out will be called quickly to mind, though thankfully Knockout League lacks the brutal difficulty of the former title. In fact, the difficulty curve feels about right, though frequent breaks are recommended – to rehydrate yourself if nothing else.
Graphically, it looks great. The animations are smooth and do a great job of telegraphing what attack is coming next. The cartoonish style works well, particularly for the various outlandish characters that enter the ring.
Curiously, there are little 2D animated biographies that you can choose to watch that give you some background on each fighter. It’s a nice little touch and somewhat unexpected for an arcade-style title like Knockout League.
Knockout League isn’t very long, but it has a pleasing rhythm once you have learned all the required movesets. There is some annoyance to be found, though, particularly as at times it doesn’t seem to matter where or when you hit an opponent, it doesn’t register since you haven’t struck at the mandated ‘vulnerable’ moment.
Aside from providing a fun way to work up a sweat, there’s not huge amount of point coming back to Knockout League once you’ve defeated all the available opponents. There is a fitness trainer mode that does a decent job at burning some calories, but its not the sort of thing that will hold your attention for long.
Overall, Knockout League is an entertaining arcade fitness title. As long as you are expecting the kind of arcade-style pattern matching and not a proper boxing simulator, you are quite likely to derive some entertainment out of Knockout League, as well as get some decent exercise from it.