Capsule Review: Punch Line

Basically the anime punctuated occasionally by unengaging gameplay.

A visual novel with puzzle elements adapting the anime of the same name - but you’re probably better off just watching the anime. It’s also worth noting that both anime and game have a lot of cheesecake-style fanservice, since what happens when the male lead sees panties is an important plot point and mechanic.

The game aggressively mimics the anime’s structure. It’s split into a number of “episodes” that start and end with title sequences from the show and include a pair of ad bumpers midway through. The episodes themselves are heavy on story scenes, including some lifted right from the anime and some rendered as traditional visual novel dialog scenes. Gameplay segments show up along the way, but they are a small part of each episode.

The result is that Punch Line the game is basically a light repackaging of Punch Line the anime with worse pacing (what makes sense for an anime doesn’t necessarily make sense for a game) and occasional gameplay. This could be a worthwhile trade-off if the gameplay were enjoyable on its own merits, but it’s hard to argue that it is.

Your player character is a disembodied spirit with object-manipulation powers which you must use to set up chain reactions and cause certain events to occur. On the surface it’s reminiscent of Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, but it’s far more limited. There are generally only a handful of objects you can interact with and they tend not to interact with each other unless part of a designated chain. The chains themselves involve unpredictable human actions (for example, at one point causing a character to run out of salt will result in her visiting a particular other character to try to borrow some more, but I have no idea how you are supposed to predict that this will happen) made even more inscrutable by the fact that there’s no ability to inspect objects to understand and reason about them (from the same example, I did not recognize that the character’s bottle of salt was was a bottle of salt).

This results in more guesswork than logic being required to figure out what to do in what order, though thankfully there aren’t many red herrings to slow things down. On top of this, there are failure conditions along the way - many of which are necessary for various achievements. So even when you can figure out what you need to do, if you aren’t using an achievement guide the game encourages just trying everything anyway, making the gameplay even more rote - especially since each game over includes the same short unskippable cutscenes showing the results of your failure.

Anything good about Punch Line the game - plot, characters, humor - comes from the anime, and is almost certainly better-consume as an anime. Even in the game, you’re mostly just watching it anyway when you aren’t being periodically interrupted by unengaging gameplay.

I Stopped Playing When: I was ready to put the game down after the intro and first episode, but a couple of very positive reviews of the anime persuaded me to try a bit more. Others found the story compelling, characters likable, and humor amusing, and that could be worth dealing with the gameplay, so I played two more episodes. By this time I hadn’t laughed once, didn’t find the storytelling compelling, and didn’t like any of the characters, so I abandoned the game.

Docprof's Rating:

One Star: Not for me. While there might be someone out there who'd enjoy this game, I was actively repulsed by it or just found nothing to latch on to.

You can get it or learn more here.