Some guys can just pull off dumb hair. Keith Flint. Sonic the Hedgehog. And Don King. Itâ€™s not the Kingâ€™s effervescent personality that has made him such a successful boxing promoter â€“ no. Itâ€™s the hair. Next time you see a dude with dumb hair who looks like heâ€™s â€˜avin it large, go stand next to him and feel the power. Youâ€™ll see what I mean.
Don King has slapped his name on 2K Sportsâ€™ latest boxing sim for the Nintendo DS, as well as his face. As you play through, youâ€™ll get advice and encouragement in the form of little messages, which might be from King and might not be. Whoever theyâ€™re from, it doesnâ€™t make the game any easier.
Don King Boxing is not a bad game (youâ€™ll see the scoreâ€™s pretty good) but it is a very hard one. Kicking off with career mode, I battled the first two available fighters many times before I was able to best even the weakest. The control system is well thought out and forces you to combine defensive and attacking manoeuvres, so thereâ€™s no wild screen-tapping victories to be had. The enemy is tough in this game, so you just need to be tougher - and dedicated.
The touch screen is divided into four quarters, each side controlling your fists, and the top and bottom controlling where you hit or how you block. A jab is a simple tap on the screen â€“ right side at head-height, and youâ€™ll crack the sucker a straight right to his puss. To catch you slow-coaches up, tap low left and youâ€™ll left-jab the bread-basket. Upper-cuts (either top-side or down south) are performed with an upward swipe with the stylus. For hooks you stroke inward toward wherever you wish to strike.
After you've landed a nice string of hits, you might get a power combo, requiring you to tap and swipe in a combination indicated on the tough screen with flashing targets and arrows. If you're quick enough, you'll put together a three-hit wonder that will truly rock the other guy.
It all seems simple enough put like that, but be reminded that while youâ€™re trying to hit them, theyâ€™re trying to do the same back.
Assuming youâ€™re right handed, youâ€™ll move with your thumb controlling the D-pad and your finger blocking with L. The stylus is used again, in combination with the D-pad for drawing your arms toward the spot you want to keep safe. Just holding L is only going to block straight jabs to the head and hooks either side â€“ youâ€™ll have to move around if you want maximum protection.
All of this is taught to you by a long-suffering sparring coach. My recommendation is that you donâ€™t go straight from the rookie-ring into a prize fight, otherwise youâ€™re going to get creamed. The AI in Don King Boxing is fairly impressive and your opponents move and fight with apparent calculation.
When you embark on your career, after completing the mandatory build-your-character phase, youâ€™re offered the chance of practicing, training, or taking on an opponent. The training feature allows you to jump-rope, hit a boxing bag, etc, to up your skills. You are able to distribute points among four areas â€“ strength, agility, dexterity and stamina. Donâ€™t think you can head into the gym and beef up too soon though: all of the equipment has to be unlocked.
Also unlockable is the Classic Fights feature, allowing you to go up against big names for big cred and even more treasures. All apart from the first venue are locked at first (with famous venues such as Madison Square Garden coming later) and thereâ€™s even fresh trunks and shoes waiting for you to start winning. Combine that with the decent range of fighters to take on, and Don King Boxing starts looking like pretty good value.
Itâ€™s a bit of a slouch graphically. I donâ€™t really get the sense this is pushing the DS as hard as it goes, but I suppose allowances have to be made for speedy gameplay. Although at times the controls seem a bit unresponsive, often this is a matter of placing more careful punches â€“ and keeping those combos smooth, which can be hard under a storm of blows from across the ring. The movement of the characters and the rendering of both people and place could have been a lot worse, but sure donâ€™t shell out for this game for the visuals.
Oh, and how do you feel about Survivorâ€™s Eye of the Tiger? Like it? Good. In the menus itâ€™s all you hear. Fortunately, in game, youâ€™ll be too distracted with the boxing to worry about some only halfway decent sound effects.
Apart from the difficulty, this is a solid purchase if youâ€™re looking for a boxing sim on the go that has really stayed true to the spirit of the DS. This is the sort of game that, if it had come out during the handheldâ€™s infancy, game journos would have been praising for its use of the touch screen.