WALKING DOWN THE STREET, I GET PUNCHED.
Much as such an act of unexpected violence would serve as an assault on the senses, every sensory interaction with Get Punched is an assault on the player: from the aggressive soundtrack to the predominantly black and pink visual theme; from the spurts of pixels that accompany scenery destruction to the very method of controlling the player character, there is something simple in a primal way about all of Get Punched and it is compelling in a way that a more “complex” game could not possibly hope to be.
On the surface, it would seem that the game is little more than a case of strolling one’s character across the screen in an attempt to get closer to strangers upon whom to unleash and unexplained aggression with a tap of the Z key. This surface impression of a lack of depth in the games systems is a fair one to people to make, and is a difficult one to challenge: anyone with a desire to make such a challenge, however, is missing the point completely. This is a game about senseless violence in the face of the player character’s repressed anger. Much was made of Hotline Miami‘s supposed exploration of the depths of the repression of the subconscious possible when one commits horrible acts, but I can’t help but feel that Get Punched taps into something far more fundamental, far more relatable for a wider range of people: though perhaps a simplification of what the punk movement was about, the game asks the question “what can anger drive us to do? What is it that irrationality does to us?”
After all, who among us has not, at some point, wished that the could simply let loose of all of the emotional responses that they have had to hold back for the sake of the social contract; the expectations that others have of us if we wish to be percieved as well-adjusted human beings? Who hasn’t wished that they could scream “get fucked” or “eat shit” or any obscenity of choice at something that has caused us stress? It is undeniably part of the human condition, and one that Get Punched plays to in a wonderful manner: it doesn’t just play to it, but makes it incredibly satisfying. A single punch can be sufficient to launch a non-player character across the screen and do damage to cars and lamp posts, with the difficulty and scale of the things than can have damage wrought upon them increasing with each Double Dragon-style level that the player passes through. That flashing “go” in the upper right: that is confirmation that, for a while at least, your desire to destroy has been sated; a moment of calm before the secondary or tertiary storm that you knew to be inevitable.
We see games that are developed over the course of years that fail to engage with the player on any meaningful emotional level: to know that this is a game that was developed over the course of twelve hours and speaks to readily to a part of the human condition that games tend to be cautious about approaching for fear of being accused of perpetuating violence in the real world makes it a special experience, if simple and repetitive. Simple and repetitive, though, can often be an indication of truth and passion. Creation from the heart: all the proof required to know that the punk spirit is not dead, and that it brings wonderful things to this medium.