April 15, 2024
Round 2 for World Championship Boxing Manager, but should the gloves have already been hung up? The Finger Guns review:

30 years on from the release of the first game, World Championship Boxing Manager 2 is out. Now developed by Mega Cat Studios, who have made a name for themselves in pixel-art indie games. With the likes of Coffee Crisis and more recently the anticipated Wrestle Quest, you can’t put the team in a box.

But what happens when you put them in a ring? How does a boxing management sim from the 90s get translated into a game of the 2020s? I’ll be answering all these questions in the review, but I forewarn you that this is the closest to Rocky V you’ll get without watching it.

Fight Night

Booting up the game, you’re greeted with the option to choose between Story or Career mode. Story Mode is described as an easier version of the game that helps you learn the ropes of the mechanics; so of course that sounded like the sure way to play.

From there on you have a few scenarios to choose from. These scenarios are based on a fighter, some of which are real-life boxers such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Rocky Marciano (who’s locked at the start) and more. I opted for the first boxer – Axel. This story centres around a dodgy manager with a shady past who takes Axel under his wing to be his prizefighter.

You’re quickly thrown into the story with a conversation between Jake (the manager) and some gangsters who are after the money they’re owed. Delivered with 32-bit pixel art portraits and text boxes with a voice-over, it’s a snappy way to get right into the “drama”. However, the voice acting is some of the worst I’ve ever heard. It’s obvious the voice work is one or two people changing their pitch when talking in character, offensively caricatured and badly recorded – as a first impression, I was immediately dubious.

Can I Speak To Your Manager?

So, the story for this scenario is set up. Axel is a rookie with a big dream, Jake is in financial trouble and sees an opportunity. This then takes us into what the whole game entails and what you’ll be doing for hours for a semblance of progression. You have a menu with three different facilities: A gym for training, a lounge for therapy and a clinic for medical aid. Each facility transports you to a background of the place and an employee you’ll be requesting the work from.

You’ll then have your schedule for the calendar month where you can book yourself into either pre-existing fights/tournaments or on a spare day book an exhibition/prizefight match – though those don’t really pay well. What you do with your cash is putting it back into training at the gym, upgrading the facilities or promoting the fights you booked.

In the gym, you have a huge list of training exercises that increase one of the seven stats for your fighter. When you’re picking the training for the week you have to keep in mind your fighter’s energy which decreases the more they train and fight, as well as their stress levels that you keep down with the right balance of rest or using the lounge for therapy.

Not a Knock-Out

I may have been too precious with Axel as his stress was minimum and his energy was always max, making my bank account feel sparse for hours. You start off the game on the 1st of January Year 1 and it wasn’t till June when I started to make progress and this was hours of doing the same clicking of buttons.

You participate in the fights you book again in a management way. Before every round you choose your fighter’s tactics from neutral, offensive, take risks or bide your time. You can also apply items after the first round to either aid in the fighter’s health or stamina bar. For the fans of the original, this may feel a little lacklustre as it’s not as in-depth in this game. If you’re a newcomer, it’s still not as demanding of your attention and by hour 2 of playing I already felt checked out.

You watch the fights in real-time and the opponents really have no variety in look. They’ll always have a smudgy tattoo on their arm or face, with green or pink hair and maybe some facial hair for good measure but I just felt dejected knocking out the same person, with the same tactic from the start.

I dipped into the Sugar Ray Robinson scenario to see how that faired by comparison and they attempt a biopic but in the most lackadaisical way possible. Ray also had much higher stats from the jump as Axel so I tried to push the fighter more in terms of stress and energy and putting more fights in his way as the first time round was too easy. However, I was laid out every time and it just didn’t make sense.

Through The Wringer

I bounced off quickly after that and went for Career Mode to see how that faired. You pick your manager that has their own bio, hire your own fighter. Because I completed Axel’s scenario I could hire him – this may be the case for all the scenarios you play but I can’t confirm. Funnily enough, this section was more tutorialised, and I couldn’t progress without doing it. At this point I’ve known what to do for hours because of the Story Mode – I digress.

Career Mode is definitely a more open and a conventional means of a management sim. You can hire or fire your roster of fighters, put on multiple fights for each of them and train them all simultaneously, managing multiple energy and stress levels. However, this isn’t now a different game I was sinking hours into with very little reward but instead the same lengthy grind for maybe a trinket that has limited uses to increase a stat.

The 32-bit pixel style is what appealed to me before playing but upon playing that’s the only great thing I can say about it. The music is just one song that you’ll get sick of as it has a 10-second loop. The game itself is a monotonous loop with very little reward for your time and it’s not in-depth enough to be the sim in management sim, but not arcade-y enough to be a welcoming package for a broad audience.

Throwing In The Towel

I don’t know who I’d recommend World Championship Boxing Manager 2 to. It’s a shallow attempt of a managing game that even those who like to grind, rising the ranks will be unfulfilled as it’s slow and cumbersome approach knocks any winds out of it sail. The game is slow to load into a fight, you have to navigate inside and out of menus that don’t respect your time and I overall never felt like I had a dog in the fight.

It’s a shame as the new style is appealing to those who like the current trend of pixel art games. Especially if you’re into your boxing but there’s just not enough to inspire you to keep you going. Not even the promise of playing through Rocky Marciano’s story. I wanted to like it more, but I just dreaded booting it up again to play more.

On the surface, World Championship Boxing Manager 2 lets you get into the minutiae of managing fighters time, training and career. However, even the 32-bit pixel art can’t quell any shallow grind that’s persistent making it an unfulfilling, rewardless management sim.

World Championship Boxing Manager 2 is out now on PS4 (review platform), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

Developer: Mega Cat Studios

Publisher: Ziggurat

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here. If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels. TwitterFacebook, TwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.