Eat fist, skeleton.
There are few games for iPhone and iPad more action packed than Punch Quest, a lovingly crafted homage to 8-bit and 16-bit beat-em-ups that immediately brings to mind such classics as Double Dragon, Streets of Rage and Final Fight. Except in this case, the pint-size hero charges forward, and it's the player's job to keep this character safe from skeletons, spear-sticking ogres and other baddies while platform hopping across spikes and fire.
Several factors make this game entertaining, starting with the extreme intensity. There are no shortage of enemies, each one possessing attacks, from electric shocks to knives and energy blasts. The goal, of course, is to defeat these baddies in rapid succession. This ties into the simplistic controls, where the left and right sides of the screen uppercut and punch, respectively. The former is key, since jumping allows players to take advantage of branching paths.
Back to enemies, what's especially cool about pummeling creatures into oblivion is the ability to propel their dead carcasses into their buddies, wracking up even more damage in the process, and we love how the developers slow things down. As a result, players feel like they're in more control, instead of being at the opposition's mercy. At the same time, this winds up being Punch Quest's only flaw, since there are some hazards (spikes in particular) that at times seem impossible to avoid.
Not that it'll matter much, as you come to grips with the game's complexities and succumb to a two-pronged addiction, one that involves beating the previous score, the other amassing coins, which leads to another highlight, a wealth of power-ups. Most running games follow this route, but only this one lets you hitch a ride atop a rampaging dinosaur, or transform into a near-unstoppable garden gnome plowing through oversized bees. Factor in other highlights, like Super Moves, and you'll have more than enough reasons to continue playing. On a side note, Punch Quest includes in-app purchases, but you'll never feel obligated to spend money.
A retro presentation completes the package, and old school aficionados will love the 3D sprites, character models and special effects. So while it's true that Punch Quest would fit right at home on the Super Nintendo and Genesis, we're quite happy to have this superb game on iPhone and iPad. It's rare to see something this good for free, and with that being said, dismissing this game would be ill advised.
What's Hot: Skeleton and zombie punching madness, multiple paths, hordes of loot, game-changing power-ups, 2D sprites galore, free.
What's Not: Tough to avoid certain hazards and enemies.