With the success of games like JET GRIND RADIO, cel-shaded graphics have been the thing to do. Just take a look at THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE WIND WAKER. Yeah, a lot of people (myself included) bashed the game when it first appeared, but once immersed into the game, you see how beautiful the game really is. So with the releases of cel-shaded racing games and shooters, can sports games be far behind? Nope, and Majesco now provides us with the cel-shaded boxing game BLACK & BRUISED.
BLACK & BRUISED contains 14 characters that are available at the beginning of the game, and five unlockable ones found later in the game. Each of the 19 playable boxers are rated in four different categories: strength, speed, reach and movement. BLACK & BRUISED sports five different gameplay modes, including Fight (which is the regular matches), Tournament, Boxer's Life, Survival and even a training mode.
Gameplay wise, the game is fast and action packed. If you've played nearly any other boxing game, you'll be able to sit down with this one, pick up the controller and begin playing. If not, it still shouldn't take you very long to comprehend what to do. Combos play a pretty large part of BLACK & BRUISED, although the combo system does have its faults. The combos are obviously your best chance of winning, but it seems that you often miss many shots during combos. During longer combos, you'll end up missing a lot. The matches are typically filled with constant button mashing, and if you're facing a more agile opponent, then you are likely to feel the need to hit your opponent as quick as possible. The game literally has no elegance, and whoever has the stronger thumb will likely win in the end.
My main problem with this game really is the lack of finesse in the game. While Digital Fiction made sure to add a power meter thing where you'll get power-ups for successful punches, playing this game really is just a way to exercise your hands and not really your reflexes. Yes, you can block and all, but being on the offensive is the only way to win, and the only way to win is by pressing the buttons faster than your opponent. The Boxer's Life story mode adds some to the game, with you being able to go through his life and watch FMV sequences describing the upcoming fight, but it then leaves you with the same game.
On the other side, BLACK & BRUISED really is a gorgeous game. While the game doesn't really compare to the WIND WAKER, the game looks exceptionally great. The characters themselves look incredible, with the subtle shadows that really make the game look like a cartoon. The animation is done well too, and my only complaint is really the lack of detail outside of the ring.
Although the gameplay isn't very good, BLACK & BRUISED might be a little bit better game if it sounded better. Since when did hitting someone sound like dropping books? And the music is unfortunately even worse. Is it just me or does it seem like the exact same five-second track is looping over and over again? It's best to mute the game and play something a little more intense.
While the game is visually stunning, the gameplay and sound really bring BLACK & BRUISED down for the count. If you're looking for a boxing game, look at the ROCKY game. It's cheaper and a bit better.