007 373 5963. That’s the code, passed around schoolyards like Chinese whispers, to catapult you to Punch-Out!!’s final bout. You’ll whizz past Piston Honda, skip Don Flamenco and bypass the rest of the NES game’s vaguely racist stereotypes to find yourself staring up at the pre-tattooed mug of Mike Tyson.
Ding ding. He unleashes a whirlwind of blows and a barrage of fists, laying into your tiny brain-box with a toothless half-grin. You can’t dodge any of his punches, you can’t land a single blow and in a matter of seconds the bell has rung. Mac’s out for the count, Tyson is flexing his pixellated muscles and you’re reaching for the reset button.
You know you can beat this guy. One day. Just not today. You need to play from the beginning, learn the ropes, forget passwords and become a real boxer.
That’s pretty much how Infinity Blade will make you feel. You’ll get to the end boss in about half an hour of play. You’ve dashed through the lush countryside, scaled the castle walls and dispatched a few henchmen, and you’re already gearing up for the game’s final battle. You’ve hardly begun to master the combat, you’ve barely scratched the surface of the hefty armoury and you’re already at the big evil bad guy, the so called “God King”, the dude who killed your dad 20-odd years ago. Well, alright then. Have at you, scum.
Fighting in Infinity Blade is all about dodging, blocking and parrying your opponent’s blows to open up a slim opportunity to inflict damage. You’ll get the best results with a parry, which has you meeting blade with blade to counter an enemy’s attack. Pull off a couple of those, and you’ll have a few choice seconds to lay into his exposed flesh.
You can dodge attacks, but juke the wrong way and you’ll get chopped down. You can block attacks, but if your shield isn’t up to snuff the blade will go right through. Parrying striking your finger across the touch-screen to meet incoming attacks is where it’s at. It requires expert timing, the right direction for your slashes and you’ve got to read your enemy’s tells. As the battle moves on and the cinematic camera sweeps to its next angle, attacks get more ferocious, tells change, timing alters and new moves are laid against you. No point trying to parry if your titanic opponent stomps on you.
It quickly turns into a smart series of attacks and dodges, working offence and defence together in harmony. There’s absolutely no room for hacking and slashing: you need to read your opponent and anticipate incoming attacks. You need to dodge one blow and parry another, knocking your enemy back before healing yourself by drawing a magic symbol on the screen.
It’s electric, the same sort of edge-of-your-seat thrill you get from the best Punch-Out!! brawl. When your enemy finally goes down in a barrage of touch-screen sword slashes, it feels amazingly satisfying.
Except this is one fight you won’t win. Like the 8-bit Tyson, the tyrannical God King has no hesitation in slicing and dicing you, making brutally quick attacks you can barely dodge, let alone parry, and wielding a blade that can rip through armour and shields like butter. He quickly finishes you off, plunges a pointy blade through your torso and goes back to sit on his throne for another couple of decades. Game over, the end.