Punch Line is a game that might be easy to overlook. Why? Its fan service. After all, its hero, Yuta, apparently causes the extinction of mankind if he sees a woman’s panties twice in a row. The save screen has the lead heroine’s butts in underwear as the background image. With Yuta set up as the only guy in a house filled with women, it seems like the ideal setup for a harem anime. But there is depth here. The game is filled with secrets and things people are going to going to discover as they play, noting that nothing is what it may seem to be. Which, frankly, people should expect from Kotaro Uchikoshi.
Its introduction offers a hint at Punch Line’s true nature with its various opening scenes. In one, we see three children with strange markings talking about death. Between these segments, we see our hero, Yuta, and one of his friends and fellow Korai House roommates, Rabura, on a bus being hijacked by a terrorist group called Qmay. A magical girl superheroine, Strange Juice, comes up on a motorcycle to save the day. Except one of the members of Qmay, Teraoka, remains on the bus and is about to kill Strange Juice. Yuta sees her panties, is powered up, and dashes out of the bus in a rushing tackle of Teraoka. Both go into the ocean. Yuta ends up okay next to Strange Juice. Things happen, which results in a soul evicting Yuta from his body. He then wakes up in Korai House with Chiranosuke, a ghost cat and guide, who explains he is having an out-of-body experience, someone else’s soul is currently in his body, the body thief put up talismans to keep Yuta out of his room (and body), and only getting a holy book called the Nandara Gandara can help set things right.
In short, it is a lot to take in.
But, it also suits Punch Line, because everyone is a lot to take in and more than they appear to be. Each of the people we meet has these secrets that gradually come out as they play. Some of them are more obvious and immediately available than others. For example, Yuta is reluctant to talk about it, but immediately discloses to Chiranosuke his abilities regarding powering up and the blacking out that normally occurs after arousal. We don’t get all the secrets, but we do know that something is going on here that is unusual and perhaps made him some sort of target.
It happens with the heroines quickly too. Within the first thirty to sixty minutes, you learn that Rabura is not just a friend of Akina, Yuta’s sister, who is a fellow streamer. She is also working as a fake medium, but comes from a line of actual mediums. There is also a hint at some sort of debt she has to pay and a sibling. With Mikatan, we quickly learn that she is Strange Juice the magical girl. (Though, her “transformation sequence” is really her just dancing around a room with a wand until she hits the overhead light in her room and makes her costume fall down.) She has some sort of special ability and has only just begun working to protect people and fight Qmay with that initial bus hijacking incident, telling reporters in an interview, “As long as there is evil in this world, my ceremony of punishment will never end.”
There is a lot more here to process, and there are some really startling and surprising revelations that eventually come along as a day of reckoning draws near.
Even the gameplay is more thought provoking than, “scare people, but avoid seeing panties.” Rather than a visual novel or even adventure, I often felt more like Punch Line was a puzzle game. The scenarios start out simple. With the first few Trick Chain sequences, it is impossible to fail. There are as many things you can do as uses you have. As long as you choose the correct final action and make sure you immediately switch the camera angle or move the camera away if there is a panty shot, you can pass it in one try. But eventually, you may need to put more thought into your decisions and actions. You need to think about your actions.
Punch Line is a game that has so much happening in it. Everyone has different layers, the plot has twists you may or may not see coming, even the gameplay may seem like it is a setup for some harem visual novel, but really might make you think about your actions instead. (Not to mention, it has some good one-liners along the way.) While this is definitely a fanservice game, it is also much more than a fanservice game.
Punch Line is now available on the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita.