Test: One-Punch Man: World hits the wallet

But what does One-Punch Man originally tell? Webcomic started by writer ONE in 2009, taken over and reworked in manga format by the brilliant artist Yusuke Murata (Eyeshield 21), this parody of the superhero genre follows Saitama, a powerful but somewhat depressed bald hero capable of annihilating any monster with a single punch. Life is particularly dull for such a powerful character and aside from sales in the vegetable section, nothing else really catches his attention. While humor remains prevalent, the plot eventually moves away from the all-powerful bald man to observe the daily lives of the sidekicks, the peripheral characters that populate ONE’s universe, who are far from invincible and whose existence is disrupted by Saitama. One-Punch Man: World follows this approach by focusing on Lightning Max, a professional hero of rank A, pretty strong (but far from the top), with whom we will go out into the city to accomplish some missions, beat up some nasty creatures, reassure the civilians, and create the best team possible. Avengers, hold on to your underwear.

Lost in the First Place

Right from the introduction, One-Punch Man: World shows its cunning. Perfect World Games faithfully reproduces the fourth chapter – and first episode of the animated series – in every detail. Snoring like a baby, Saitama dreams of finding opponents worthy of him, the terrible golems of the underground world, engaging in an epic battle that devastates the city until it becomes a wasteland covered in lava; our bald hero wakes up at the climax, and realizes, with the greatest horror, that this thrilling confrontation was just pure fiction. The structure of One-Punch Man: World becomes almost meta: after an epic boss fight finely staged (with plenty of relevant QTEs à la Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm), we find ourselves in Lightning Max’s shoes, beating the pavement to engage with third-rate fighters. Instant letdown.

Already, it’s depressing since Perfect World Games proves that a linear action game would be perfectly feasible, it’s just that no publisher wants to invest in a premium experience rather than a derivative product primarily designed to drain our bank accounts. The controls are easy to pick up. Each character has a basic attack and several special moves, often with a unique resource gauge to influence the gameplay. One-Punch Man: World still makes a point to create a truly unique gameplay for each recruitable hero. The cyborg Genos deploys a great firepower at a distance that must be charged with his different skills, the heroine Three-Section Staff Lily can transform herself once her gauge is filled, and the marksman Golden Ball must maintain an optimal distance to maximize the damage of his slingshot. All characters also have an explosive special attack, a pyrotechnic deluge where everything ends up blowing up (even when you’re using sticks). That’s for our dopamine.

The aesthetics owe a lot to the adaptation work of Madhouse on the first season.
The aesthetics owe a lot to the adaptation work of Madhouse on the first season.

As long as there’s only one enemy on the screen, everything is fine. One-Punch Man: World even offers optional bosses where the power of your team is standardized to only challenge your talent (and not your luck at the roulette). Problem: as soon as there are several villains, the gameplay collapses into a big cacophony. The mechanics are almost too precise when it comes to juggling between targets (knowing that the only way to change locked target is to click on an empty area of the screen without controlling who will be targeted next, which leaves the operation in the hands of little Jesus). The camera doesn’t help either; its proximity to the ground and its stiffness pose a problem when the screen is covered in special effects.

Prices with Several (Super)Zeroes

In fact, we quickly realize that One-Punch Man: World covers its flaws with an overwhelming flood of visual effects. Every menu is aesthetically extreme; a constant assault on the senses given the good twenty different interfaces to navigate. Between the multiple roulettes, shops, maps, character sheets and the myriad missions scattered to the four winds, it’s hard to keep track. The task is not made easier by the abominable translation, probably delegated to an algorithm, which chains anglicisms, incomprehensible turns of phrase, and literal localizations with a rare enthusiasm burning all hope of making sense of it other than through experimentation.

The horror only grows when we look at the economic model. Because unreadable text may escape me, but Arabic numbers, that I know. In the store, you can find material packs for 2.99€ (okay), resources for 22.99€ (you could buy a good game instead) and especially a splendid beginner’s pack for 99.99€ (my goodness). Knowing that it would apparently be priced at 999.99€ without sales. I think a video game offering “microtransactions” exceeding the price of a used car should never get an average rating in any publication. And I haven’t even talked about the monthly subscriptions slipping a few crumbs into your pocket, or the battle pass, nor the lotteries with a 0.3% chance of getting the rare character of your dreams… A scandal, even for a gacha, when you see that the competition (Bleach: Brave Souls for example) can go up to 8% drop rate on good days.

*insert nervous laughter*
*insert nervous laughter*

Between two calls to your banker, you can stroll through the “open world” that was a bit too praised in the promotional material, actually a few cities fragmented into restricted neighborhoods containing mostly a slew of mini-games filling the content of One-Punch Man: World, like a thematic whack-a-mole at the cinema. These digressions sometimes lend themselves to a smile and fit not too bad in the diegesis. It’s also an opportunity to get out of the permanent farm. But was it really pertinent to include an infiltration section at the hospital in a narrative episode about Lightning Max? Shouldn’t all this development budget have been poured into a decently sized premium game or a more readable mobile game, more focused, less dispersed between the checkbook and the hollow grand spectacle? A bit of an impression that keys are being shaken above our forehead in the hope that the clinking and the metallic reflections will hypnotize us while our pockets are being picked…

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