EA tried their hand at boxing on the 3DO with Foes
of Ali, a decent and playable fully 3-D representation of the sport. The 32X and
Genesis received a far more specialized game, Toughman Contest. Though it looks
like Punch-Out at first glance, it's not. It is a weaker game overall, saved by
fantastic animation, heavy hits, and an enjoyable game of arcade boxing.
The Toughman Contest is famous for Butterbean, one of those boxers famous for quick
matches and slaughtering the poor saps that get in the ring with him. That's what this
game captures flawlessly. It's brutal and fast paced as the selected player character is
sent into the ring against multiple fake brawlers, and some celebrities (including
Butterbean and rapper Coolio). You climb the usual ladder, taking on each higher ranked
The biggest flaw here is the lack of 6-button control. Hard punches are thrown by holding
down either the left or right punch button. You'll throw a jab when you to blast someone
and throw a power shot when you want to jab. It's inconsistent and hard to get a feel for
it no matter how many practice sessions you're a part of.
The behind-the-back-via-wire-frame view is where the Punch-Out comparisons are
obviously drawn from, at least when looking at the arcade version. No matter which boxer
you choose, the green transparent boxer you control looks the same, so the lack of any
customization as far as looks go is not a problem. That's the only thing here that even
remotely makes it like Punch-Out. There are no patterns to memorize; it's all
based on reaction times and countering.
That seems fine for the first few fights, but as the difficulty ramp kicks in, things get
nearly impossible. It can be hard to see where punches are going to land, especially when
the faster boxers begin their onslaught. All the user-selected special punches in the game
combined wouldn't save you here.
That has everything to do with the requirement of an inhuman reaction time, and nothing to
do with this fantastic graphics engine. The 32X beefs up the number of colors and details,
especially where the backgrounds are concerned. There's a far better variety of audience
members in this upgraded port. The animation is the same, and that's no complaint. Every
punch is fluid, and you can literally read expressions of pain on the recently blasted
No music is present during the fights, and if the audio accompanying the menu is any
indication, that's a good thing. Instead, you'll be able to feel each hit connect with a
sickening thud. There's a small amount of voice work and some digitized whistles as the
ring card girl struts across the ring. It's not a special package, just one that enhances
the game and makes each connected blow more satisfying.
There are a few boxing games from the 16-bit era that are better than this, including the
sequel to the game Toughman Contest seems to mimic. The Sega produced Greatest
Heavyweights is also a strong match. On the 32X though, this is all you'll find in
the boxing ring, and it's a surprising and enjoyable arcade boxer worth tracking down
(especially over the Genesis version).