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Software review: Contender

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 1, 1999


System: Sony PlayStation

Manufacturer: Sony

Price: $39.99

For those of us desperate for a 32-bit answer to the old Punch Out! games, we may have found our next opponent, Sony’s Contender for the PlayStation.

Contender offers no real-life boxers, as with EA’s recent boxing simulator Knockout Kings, but it does pile on a heavy combination of action, speed and, thankfully, fun. Choose from eight novice boxers to start and throw them right into the thick of battle. The controls are simple: two buttons for punching, two for blocking and two for juking. Two more are reserved for special moves, so there is no complicated controller combinations.

The fighters have as much personality as anyone on the WBA circuit, ranging from brawny to scrawny, and wearing tights, turbans and tattoos. Some boxers look more like wrestlers, and they all have their unique style. There are even female boxers who can put you down as well as any man.

The best aspect of Contender has to be the ability to build your own fighter from a green kid into a world-class champion. You may start with a quick weakling from Detroit, but every win pumps up his strength and endurance. And before crucial matches in your boxer’s career, your patch-eyed trainer emerges to show you a new move or two.

Contender has standard, yet solid options, such as Main Event (or career), exhibition and tournament modes, and while one-player mode can become repetitive after 100 or so bouts, find a friend to compete with and you’ve found one mean purchase.

So if real boxing just isn’t colorful enough for you, and you need a fun alternative to EA’s realistic effort, step into the ring with Contender.

Grade: B+

-- Robb Guido, Times correspondent


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