Boxing is a tough sport to capture realistically in a game. The vast majority of attempts end up being simple fighting games, without any of the excitement or flair of a Street Fighter or Soul Calibur. Don King boxing on the Nintendo DS offers up an interesting premise – use the touch screen to accurately direct your punches and parries, and ultimately pulls it off well enough that it might just be worth a look.
The game is played through the first person, and is in full 3D. There's a wide variety of possible attacks and combinations possible through the touch screen – tap it for a jab, slide the stylus from the bottom of the screen up for an upper cut, and right to left (or left to right) to hook. The 'L' button brings up your defence, which you can then angle by sliding the stylus around.
In theory, it's a great system, allowing precise control over just where your blows land. In practice, it's a little clunky. Unfortunately for the Don, there is a noticeable lag between making an action, and seeing it translated on screen. Noticeable enough that it takes a lot of patience and perseverance to get anything out of the system. Until that time you're going to be jabbing the screen and sliding the stylus around the screen like a wild man, hoping enough random movements connect to win you the bout.
The game isn't pretty either, but then again, it's boxing. The character models are decently rendered, but overall the game is dark and drab, with some hideously ugly menus to wade through. The sound, on the other hand, is good. The commentator is enough in the background that he isn't irritating, and the music is a pumping variety of rock tunes (yes, it includes Eye of the Tiger).
Game modes are a little thin. There's a simple career mode, where you create a simple boxer with a few attributes and guide him through a series of matches in a variety of venues on his way to Las Vegas. There's an exhibition mode, with a series of classic fighters to recreate some dream matches, and there's a fun training mode, which features a series of rhythm and reflex games.
Don King offers up some nice challenge through a reasonable A.I, and there's enough licensed fan service to get a boxing fan's blood rushing. It's not going to draw a casual audience away from their Soul Caliburs, but that's hardly the point. A decent first effort at bringing realistic boxing to the dual screen heavyweight.