The mobile platform is an old-school gamer's paradise with developers going into 8-bit archives. THQ Wireless' The Punisher is a throwback to the days of light-gun shooters like Operation Wolf and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but the older games did a much better job of...well, pretty much everything.
Based on the Marvel comic--and, more recently, the much-panned movie--The Punisher centers around antihero Frank Castle taking out the thugs who murdered his family. You will spend your time shooting foes in several locales, including a nightclub, a pier, and an island resort, and all add a bit of variety to an essentially repetitive game.
Gamers familiar with the aforementioned shooters will feel right at home with The Punisher, though it is plagued with the same problems that home versions of those light-gun games had in the '80s. Last time we checked, there weren't any cell phones out there with light-gun support. So you play The Punisher by moving a cursor around the screen to aim. The cursor tends to move slowly, so you have to literally guess where the next enemy is coming from. Secondly, the arena is larger than the game screen, which does well in creating atmosphere but makes finding foes difficult.
The graphics themselves are nice, with little shading and movement details that are lacking in the average mobile action game. However, it's another form-versus-function problem: The enemies tend to be small, more than likely to compensate for the abundant graphical detail, so aiming and firing is tedious. Adding to these issues is that The Punisher's gameplay is a strange combination of too hard and too easy, something that could have easily been solved with multiple difficulty levels. Rounds last only about two minutes, which makes the action superficial at best, but Frank's limited energy isn't refilled after completing a round, which essentially means you have one life to beat several rounds. Random items appear that give health boosts when shot, but they usually disappear while you are struggling with the awkward cursor movement and enemy potshots.
Finally, the instructions are flimsy, even by mobile gaming standards. The top of the screen is filled with icons and meters, but it took trial and error to guess what all of them meant. The weaponry isn't even explained, though revolvers and shotguns seem to be part of the arsenal. There's a fun game buried inside The Punisher's concept, but the poor execution really gets in the way and prevents the game from being recommendable in any way.