This handheld conversion of Archer Maclean‘s classic IK+ was published in 2002 by Ignition Entertainment and is generally quite excellent.
Karateka was Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner‘s first published game. He programmed it (originally for the Apple II) while attending Yale University in 1984.
It’s a simple martial arts fighting game that uses rotoscoped graphics to create realistic animation. Back in 1984 they were pretty revolutionary.
This 1983 action game sees you playing as Chuck Norris – the infamous action hero of the 1970s – and it really is quite bad.
Jackie Chan himself was involved in the making of this Canadian PlayStation game, and not just in terms of lending his voice talents.
International Karate was released in 1986 by System 3 Software.
It was written by Archer MacLean and was one of the first beat ’em ups – ever – to actually feel like a decent game to play and not a ridiculous slug-fest.
Programmed by Archer MacLean himself (the man behind the original Commodore 64 version), and published by System 3 in 1988, the Atari ST conversion of the classic International Katate+ is pretty much flawless, and is also arguably the best beat ’em up on the entire system.
Everything in IK+ has been refined to the nth degree. The animations, the backgrounds, the controls, the hit detection. Actually, the hit detection can be too tight sometimes… You think you’ve laid on the perfect headbutt, but “computer says no”.
International Karate+ also has two different bonus rounds – one with you deflecting bouncing balls away with a shield, and another where you have to kick bombs away before they explode. IK+ fans will need no explanation.
If you’re one of those unlucky people who have never played IK+ before, then maybe the Atari ST version is the best place to rectify that. It’s more colourful and more detailed than the original and retains every ounce of its playability and compulsiveness.
Tip: press ‘T’ during play to make their trousers fall down.
This terrible scrolling beat ’em up was released for the Atari Lynx in 1992.
Kung Food features poorly-drawn, downright silly, food-related characters and enemies and takes place mostly inside a refridgerator.
The action is dull and repetitive and you (a green muscle man) only have two moves available (punch and kick), and jump. In fact: most enemies can only seem to be hurt by doing a low kick.
Some tiny beat ’em ups work because the programmers managed to get real weight into the feeling of the movement. Not here. In Kung Food it feels like you’re punching thin air. Enemies barely respond to your blows, other than to disappear when they die. It all just feels very lightweight and pointless.
The “mutant vegetables” idea is dull and unimaginative at best. At worst it’s an insult to a gamer’s intelligence. And the “it’s just a game for kids” argument doesn’t wash either. Kids are good gamers. They deserve better.
The most unbelievable thing about Kung Food is that it was co-coded by Christian Urquhart – a well-known and successful programmer from the 1980s. Compared to some of Urquhart‘s earlier games, Kung Food seems desperate. Maybe it was?
Certainly NOT one of the Lynx‘s better titles!
Irem‘s Kung-Fu Master is a brilliant side-scrolling beat ’em up from the video game arcades of 1984. And it has lost little of its appeal over the years, because Kung-Fu Master is precise, violent and fun. Not to mention a huge challenge.
Kung-Fu Master was produced for Irem by Takashi Nishiyama, who also created Irem‘s 1982 arcade-hit Moon Patrol, and later designed the original 1987 Street Fighter at Capcom, before leaving to run SNK‘s videogame development division and create the Neo Geo. Nishiyama could be called the ‘Father of the Fighting Game’, such is his pedigree, and this game is one of his early successes.
Interesting side note: Kung-Fu Master was originally based on Bruce Lee’s 1972 movie Game of Death, with the five-level Devil’s Temple reflecting that movie’s setting of a five-level pagoda with a martial arts master in each level. However, the title was changed during development to make it a tie-in to Jackie Chan’s film, Spartan X (aka Wheels on Meals, 1984).
Archer Maclean’s IK+ (International Karate Plus) ushered in a new wave of fighting game on the Commodore 64, back in 1987.
Gone were the days of sluggish beat ’em ups, and in came an altogether faster and cleverer fighting game. This one being somewhat dignified with the martial art of karate.
It is still – to this day – very satisfying to deliver a perfect punch to the gut, or land a flying kick to the face. The skill interludes in-between bouts are pretty maddening fun too.
But it is the core of the game that makes International Karate Plus so good. The rules and moves are simple. You’ve got to be good to pull them off.
Rob Hubbard wrote the memorable music too.