International Karate +
Commodore 64
System 3
Archer MacLean
With Karate Champ pulling the punters in the arcades, and Way of the Exploding Fist doing the rounds on the 8-bit circuit, it was inevitable that a slew of fighting games should flood the market in the mid eighties. On the Commodore 64, one of these stood head and shoulders above the rest - Archer Maclean's International Karate. Super-slick presentation, a killer Hubbard tune and - most importantly - outstanding gameplay guaranteed acclaim from every corner.

The release of International Karate + rendered its predecessor (as well as every other beat'em-up around at the time) obsolete. Impressively, improvements had been made in every department - presentation and graphics were even slicker, Mr Hubbard had remixed his tune to awesome effect, and the gameplay was improved dramatically thanks to the ingenious and well-executed inclusion of a third fighter. Critical acclaim was once again lauded on Mr Maclean, and the C64 gained another classic.

Like other fighting games, IK+ uses a combination of joystick movements and the fire button to access different attacks. Despite the Commodore 64 supporting joysticks with only one fire button, an impressive number of moves are available. As with one-on-one beat'em-ups, the aim is to progress through each round by defeating your increasingly proficient opponents. Hit points are awarded each time an opponent is struck, and the combatant with the least points at the end of each round is out of the game.

Every couple of rounds, players are given the chance to earn extra points by taking part in a bonus game. Holding a shield which can be pointed in one of six directions, it is the player's job to defend his fighter from a number of bouncing balls thrown into the play area. Contact with a ball results in the end of the bonus round.

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Where'd he go?

Beat'em-ups have come a long way since IK+ was released and it would be foolish to disregard the massive progress that has been made within the genre - not only technically but also in terms of game design and playability. Since Capcom unleashed the ultimate beat'em-up - Streetfighter 2 - the genre has gone from strength to strength. So, how does IK+ fare these days, considering the sophistication of its modern rivals? Well, surprisingly, it fares rather well. Let's see ... smooth animation, great moves, responsive controls, a brilliant animated background, realistic crunching effects, a killer Rob Hubbard tune ... sound good so far? Well it is. And on top of all of that - and most importantly - IK+ is also an extremely playable game. Even when compared to today's beat'em-ups. Don't believe me? Try it out - you'll be surprised how good it actually is. The inclusion of a third fighter is a stroke of genius and adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay. I have one minor gripe though - the bonus round becomes a little tedious after a while. Although it provides a welcome break from the fighting action, it pops up a little too often for my liking. Still, as I say, this is only a minor irritation. IK+ is easily the best fighting game on the 64, and has stood the test of time remarkably well.

Graphics: 93%

Sound: 96%

Gameplay: 92%

Overall: 94%
Silky smooth animation, solid character graphics and an amazing animated backdrop. Hubbard does it again - one of his finest tunes plays throughout. Brilliant bone-crunching effects. The only flaw is the bonus round which is good fun, but becomes tedious after a while. The fighting action is second to none on the 64, and gives a lot of modern fighters a run for their money. A superbly playable beat'em-up, with aesthetics to match.
R E C O M M E N D E D   A L T E R N A T I V E S
International Karate • Way of the Exploding Fist

O T H E R   F O R M A T S
Way of the Exploding Fist (Spectrum) • Streetfighter 2 (Arcade/SNES) • Samurai Shodown 2 (Arcade) • Yie Ar Kung-Fu (Arcade)

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