Review: International Karate + (C64)

Karate fighting has never been so much fun.

After the original was released as one of the two debut C64 titles on the VC, we didn't have to wait too long for the even better sequel to appear. At heart the same game, the plus in IK+ refers to a key difference - a third fighter. Whilst you could previously compete against a friend or the computer one on one, you can now take on two opponents at once - although there always has to be at least one computer player.

Much as before, you have a wide range of moves at your disposal by moving the controller in one of eight directions, either with or without holding the fire button. Moves range from simple punches through leg sweeps and even headbutts. A new move introduced is the 'double head kick' which, when properly timed, knocks out both opponents at once!

Due to always having two opponents, IK+ is a more frantic affair than its predecessor, as whilst you are trying to land a move on one, the other is invariably trying to catch you off guard. Each round lasts 30 seconds, and a fighter is awarded points for each successful attacking move (as well as a score). If any fighter reaches 6 points then the round ends there, and they are declared the winner; receiving a score bonus based on time remaining. If a human player is in last place then they are replaced with a computer in the next round, unless there is only one human in which case it is game over. It is possible to come joint last - if this happens both players remain in.

After every two bouts there is a bonus stage that involves deflecting bouncing balls away with a small shield, as they approach from the left and right. At first the bounce height is constant; if a ball is approaching low then it will stay low. In later stages flashing bouncing balls are introduced, which vary their height with each bounce - these can prove difficult to predict! Each successful deflection earns 100 points - survive all balls (around 60) and you get a huge 5,000 point bonus. Score determines the belt you are ranked at (ranging from white to black), so this can be a fast way of progressing.

The graphics and animation remain as effective as before, although there is now only one background as opposed to the previous variety. However, your attention is very much focused on the hectic foreground activities for the majority of the time, so this really isn't a problem. Sound effects are simple but work well; a favourite being the noise your opponent makes when he crumples to the ground. The music is pleasant, although not outstanding, with a quick tempo that fits the game nicely.

Learning the assortment of moves may take a little while, but it's really the timing that you need to master in order to progress to the highest belt. This is no button hacker, there are no 20 move combos that you need to memorise - it's about making the right move at the right time, whilst constantly watching your back. Never is this more true than when playing with another human who, despite a pre-bout agreement to gang up on the computer, could stab (well, punch) you in the back at any moment.

Conclusion

Taking an already good game and adding an extra fighter was a stroke of genius, and results in an exceptionally playable game. Ideal for a quick tournament with your friends, or a longer session of trying to improve your rank, this is a must purchase if you are hankering for a beat-em-up that requires a decent amount of skill, rather than how fast you can push a sequence of buttons.

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