(WiiWare)

Game Review

Karate Phants: Gloves of Glory Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Sean Aaron

A fighting game based upon a licensed property -- what could possibly go wrong?

As a general rule video games based upon licensed properties tend to be bad. For every decent game you'll find dozens of hastily churned out movie show tie-ins where the license is more important than the underlying game.

The fighting genre has had some notable exceptions to this rule of course, with the VS Capcom series of games being highly regarded and having strong fan followings. It's probably for this reason that the developers of Karate Phants used the license for Otto’s Ottifanten to create a fighting game.

It's unlikely that you've heard of Otto’s Ottifanten if you live outside of Germany because neither the television series or feature film seems to have been translated into other languages. Imagine The Simpsons as freakish elephant caricatures and you've got the general idea.

The game wastes no time with introductory movies or anything else. After starting, press any button and you're immediately given a selection of characters to choose from followed by the stage, a screen with the controls and the option to turn down the in-game music. There are no options for anything else: no control configuration, no difficulty settings, no win conditions -- not even the choice to adjust the volume for the sound effects!

Your selection of characters are all Ottifants in the style of various cultural stereotypes with matching stages. You have the Chinese Ottifant dressed like a 19th century Mandarin with long moustaches -- naturally wearing a hat associated with a field worker, whose stage is a Chinese pagoda; the American Ottifant wearing shades, cowboy hat and blue y-fronts with a matching stage of New York City; a Japanese Ottifant in a Buddhist temple made up like a sumo; a Russian Ottifant wearing what looks like overalls and a hat with earflaps and a Soviet-era badge on it (the flag for the stage is also the Soviet flag for some reason) with a matching stage featuring a wall, snow and the Kremlin in the background; and last, but certainly not least, a German Ottifant who is naturally wearing a yellow raincoat like a fisherman and is in a stage consisting of a nice sunny beach with sailboats in the distance -- no this makes no sense, but it's part of a general theme as will soon become apparent.

The characters are all 3D rendered and have various cute starting moves and victory moves and are generally well animated. The backgrounds are fairly static but have occasional Ottifant spectators waving and such. You're able to tell your character from your opponent via the colour of boxing gloves worn: red for the player on the left and blue for the player on the right. You can fight matches with the character against themselves (and you will in the single player tournament), but the character models are identical outside of glove colour.

Music seems to fit the stages and is largely forgettable, but the real auditory treat is the sound effects. The characters make various grunts, groans and victory noises with struck blows resulting in the sounds of battle! The characters make various barely comprehensible comments in their native languages (well, at least the Russian sounds like he's speaking Russian and the American seems to be saying things in English; as for the rest, who knows?). It's cute and somewhat amusing, but this is pretty much the end of fun time.

It's when you actually start playing the game that the realisation that something is terribly, terribly wrong sets in. The game uses the Wii Remote as the sole interface and whilst you may naturally assume this means playing the game with the Remote held sideways NES-style you would be sorely mistaken. Instead the Remote is pointed at the screen and the game is almost entirely controlled via motions in four cardinal directions. Waving the Remote causes your character to launch a punch left or right with up performing uppercuts and down doing...something else -- anyway, hold A and do a motion to move and press B to block. You won't need to move too often because the game helpfully moves your character AUTOMATICALLY. So if you're under pressure you can move away from your opponent (with a nice backflip animation), but the computer will helpfully start you running right back into the fray as soon as the move animation stops. The motion detection itself generally works, but frequently gestures won't be picked up at all or result in the wrong character action and this has a tendency to happen even if using slow and deliberate movements.

In addition to basic punches, jumping belly flops and other attacks that can be performed in combination with movement (if you can be bothered trying to figure them out) your character also has a unique special attack performed by holding A+B and then motioning up. All characters can also perform a special chargeable attack by holding A+B and rotating the remote which results in your character swinging his head in circles and spinning into your opponent when the buttons are released. The longer you rotate the remote the more damage you do, though if you do it too long your Ottifant will puke his guts out. Charming.

Playing the single player tournament can be a tedious affair. The AI isn't too bad, but the waving side-to-side does get fatiguing. Luckily there's a massive flaw that can enable you to play through an entire tournament in about 5 minutes. If swings are timed properly you can simply flick the Remote as if chucking a frisbee over and over again in the direction of your opponent. Once you land one blow you simply hit them again and again driving them right up against the right side of the screen (Player 1 is always red, though if you're left-handed you could always jump over your opponent and drive them to the left) until they have no health left. The attack timing is such that it cannot be blocked and whilst your opponent may land a single recovery attack after being knocked down, it's not going to cause enough damage to be bothered about. Of course if your initial attacks are blocked you can hold A+B and motion towards your opponent to do a grab move and then throw them about, because this attack -- like special attacks -- cannot be blocked. This is likely the only time you'd be able to perform a throw because the animation takes so long to complete you'll only open yourself up to attack otherwise. In the unlikely event you're defeated you can simply continue and battle on!

This wonderful fighting strategy will work against all comers, including the supposed "boss" character, Super Fant (though it's possible the SF on his chest stands for something else). After defeating Super Fant you've completed the tournament and unlocked the character. Next comes a message of "Congratulations!" and the credits. The End. Of course you now have a new character to play with and there's also a seventh character to unlock which appears to be a werewolf Ottifant (Sonic has company!) who howls a lot and has a moon for a symbol. There are no additional stages so both Super Fant and Were-Fant simply appear on one of the existing five stages you've already seen.

If you're bored of playing the single player game you can always play with a friend for a bit of excitement! This can be done even during a tournament with the 2nd player simply activating their Remote. Player 1 gets the option to accept the challenge at which point both players get to choose new characters and a stage to fight in. This is a single best-of-three match just like the tournament. A human opponent can be more challenging than the computer AI -- for instance they're more likely to block attacks; they can also do the continuous punch attack described above to demonstrate that even human beings can sit there helplessly and be pummelled into oblivion. Having this flaw does help equalise the game since even a world champion Street Fighter player can be felled by a doddering granny using this technique. After a match is over you have the option of continuing the existing match, starting a new one with new characters and stage or Player 1 can resume the interrupted tournament, though this will be with the character chosen for the 2-player match rather than the one originally selected for the tournament. Flailing about and feeling like you're barely controlling the action can be quite amusing with a friend, but after 10min. it has to be conceded this game is a giant waste of time.

It could be that the game isn't targeted at gamers per se so this criticism may be unfair. After all with the motion-based control scheme it could be aimed at young children who might lack the fine motor control required to use a D-pad or analogue control stick. Of course if that's the case why choose a game genre for a licensed property in a country that has some of the biggest issues with violence in media? The PEGI rating for the game is 7+ because it's a fighting game, though there's no blood and little in the way of obvious brutality; indeed after landing your winning blow your opponent simply stands there staring like you just tapped them on the shoulder! But even if we put aside the question of whether or not children so young they cannot handle a joypad should be playing video games in the first place, any game-playing child old enough to meet the age rating for the game is probably not likely to want to play a game based upon a 15 year-old animated TV show they never heard of anyway. They'll be playing Ben 10 or the latest Harry Potter game, surely?

The game could appeal to adults who enjoyed the TV show, but if that's the target market, why are none of the principle characters from the show in the game? Where's Mutti, Papa, Opa or even Baby Bruno? It's like having a Simpsons fighting game with a choice of generic yellow skinned characters, but the Simpson family themselves are absent. And if you did enjoy the show, would you want to play a fighting game based on it? Why not an adventure game or a platformer -- heck even a mini-game collection featuring characters from the show would make more sense than this!

Conclusion

Karate Phants is thankfully a rarity on the WiiWare service: a terribly executed game which uses a license that no one outside of the country of origin is likely to have even heard of. Abysmal controls and fatally broken gameplay combine together to form a game which doesn't appear to even have a target audience. It is hard to imagine how it is possible to make such a mess of creating a themed 2D fighting game with so many successful examples to draw on in the genre from gaming history -- Snap Dragon Games have excelled themselves in this department. There really isn’t anything to recommend about this shambling mockery of a game whatsoever, it is a complete waste of space.

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User Comments (75)

opeter

#1

opeter said:

I already wrote about this. The controls will be frustrating to some.

DazzaAdmin

#2

Dazza said:

Wow, now Hockey Allstar Shootout has competition for being known as the worst game on WiiWare! This does sound truly disastrous.

What's next? 'The Raccoons: Wrestling'? Thanks for taking the bullet for us Sean :-p

Terra

#4

Terra said:

I wasn't expecting much after the hearing impressions but still, a 1? WiiWare has gotten a really bad start to the fighting genre, let's hope the next one (If there is one) is better.

sirgrim

#6

sirgrim said:

I'm going to buy another Wii just so I can have two copies of this instant classic.

Bahamut_ZERO

#8

Bahamut_ZERO said:

Lowest rated game on Nintendolife, eh?
I want Corbie to review Superman 64 so the game could get a good score :D

Egg_miester

#9

Egg_miester said:

wow a 1 thats rare on this site thankfully i don't think the game will be released anywhere else

sirgrim

#11

sirgrim said:

@slapshot82 heck yeah, they couldn't keep that hole in the desert a secret from me. I dug them all up, and you can't have any! dry humps his giant stack of E.T. cartridges

lovesnaruto512

#12

lovesnaruto512 said:

o wow. it's probably the 1st wiiware game you guys gave it a 1/10! i hope they'll be better wiiware games in the near future.

WarioFan63

#16

WarioFan63 said:

WiiWare has gotten a really bad start to the fighting genre, let's hope the next one (If there is one) is better

Does Toribash count?

jangonov

#17

jangonov said:

Im surprised. Not that this got a 1 but that something of such poor quality could be released. And WarioFan63 brings up a good point. toribash could be good (though honestly the pc version kinda frustrated me. Maybe Ill pick it up again and see if I can understand how it works)

Ricardo91

#18

Ricardo91 said:

Wow. I expected this game to be a miserable piece of crap, but I didn't think it was gonna be this bad! :o Let's hope Toribash does decently.

MarioManiac

#19

MarioManiac said:

just played the game two hours with my little bro - well the over all exp its funny at all, after you are into the controls, more than 6/10 for us!

KDR_11k

#20

KDR_11k said:

Ahahahahaha, I didn't think it'd be possible for someone to make a game that's worse than Battle Raper but there you go...

Are you sure a human cannot stop the constant forward punch?

KnucklesSonic8

#27

KnucklesSonic8 said:

It's so sad to see this turn out so bad. I really thought it had some staying power... I imagine if the controls weren't so horribly mapped things could've gone a lot better...

Bensei

#28

Bensei said:

No, Hockey Star got also 1.

I know Otto and his Ottifants, a great german comedian, but I really can't see why he uses them on everything. Ottifantenpinball, Karate Phants etc. Looks to me as if those gaming companies knew their games were bad and asked Otto to allow them to use those Elephants to at least sell something to Otto fans. In fact they are just desktop-decó. You could have put stones in too.

At least they don't ask for full-price as they did with the GBA games

worrybomb

#29

worrybomb said:

Eh, I wasn't really interested in this game anyway. Maybe next time, Snap Dragon Games.

NeoRausch

#30

NeoRausch said:

as a german i gotta say: "WOW! OTTO MADE A GAME?" sure it was not done by himself (i dont think he even knows that crap) but chances for this to be ANY good = ZERO

his comedy and even the cartoon series were awsome, but everthing game related was total crap...everytime!

still love him :)

Captain_Jack_Sparrow

#33

Captain_Jack_Sparrow said:

All I can say about this review is JESUS CHRIST!! :O
I feel bad for those in EU who already downloaded this cute fighting game with elephants; for that's what I think it is judging from those screenshots! ;)

Weblaus

#34

Weblaus said:

Hi!

I'm working in the biz here, so I can offer a few bits and pieces about what I know of the development of the game: In fact, Otto was the one who came up with the idea to create a game for the Wii and he contacted the devs. He was also actively involved in the design and participated in the production - e.g. all the voice samples were done by him exclusively for the game. From what I'm told, he even put up a significant sum of his own money to finance the development.

Now, with all that said, I won't claim it's a good game, as it obviously isn't for anyone who's not a very casual player - that's the stated target group of Karate Phants. Of course, that's probably the same sort of people who wouldn't know a thing about WiiWare in the first place.

I've met the devs and I wish them well as they have a number of cool products in work, but this game.. well...

TwilightV

#35

TwilightV said:

@Dazza: Hush you! Stop trying to put me in "Instabuy Mode" (even though i'd prefer a more traditional fighter over a wrestling game).

KrazyKain

#36

KrazyKain said:

well weblaus, i imagine they put some work into the game and its a shame to give the game such a bad review, but even casual players deserve good casual games

Ferret75

#39

Ferret75 said:

Daaaaang.

Also, why do there have to be motion controls in a fighting game?
What's wrong with buttons?

JayArr

#40

JayArr said:

LMAO. You poor man. Good review. I just did a review of the stuff in my stinky garbage and gave it a 2/10. So this must be really bad.

0-Watt

#41

0-Watt said:

Funny note: this game came out in Europe exactly one year after America got SPOGS Racing. Coincidence?

KDR_11k

#42

KDR_11k said:

Wrist flicks aren't healthy, they can cause pain quickly and I wouldn't be surprised if there are more serious injuries related to them too. I think games should never be designed to use much flicking.

XCWarrior

#43

XCWarrior said:

Is this the first 1 out of 10 on this site in regards to WiiWare? Wow, what a horrible review, epsecially for long the review is.

Sean_Aaron

#44

Sean_Aaron said:

@KDR_11k: No, the constant assault cannot be blocked by a human. My wife who never plays videogames discovered it and beat me senseless with it multiple times. The only way to avoid it is to go on the offensive or hope your opponent misses a blow; otherwise you just vainly press block, try to jump, anything only to get hit, fall, get up get hit fall, etc. until dead. She did feel good about kicking my ass in a video game though!

5 Spots Party is a million times better than this, honestly.

CorbsAdmin

#45

Corbs said:

Wow. I have to download this when it comes to the US just to see if it beats out SPOGS for my worst WiiWare game to date. It's definitely a contender. :)

KeeperBvK

#47

KeeperBvK said:

First of all, I wanna apologize for this atrocity of a game as a German.

@ 31: The Ottifants on Mega Drive was a really decent game...

@ 47: Oh, we're down to clichés now, mister drunk Leprechaun? ;)

DazzaAdmin

#51

Dazza said:

I see Wiis World gave it a D- which seems a bit more generous that us. It's hard to compare our rating systems though.

Tough crowd? We weren't quite as scaving about Bit Boy!! last week as you guys LOL :-p

SwerdMurd

#52

SwerdMurd said:

I mean....it sounds really, really bad. One, in my mind, means really, really bad. So bad no one should bother picking it up for any possible reason--2 would indicate "damn...I mean I guess by some drunk stretch of the imagination..."

This game does not seem to fulfill the above 2-criteria. I almost want to find a way to play it just out of sheer masochuriousity.

Weblaus

#53

Weblaus said:

Oh, I forgot something I wanted to comment on in the review...

The German Ottifant does actually make sense: It's inspired by the place Otto is coming from, which is called Ostfriesland. That's a region in the nortwest of Germany along the Northsea (therefore the beach scenario) where people make their living as ... fishermen. Ta-taa! So it's pretty much a common stereotype like the Bavarian Lederhosen. I guess Sean didn't know this, so I had to point it out.

Sean_Aaron

#55

Sean_Aaron said:

@Weblaus: I was certain it might make some sense, but possibly only in Cher-many. I was going to comment how he looks like a Gorton's fisherman, but then I'd have to mention Captain Bird's Eye and then I'd be the one making referenced to licensed properties that people outside of the UK/USA may never have heard of!

A fighting game with the Gorton's fisherman and Captain Bird's Eye done well would be pretty cool though.

Weblaus, you know how they're getting on with The Kore Team? That looked pretty interesting and from the video it's pretty far along, but with no publisher attached yet?

suburban_sensei

#57

suburban_sensei said:

For some odd reason, with a game called Karate Phants, I didn't really have high hopes in the first place.

seri

#58

seri said:

I really can't agree to this. Most other reviews give it way better scores. Imo the game looks nice and although the controls need some time to get used to it is fun to play especially in multiplayer.

How comes that this review varies so much?
My Score would be more like 7-8/10 (for a Wiiware title)

-TR

#59

-TR said:

I actually liked the look of this. Karate Elephants just seem awesome.

Weblaus

#60

Weblaus said:

@seri: I'd like to see these "most other" reviews you're talking about. Surely they're available on the web, so feel free to tell us where to find them.

@Sean: They're actually done with the game and it's indeed quite good-looking for a Wii game. I'm not sure I'm allowed to tell who the publisher it, but there is one (who actually approached Snap Dragon to finish the game). Bad news is that currently the release is planned to be next year! The devs don't like that either and still hope it'll be brought forward, but it's not their decision.

MarioManiac

#62

MarioManiac said:

well I agree partly with seri, in the end the scoring feels for me not fair at all - its more a 5 to 6 but not as bad as 1! Maybe Sean should try to look on the game thru kids eyes!
The critics about the controls made no sense at all, you can also play tennis via buttons... but this is not Wii like!?

Sean_Aaron

#63

Sean_Aaron said:

@Weblaus: Cool, I hope The Kore Team turns out as well as it looks. Nice creature designs and I'm always up for a good 3rd-person action game.

Crazed

#64

Crazed said:

Great first review Sean, but sorry that your first review was with a 1/10-caliber game. To be honest, as I was reading, I thought it would get a 2 or 3, but a 1 seems fair. I'll just wait for Toribash.

The_Fox

#65

The_Fox said:

I could tell this one was going down in flames just by the preview video.

joenies

#67

joenies said:

It seems like the reviewer doesnt have any friends to play with. Its lots of fun to play together, not a 20 hour long single player mission..
Good casual beat-em-up .. (7/10)

sirgrim

#68

sirgrim said:

Here's what Wikipedia put down in the Reception section of this game:

Reception

Nintendo Life criticized a number of aspects of the game including the controls, the "fatally broken" gameplay and the misuse of the Ottifanten license, ultimately calling it "a shambling mockery of a game".[2]

Clayfrd

#74

Clayfrd said:

LOL, all teh nubs think this is da first 1/10, lololol! Ha, just kidding... but not really. Anyway, It's nice to see another 1 around here.

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