Yet more karate capers
Bandages and Ointment: £7.99 cass
Author: Beam Software
After the original Way Of The Exploding Fist kicked off a whole new genre of games we now have the third, with the appropriate innovation of adding a third player.
Once the game starts you have sixty seconds to beat the living daylights out of your computer or human opponents. To do this you've a quite lethal array of moves, plus a cartwheel to get out of trouble. When a human player is knocked out of the bout, the computer takes over. But at the end of every two bouts the surviving players are sent onto a bonus screen. Here each player is individually faced with a derelict building and a cursor. As various monsters pop-up you must hit them with a shuriken star to stop them rushing you. There's 250 points for each hit and no penalty when you die.
Sad to say Exploding Fist + did little to impress me, while graphically okay, gameplay is very limited. Both the beat-'em-up and shuriken star screens prove repetitive quickly. In one-player mode the game is very simple, with the computer opponents tending to attack each other, leaving me to strike whilst they weren't looking. If you've got two friends then things obviously improve, but only for a while and it's unlikely you'll return to it often.
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: the fighters are fairly well animated, but there's only one backdrop for the combat
Sound: beepy, oriental title tune, but merely bashing spot effects during play
Options: up to three players can take part
Well this is a bit of a surprise: after the brilliant IK+, I thought we'd seen the end of karate clones for a while. But no here's another, with the unique feature of a three-player option. Certainly it needs some novelty factor since like many of these games there's a bug where one repeated move can always defeat the computer players. Two- or three-player games are slightly more fun, but despite this, and the smooth animation, + is finally just another mediocre clone.
Groan! Not another one! There's an oriental tune at the beginning and punching effects in the game to add a bit of spice, but so what? Similarly unexciting is the bonus section. Apart from the addition of the three-player option this seems time-warped out of another era - best forgotten.
When Way Of The Exploding Fist was first released all those many moons ago, it single fistedly began the revolution which was to result in trillions of games with the word Karate, Ninja, Warrior or some variant thereof in their title. It was sequelled more recently by W.O.T.E.F.II, which met with a lukewarm reaction from reviewers. This, is not so much another sequel, as a remix of the original with twiddly bits and fluffy dice added.
The scenario. 'You must reach the position of tenth dan' is not much of a scenario, is it? When I get a game, I expect a good scenario, not just one sentence. I didn't get where I am today by having scenarios with (That's enough whining. Get on with it Ed ) So just how are you going to reach the position of tenth dan? By beating the living daylights out of your opponents as fast and as nastily as possible, that's how.
The style of gameplay will be familiar to the majority of Speccy users, but for those who have been in Outer Mongolia for the last five years, you have a choice of sixteen moves, from the aggressive 'mid kick', which will give your opponent a couple of bruises he won't forget in a hurry, to the defensive backward cartwheel, for when running away is the best move. This time you are faced with two opponents, all of which can be controlled by human players simultaneously, or individually by the computer, depending upon how many friends you have. To reach first dan stage, two bouts must be fought, each against the two opponents, with one man being knocked out in each round. If the loser is human controlled, the computer will control him in the next bout, so you are always fighting against two men.
The figures are a little larger than in the original Fist, and fighting two men does bring a new approach to this type of game. Unfortunately, it also brings disadvantages, 'cos if you're knocked over, you lie on the floor for about ten seconds recovering, whilst the other two continue to merrily beat each other up. This brings the game to a grinding halt, and is highly frustrating. The playing area is also larger than that shown on the screen, and often your two opponents will disappear off the screen to carry on fighting, with your figure stood in the middle twiddling his nunchackas for ages - very boring. Sound is the average crunchy karate noise, and although the background is very pretty and clever - all the hotel and bar signs flash like 'proper' neon signs - ultimately it adds little to the gameplay.
On getting through these bouts, the player is then moved into a bonus game, set in a dark alley, where dragons will loom out from windows and doorways, the object being to line them up in a set of sights and launch a ninja star at them. If a dragon not hit in time, it will lunge out at you, the sub game will end, and you are returned to the game proper. This section, you will doubtless have guessed, is another Prohibition style game, and this particular version is pointless, easy, and a waste of time. There is no sound, and the graphics are hardly mind blowing.
This reminds me of all those pop records that are being reissued with a new drumbeat, bass line and the odd bit of scratching added. The record is pretty much the same, but by adding these bits, all the die-hard fans will buy it and make the record company lots of money. EF+ is very much the same, and when the original is available for two quid, the extra bits here aren't really worth an extra six.
If you want a laugh though, set all the players on the same joystick, slap on your favourite record, wiggle the joystick to the beat, and watch that sychronised body popping!
Well, I thought we'd seen them all. Way of the Exploding Fist, Fist 2, International Karate, IK+, Sai Warrior, Samurai Warrior, Mister Bloopy Fights the Ninja Head Kickers. But someone, somewhere (Beam Software actually) says that there's still life left in the martial arts genre. Are they speaking with the wisdom of the ancients, or have the spirits of their ancestors been on the sake again?
The big gimmick is that instead of a single opponent, you have two kung-fu killers to cope with.
To make up for the fact that you have to face two opponents, the repertoire of moves is slightly unusual. As well as the usual punch, high kick, mid kick, ankle kick and low kick; spin kick, low punch and duck, there's also a back kick, and, instead of the popular flying kick, a rear elbow jab. The lack of a flying kick means the most spectacular move available is a rather pansy cartwheel, which is fine for getting you out of trouble, but doesn't make you look too macho.
Up to three players can compete, using a combination of keyboard, Sinclair or Kempston joysticks. The winner of each bout is the first to score eight hit points, shown at the top of the screen, or the one with the most points when the timer runs out.
The winner of each bout gets to take part in the inter-round bonus bit. Here, a series of hideous demons (ho-ho) appear in an alleyway, and you have to move a cursor onto them and zap them with your handy-dandy shuriken before they eat your face.
The background against which the main action takes place is fairly dull; neon signs and shabby streets. The biggest problem, though, is that the actual fighting business is too slow and inaccurate. You can do a brilliant cartwheel, spin to face your opponents, lash out with a foot to the head, and get no result whatsoever.
It makes you fed up with the whole business, especially when the computer opponents appear to be able to connect with fair regularity.
The three-player option is good; pity the rest of the game doesn't really live up to the idea.
Author: Beam Software
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
MACHINES: C64, Spectrum
PRICE: C64 cass £9.99, disk £12.99/Spectrum £7.99
VERSION TESTED: C64/Spectrum
Should you happen to get bored with Exploding Fist+ you can flick a quick mental reset switch and play it as "Advanced Dance Simulator". This works particularly well on the Spectrum, where you can force your three would be kung fu combatants into a never ending little polka up and down the screen by simply keeping the character you control yourself in constant movement. It is thoughts such as these that sustained me through the mental wasteland of reviewing Exploding Fist+; it simply isn't a very good game.
On both Spectrum and 64 the game plays in exactly the same way. Your objective is to rise through the karate ranks to reach tenth dan, taking on faster and tougher opponents as you do so. The back drop for your fights is a simple US street scene, complete with flashing Vegas-style "Coca Cola" signs and so forth. Points are scored by each hit, and should you take one on the chin, you will be knocked out for a few moments, indicated (on the 64) by comic book stars circling your head. A row of lights at the top of the screen indicate the points your are scoring and when one player reaches a full row of eight, positions are assessed and the top two scorers go forward. When there are no human players left the game is over.
The two player option is probably the most fun, as you can gang up on the machine fighter together, and get a bit of needle into your own bouts. Every couple of bouts, there is a bonus screen which involves throwing knives at advancing Ninjas, but isn't very involving. They lurch towards you in massive jerks, and there is no attempt to recreate a throwing motion with your arm: a bit of pretty irrelevant business, really.
This is the C64 bonus game. On the Speccy it involves hitting demons who appear from behind the dustbins and windows of a dark alley by moving a cursor over their positions.
But these fiddly little details are not what makes a game like this, it is the quality of the fighting sequences. When you surrender all change in background, scrolling and adventure aspects of a beat 'em up, the fighting has to be of a really high standard. On the Spectrum the game really is sub standard: sound is weedy, sprites are rather mincing (always a bit unfortunate for something entitled "Exploding Fist") and generally I have yet to see anyone keep playing it beyond fifteen minutes.
On the other hand, the blocky, three colour sprites of the Commodore work quite well, and there is plenty of cartwheeling, fly kicking fun to be had. The number of moves are complicated so while you flick through your range to find out just whether it was lower right or top left that delivers a shin kick (it's lower right, fact fans) you are likely to find yourself decked. Should you be a beat 'em up fan you might have fun with this, if you can cope with sound that so little resembles martial arts style yelps that people thought I was killing a cat in the games room.
However it has some stiffish martial arts competition this Christmas, and if Double Dragon was less than impressive on 8 bit (or 16 for that matter) there is still Dragon ninja to consider. Definitely a case of having a good look before you spend your beat 'em up pound. I'm willing to bet it wouldn't be on this rather limited and disappointing offering.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £7.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.99, Diskette: £12.99
I DON'T GIVE A DAN
Way Of The Exploding Fist has the perhaps dubious pleasure of being the computer game which spawned the martial arts fad still raging today. Based on the hit coin-op Karate Champ, it was released way back in August 1985. Now the programmers, Beam Software, have updated it to fit the advanced challenge of today's games.
The extra challenge is in the form of another violent Oriental opponent, but the general aim of the game remains the same. Gradually developing your fighting skills, you face increasingly tough opponents to work through the dans - the proficiency levels of karate. Having reached the top - 10th dan - you defend your name against yet more combatants.
Two human players can take part in the 064 game, and three in the Spectrum.
Exploding Fist + has the standard plethora of fighting moves, accessed by joystick direction and fire/direction combinations. It also features two novel moves: a swift elbow into a lurking opponents ribs is one of the fastest moves you can make, while cartwheels move you speedily along the single-screen combat area.
A BOUT TO BEGIN
Bouts are played under a 30 second time limit, and the two players with the most hit points go on to the next fight. A hit point is awarded when a player lands a blow on another - and the bout automatically ends if a player earns maximum hits (6 on the C64, 8 on the Spectrum).
Human players get to indulge in a bonus round. On the C64, ninjas jump forward from an alley while the players hand is steered left and right to throw knifes at them. On the Spectrum, a cursor is used to direct shurikens into the cold bodies of sneaky demons.
Exploding Fist is very much intended to be a returning blow to System 3's International Karate +, (see below). Unfortunately, Probe have failed with a game that, although undeniably playable, is inferior in most respects - only the three players of the Spectrum version is an improvement. The bonus rounds are new but are inspired by other sources (the C64 one is from Shinobi) and do not disguise the plain fact that System 3's game is the better.
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