Review: IK+ (International Karate+)

IK+ (aka International Karate + aka Chop ‘n’ Drop on American C64)
IK+ is the sequel to International Karate, developed by Archer Maclean who would later become synonymous with the green beize, following huge hits with Jimmy White’s Whirlwind Snooker and Archer Maclean’s Pool.

ST Format Review

Sadly there wasn’t one, and that is an injustice I intend to fix right here, right now.

My Review

In IK+ you face a series of 3-way fights, where getting the most points wins you the round, finishing 2nd keeps you in the game and finishing 3rd sees you at the game over screen and thinking up a suitably sweary name for the high score table (and no that never gets old).

It contains some of what would become trademarks of Archer’s style, with pacman wandering into the screen in the background (just as in his snooker games the balls would sometimes grow faces and blow raspberries at you), wonderfully smooth animation (helped no doubt by the fact that actually the game isn’t throwing that much stuff around the screen), and surprisingly deep gameplay.

The fights rely heavily on timing, with an impressive 17 moves available from different combinations of fire on/off and joystick direction (as detailed in the manual which I recommend reading before you play), though this does sometimes make it a chore to get your character to face the right way to face a specific enemy. Interestingly none of these controls suffer from the madness inflicted on us later by Street Fighter games and their imitators where you’d have to wrestle the joystick into 14 different positions with perfect timing to execute a move, it’s just one movement, time it right, and hope it hits.

In many ways it’s a strikingly simple game, there’s no story that I can discern, there’s no power ups, there are admittedly some quite silly minigames between fights but they seem to be there just for shits and giggles rather than to serve any real purpose, much like beating up a car in Street Fighter 2. If I could add something to the game it would be a practice area, with a stationary dummy to hit to get used to the controls, but perhaps that’s just my modern bullshit sensibilities coming out, perhaps the game is the practice.

Presentation is fantastic with a lovely water ripple effect in the background and super-smooth animation, and there’s a satisfying sampled slap sound when you hit someone, though the colour palette is distinctly early-Atari-ST and the background art style isn’t amazing. Music hints at traditional Japanese sounds in much the same way Kung Fu Fighting does, but it’s all good fun (even if it is a chiptune). Notably there’s no discernable input-lag, the only lag coming from the animation itself which is fair and once you understand that it becomes second nature to time your attacks to perfection.

You should play this game, it’s a thoroughly good time.

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