Ancient Japanese legend tells of a time when software producers were so short of ideas that all they could come up with were hundreds of Exploding Fist clones. They say old legends never die...
I needn't tell you what International Karate Plus (or IK+, as System 3's trying to sell it as) is the follow-up to. That you can probably work out for yourself. What you may be clamouring to know on the other hand, is what progress has been made since those early days, if any.
The most obvious development is that with Plus, there are three blokes on-screen at once. Up to two of them can be controlled by players, so if two people are playing it's often good idea to finish off the computer's fighter first and then get down to the nitty gritty.
Why? Well, the bods who come first and second in each round get to move on to the next round, but the dishonourable tosh who comes third has to pack his kimonos and leave.
Every couple of rounds there's a bonus screen in which you have to deflect balls that come bouncing towards you to score extra points. And there's also a more than reasonably listenable 128K soundtrack, which helps to cover up the otherwise naff sound effects.
All the familiar moves are here, plus some you may not have encountered before. My personal fave's the headbutt, closely followed by the double face kick which lets you flatten two other players at once. Mean stuff.
I can't say I thought much of the graphics, though. They're all sort of splodgy with thick black outlines, but at least they do the job. The background is nice, though, with an interesting wobbly effect on the lake. (What poetry! Make this man the Poet Laureate immediately! Ed) So, although this is probably the best of the karate games, it's still... just another karate game. There's no attempt here to prod anything new out of the old genre, except of course that's it's more slickly programmed and a bit more fun to play. The package is different; the game remains the same.
Still, anyone still playing Fist after all these years shouldn't miss out on this one.
Yes, it's another karate game, but with slicker programming and presentation it's well up to the standards of '88.