Kung Fu Master is not exactly a market leading release. There must now be more versions of martial arts games for the Spectrum than there are versions of Pacman, and will soon be versions of Gauntlet (check your lawyers boys).
Kung Fu Master turns out to be rather tedious, contains nothing you won't have seen before and is really not all that well programmed - especially since it's been converted from the Data East coin-op. The central element of any Kung Fu game must surely be the fighters themselves. If they look good, move smoothly and are nicely animated between the various attacking postures then the chances are you'll feel involved with the action and the game will be addictive. On the other hand, if they are small, flickery, change colour according to background and with fighting postures which look like indistinct blurs of assorted pixels, then you have what is known in Kung Fu terms as an absolute dodo. With Kung Fu Master we're talking blurs.
It's a scrolling game. Teams of enemies line up one after the other and assault you (the Kung Fu Master) as you try to move across the screen. Fight off various assailants, avoid assorted obstacles like knives, mystic globes, killer bees and snakes, and finally rescue the usual fair maiden in the final screen. The background is a sort of orientalish-looking passageway and it's OK apart from changing colour as you move past parts of it.
Actually playing the game is nothing like the same sort of test of skills as Way of the Exploding Fist. It's a case of quantity rather than quality. The vast majority of the flickery baddies can be felled by one or two blows. True they fight back if you sit there and do nothing, but otherwise the point when you die in the game is more a question of being worn down by attrition rather than by a skilful blow. Rather like a conveyor belt they just keep coming and sooner or later you make a mistake.
A good portion of the game is actually a straight-forward dodge game in disguise - many objects can be avoided by carefully timed jumps and sometimes the punches and kicks are simply the physical equivalent of laser zaps, ie, if you press the fire button at the right time you'll survive - judgement, strategy and combinations of blows aren't required.
Although I have some doubts about how necessary the assorted movements and directions are, the system for selection between them is intelligent. The joystick controls left, right, jump, squat; with the fire button pressed you get a series of kicks in the indicated direction and these can be toggled to punches by also pressing the keyboard space bar.
Kung Fu Master looks like it ought to have been a budget release to me. The game is, I think, one of US Gold's conveyor-belt conversions. The Commodore original was considerably better and the problems with the Spectrum version seem to stem from the conversion programmers simply not bothering over much to try and get the best out of the machine.
I wouldn't bother over much going out to buy it. At C7.95 it's just too steep.
Label: US Gold
Author: David J Anderson
Reviewer: Graham Taylor
A routine conversion from the C64 on which little genuine thought or effort seems to have been expended.
Fists meet fire a the Dragon attacks.