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Players Software
Arcade: Solo beat-em-up
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K

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Chris Jenkins
Chris Bourne

HEEEEeeeeeeAAAH! GNNNGH! HUUUuuurnhhhHHHG! ! No, it's not one of Ian Botham's elephants straining itself, it's yet another karate game in progress. You'd have thought the genre would have been played out long ago, what with the originals like Way of the Exploding Fist now reappearing on budget, but Players' latest, Shanghai Karate, shows that martial arts games are alive and - kicking (hur hur!).

So what's the plot, I hear you yawning. The evil Wang Chen has stolen the sacred scrolls from the Karate Masters. While he was at it he slaughtered the lot of them, which I'd have thought would have been more frowned upon, leaving only Lo Yin (who was reading the Daily Star in the bog at the time) ) to revenge his masters and regai the scrolls.

How does he go about it? ? Why, by kicking lots of orientals to death. The first level is set in the caves beneath the academy, the second by the Yangtze river, and the third in the Dragon Temple. All the scenes load in one go on the 128K version, which features nicely sampled gongs and various slaps and grunts, together with decent music. On the 48K version you have to load the different levels one at a time.

Some of the backgrounds are lovely, especially the Dragon Temple, but the characters sometimes tend to get lost against the background, especially in the riverside scene. The movement, too, is a bit dodgy; there just aren't enough frames in the animation, so you can't really react to your opponents move until it's too late.

You have the usual selection of fighting moves, including high kicks, punches, low sweeps and blocks. As you chop away at your opponent, he will try to force you to one side of the screen where you will fall (very slowly) to your death. The solution is to leap over his head (again very slowly), turn around and try to force him into the same position.

On the one-player game, you must reduce your opponent's power to zero and bump him off four times to move on the next level. In two-player mode, you just compete on level one, which seems a pity.

So, there you have it. Nice backgrounds, nice sampled noises and music on the 128K version, but rather slow movement (which can be speeded up by selecting sound off) and undistinguished character design.

Whether you fancy a quick kick a at Shanghai Karate depends very much, I suppose, on whether you've already played and enjoyed Exploding Fist, Ninja Hamster, Fighting Warrior, Uchi Mata, Barbarian, Sai Combat, Fist 2, Yie-Ar Kung Fu, Kung-Fu Master, Shaolin's Way, International Karate, International Karate Plus, Samurai Warrior, de dum de dah de dum...

Label: Players
Author: Thomson, Parker, Severn and Swinbourne
Price: £1.99
Memory: 48K/128K
Joystick: various
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins

Decent budget chop-'em-up with better backgrounds than gameplay.